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Do You Have Your Foot On The Pedal? Are You Overwhelmed At Work?

Is your in-tray or inbox full? I don't normally check the time that emails are sent to me, but for some reason I noticed that Nadia's message had beensent at 2am. In her email she explained that she really needed some help, to deal with all the stress in her life:

This morning I rushed out of the house before the kids gotup. I walked into the office at 8am there was a pile ofnotes on my desk relating to people who had called yesterday(I took the day off to visit my mother in hospital and towait for a sofa to be delivered). I did take some work homewith me, but didn't manage to even open my briefcase. When Isaw all the messages on my desk, I wondered how I was goingto get through the day, let alone the rest of the week.

Just as I tackle one task, my mind tends to wander off on towhat I haven't done. Sometimes I feel so guilty that I can'tget my act together. I seem to have continual 24-hourchatter going on in my head. I'd love to find a way to stopmy head buzzing. I find my inner critic so unhelpful,telling me to get a grip on my life. If only I could!

At work I know I have achieved such a lot. In some ways, Ihave more than exceeded my dreams, promoted several times,but my hours and responsibilities have increased. I have 3children (all boys, 7, 9 and 15) and consciously made adecision not to work until my youngest started school. Moreand more I am worried that I may be neglecting them. Myfamily used to be so proud and supportive of me, but nowthey can't understand why I continue to work.

My husband, who until recently has been so supportive, readme the riot act at the weekend. My family were visiting fromIndia. I had spent all day Saturday cooking, and thenpromptly fell asleep in the chair just after dinner. I feelso embarrassed that I can't manage my own life, the life Idreamed of has fallen apart.

Every so often I question why I need to spend so long at theoffice, but I have worked so hard to get where I am that Itend to dismiss this question very quickly. Now I'mbeginning to wonder if everyone else is right. Should I giveup working? The truth is I am drowning; I am torn in alldirections. I do worry about work. I worry that I am not agood wife. I worry that I am not a good mother. I am oftenso distracted that I don't listen to what the boys sayanymore. I want to stop all this stress, but I don't knowhow.

Is it time to look in the mirror?

In writing this email to you, I am beginning to realise thatI can't continue life at this pace. I used to think I wasbeing very effective by working 16 hours a day. I haveplaced so many expectations on myself, I am not doinganything well. But I think if I can be more refreshed atwork, have more fun at home, I will find my work so muchmore rewarding.

Is it only me that finds it so hard? I love my job, so Idon't just want to give it up. I'm sure there must beanother way that I just can't see right now, to lead a lessstressful life without sacrificing everything I have workedso hard to achieve."

Nadia's story is a classic example from someone who is toocaught up in her hectic lifestyle to realise what may appearobvious to others who are reading this. It is much easier tolook from the outside; it is tough when it's your own life!

If you feel that your life is veering out of control, it maybe time to face your own truth. Sometimes it takes familyintervention to turn our attention to how bad things havebecome, which is what Nadia's husband did. Sometimes ittakes huge debts, losing a job, becoming seriously ill, orlosing a good friend or partner.

What will it take for you to pay attention to the stress inyour life?

It takes courage to change our lives, especially if we arenot sure what to do, how to do it, whether we will like thechanges, or if we are worried about what others will thinkof the new us.

It takes bravery to ask searching questions because we maynot be ready to hear the answers. I call this ability havinga 'Courageous Conversation' (CC) with yourself. What areCCs? Questions we may have been thinking about for a longtime but have been reluctant to answer.

Let's switch back to Nadia for a moment. Why wasn't shebeing honest and having a CC with herself? Why did it takeso long for her to reveal how she was really feeling? Itseemed pointless to tell herself the truth about how unhappyshe was, because she had tried cutting down her hours beforeand it hadn't worked. The only possible solution she couldsee was to give up work totally and she really didn't wantthis. So she had put off her CC because she couldn'tenvision a viable solution.

Too busy to think straight?

As Nadia started to think about her working week, sherealised that over the last year she had rarely taken abreak at any time during the day. In order to manage hermountains of work, she always ploughed straight through. Yetshe often questioned how effective she was, with her headfull of things she hadn't got round to doing.

She decided to take a 30-minute break each day - no matterhow overloaded she felt. Near to her office was a small butvibrant park and, most lunchtimes, she would take a walk andsit quietly for 15 minutes. By allowing a little time eachday for this quiet reflection, she began to realise that, inthe same way that she had taken care of her family, she hadfallen into the trap of taking care of everyone at work aswell. Unfortunately, everyone had been taking advantage ofher kindness. She spent most of the day answering questionsand finishing off work that hadn't been completed by others.As a result, she always ended up staying late each day justto keep up with her own work.

I once asked a client this simple question: Are you livingthe life you want to live? His answer was honest: I am notgoing to answer that question because, if I do, I will beforced to do something about it."

You have the answers but are you brave enough to ask theright questions? When Nadia finally summoned up the courageto share her honest feelings with me, she started beinghonest with herself. Everyone has their own truth waiting tobe recognised, and that includes you. Is it time you took afew minutes to ask yourself some honest questions?

Carolyn Matheson is a nationally recognized Coach,Speaker and Author of "Yes to Less Stress."

Carolyn is a Master Certified Coach, and works with executives and their teams across theworld. She has pioneered an innovative approach to coaching,combining many years of high performance coaching with aholistic approach to work/life balance and has coachedhundreds of leaders and their teams. Her experience as apresenter, both nationally and internationally, spans 20years, with clients currently in Europe, Australia, theMiddle and Far East, and the USA.

Her book, Yes to Less Stress is available online from

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