Know When To Pull The Mental Handbrake - Destiny Connect
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Know When To Pull The Mental Handbrake

Most women (whether employees or entrepreneurs) wear more than one hat at any given point in time. They can be breadwinners, employers, mentors, mothers, sisters and more … leaving very little time for themselves.

Eventually they’ll realise that they’re overstretched – that they’re pouring from an empty cup. Let’s look at how to recognise that you’re overextended, and how to pull the mental handbrake to refocus and rejuvenate yourself.

We might think we can do it all. But I’ve noticed in myself that when I’m stretched, I’m suddenly less effective. We all feel stress and overwork in different ways. For me, my memory – usually elephantlike – suffers, as does the quality of my sleep. For you it might be different: you might get irritable, or want to be alone, or make mistakes you never usually would.

So, you’ve recognised that you’re overextended. You’ve got a million competing demands on your time, and you’ve realised you’re struggling to cope. What do you do about it?

The term “triage” refers to an approach medical professionals use to prioritise treatment when there are a large number of wounded or ill people. We need to take a similar approach to prioritising our attention when there’s too much to deal with at the same time. We could do this using the three Ds: Delay, Decline, Delegate. 

The Three Ds

The first is simple: decide what can be delayed and put it off. It might feel like everything needs to happen all at once, but at least in a business setting there is often nothing lost if you defer a task for an hour, or a day. Speak to your colleagues, get a realistic sense of timelines and consequences, and if something can be delayed put it out of your mind until it has to be done.  

The second is decline. Some people have an easier time with this than others, but sometimes we simply have to recognise that other people’s priorities don’t take precedence over our own. It can sometimes feel that the expectation is to be everywhere, and all things to all people. That’s unrealistic. For instance, dinner invites when all you want to do is sleep. It’s ok to say no!

Thirdly, delegate. This can be in your professional life, calling on your colleagues to share the load, or in your personal life. “One of my favourite parts of the day is picking my kids up from school. It’s one of the few times where we get to talk without any distractions (most importantly, no Wi-Fi). But when I’m in a crunch period with too much on my plate I delegate that task to my husband. It’s a small sacrifice, but it means I’m more engaged, energetic, and present as a result.

Now that you’ve delayed, declined, and delegated (or all of the above), you should have some time for yourself. That’s the important part. Now we need to fill that time with activities that nourish your soul, that refill your cup. These activities will differ for different people. Knowing what they are takes self-knowledge and honesty. For me, it’s cooking for others, and nurturing my introvert side by reading quietly. For others it might be taking the dog for a walk, volunteering, or being with friends. You do you, but be deliberate in your choice. The idea is to replenish your reserves, so you’re better equipped to tackle life head on again.

As fearless females who are trying to do it all from a career or business perspective, it can often feel as though the world’s expectations of us are overwhelming. Our ability to meet these expectations is exceptional, but it requires taking charge of our time, treating ourselves kindly, and making sure our cup stays full.

By Andiswa Bata, Co-Head of SME at FNB Commercial