If you’ve been feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, you’re not alone. I’ve heard this over and over, from clients and patients. I have worked with ridiculously busy, exhausted and overwhelmed people from all over the world. It’s so satisfying, every time, to watch them make changes that they didn’t think were possible. To watch them start to enjoy their lives again. To feel like themselves again. Without sacrificing their success, or other things that really matter to them.
To celebrate the upcoming release of my book The Resilient Life: Manage Stress, Prevent Burnout, & Strengthen Your Mental and Physical Health, I wanted to share a case study with you.
Linda, a successful healthcare professional in her early forties, hired me because she was “done.” She had read my first book and knew that for a time I had ditched the city grind, moved to Mexico, and worked as a flamenco dancer and writer. (Note that to protect confidentiality, as always, names and identifying details have been changed)
A single mother with a teenage daughter, Linda wanted to quit her job, move to South America, and spend her days writing and dancing tango. She thought I’d be the perfect person to help her leave her old life and build a shiny new one. She was wrong. I turned out to be the perfect person to help her improve her current circumstances. When she finished her coaching program, she sent me an email to thank me, which included these comments about her experience:
“I have found the space to focus on the things I really want to do. My desire to escape overseas to a new life dissolved. I found myself living the kind of life I no longer wanted to escape from.”
Do you long to escape from your life?
Do you feel like you’re at your limit, but can’t stop because you still have so much to get done? You look at your immediate future, and there’s no end in sight, just an endless stream of demanding days.
It feels like you’ll never get to pause and breathe. I’ve been here—it’s a terrible feeling. It’s also very common, particularly among working moms.
As I mentioned, I’ve worked with a long list of overwhelmed people. I’ve talked to many women and men who are overcommitted, stressed, and fried. They’re under so much pressure, and they have so little free time. And even though they’ve asked me for help, they often share that they’re worried that their situation is beyond repair.
A strategy to take back your life
Linda was stressed, overwhelmed, and unhappy with her day-to-day grind. How did she go from wanting to book a plane ticket to move to the other side of the world, to embracing and thriving in her current life?
We started small. A strategy that I use with many clients, inspired by the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown, involves identifying your top four essential life priorities. (McKeown focuses on having one overarching life priority, but I use a four-priority model for my coaching work).
This isn’t just a list of goals. You step back and reflect on what really matters to you, beyond the superficial and the daily demands of life. In doing so, you verbally and psychologically commit to protecting those things as absolute top priorities.
This process announces: “I’m going to start choosing what matters, even if that looks impossible to me right now.”
Linda felt chronically exhausted. She powered through her days by using sheer will, navigating an endless list of demands and to-do’s, with no time to stop and think, reflect, or rest.
As her top priority, she wanted to improve her general health and energy. In the book, I share the simple changes we made in her life to improve the following:
- Eating better
- Exercising more
- Cultivating relationships with the people who mattered most to her
- She also dreamed of finding something she could be really passionate about
“Essentialists,” by definition, get really good at saying no. So, we focused on this. First, she had to practice identifying and saying no to things that she didn’t want to do or need to do (you’d be surprised by how many of these creep into people’s lives).
The breakthrough secret, though, lay in the next step. Inspired by McKeown’s philosophy, I encouraged Linda to start saying no to things that sounded fun or even amazing. If they weren’t on her top priority list, they weren’t allowed to steal time from her essentials.
Later, Linda told me that really learning when and how to say no made the largest impact on her life. Quite quickly, she was able to free up time to sign up for the tango classes she’d longed to take. She felt fit, healthy, and more alive than she had in years, and she had more time for her daughter.
She also had time to think more deeply and strategically about her life. Her metropolitan life was expensive. She often took extra work shifts to help pay the bills. Her daughter decided to attend university in a neighboring state, in a sweet college town with an excellent teaching hospital and a lower cost of living. Linda took the leap.
She applied for and got a job at that teaching hospital, sold her cramped city condo, rented a cute little townhouse, and found some local dance classes. She was still close enough that on her days off, she could visit her best city friends.
Now that she didn’t have to commute anymore, she also had time to write a book. This turned out to be the passion she’d been searching for. I still remember the wonder I felt, when she told me about the book.
Things really can change.
What a transformation. Over the course of a year, I had watched this all from afar, jumping up and down and cheering her every move.
You may not relate to her story. As a single professional with an established career and an older child, Linda may have much more flexibility or access to opportunities and resources than you do. Don’t let this discourage you.
In my medical psychotherapy work with patients, I have counseled and coached patients from all sorts of circumstances. You’d be surprised at what changes are possible for you, even if you just start by taking better care of yourself in small ways, and opening your eyes to the potential resources and opportunities around you. Be alert for ways that you might be able to change your circumstances or your environment.
In The Resilient Life, I share the coaching framework so you can walk through your priorities step-by-step – just like Linda did.
I’m thrilled the book is coming out soon and you can pre-order it now so it arrives to you on or around Oct 25th. Learn more here.
When you order the book, I would love to have you join my Launch Party. It’s virtual, and it’s going to be fun and packed with information about how to create a radically resilient life. And you can ask me anything! The thing I’m most excited about, is getting to meet you.
P.S. The book comes with a complimentary workbook. It contains all the coaching questions and tools that I’ve used with my clients. I hope you’ll love it.