Hello babes and welcome back to the anxious gals guide, where I share reminders that help to counteract and disprove anxious, disempowering thoughts. This week I wanted to bring two reminders that directly speak to the way we work. Whether it be your 9-5, entrepreneurial work, personal projects, whatever you have been sinking your teeth into, there’s something to be said about the way we go about our work, and how we speak to ourselves in regard to that work. 

Unfortunately, I have found that I always need to be working on something. And if what I’m working on isn’t satisfying my creative cravings, I must fill that void, and start another project, and otherwise pack my schedule with whatever kind of work I can find in order to feel productive and purposeful. Once I have done that—create enough projects, goals and idea obligations to completely fill my head and my time, I apply the pressure. I stress the hell out. I procrastinate, overwork, procrastinate. And I tend to be unkind to myself throughout. I speed my way towards inevitable burnout or breakdown, and then I start the process all over. 

For many years, I did not even realize there was anything wrong with this process. After all, it seemed to work for everyone around me. As long as I nursed my inevitable burnout/breakdown in private and didn’t burden them with anything, I was overachieving! I was reliable! That’s me, everywhere, all the time, never turning down a hangout, a favor or a new responsibility, I was the YES girl. How very reasonable and convenient I made myself to anyone who would ask. To add insult to injury, I tended to even add, “No problem!” Now, I really had no business lying like that. My hyper inflated fear of disappointing anyone, coupled with my impossible standards for myself, was running me into the ground. And like anything else, with age, my body began to violently decide against these practices of skipping meals, skipping rest, skipping solitude and general self care. I have since realized, I need a healthy, regular rotation of all of the above, even if it means saying no sometimes.

As easy as it would be to just blame everyone else for endlessly delegating tasks to me and depleting me of every personal resource, I had to face the fact that I was the one agreeing. I was the one who was not expressing any boundaries, and I was the one who was not taking care of myself. I’m guilty of assuming employers, friends, family etc., should just know when they’re asking for too much—I’ll tell you right now, they don’t, and don’t wait on it, either. In fact, the more you say yes, the more you imply that you are an endless resource. I also had to consider the way I never failed to ensure my fate by seeking additional work if I hadn’t completely overwhelmed myself yet. I thought anything less than pure overload meant I was inevitably failing or being lazy. Twisted logic, but my own. I have been dissecting, inspecting, and treating this with time.

We must take better care of ourselves.

There is a way to approach productivity that is not entirely built on self sacrifice. The way may not seem obvious or natural to you, it certainly didn’t for me, but that’s exactly why I felt this would be a relevant topic for those who’ve found themselves in a similar cycle. Lets dive right into these two reminders, as pulled verbatim from my journal:

1.I know intention is more important than pressure. whatever pressure I am putting on myself now, I will bring down a few notches. i will redirect to intention. Being in a stressed frenzy gets nothing done of quality, and it hurts me. 

I created this reminder because I realized that putting additional pressure on myself (beyond what I was actually able to do or manage at the time, much less what I even want to do,) was not helpful to me. I can work well under pressure simply out of habit, but I work better when I am centered and being intentional. An example from my barista days- it is the difference between making a latte while thinking of the ten drink cups in line behind it, spilling hot milk on your hand, creating horrendous foam, and forgetting how many pumps of syrup you’re on, all while thinking, “fuck, WHO ordered eight Frappuccino’s?” among other things, vs., making a latte, while only thinking of said latte, and thinking, “THIS will be the best latte ever.” You make better drinks. You do better work. Substitute the metaphor however you’d like. 

Holding the weight of twenty things in your mind while only having two hands available is merely torture without benefit. This pressure that everything needs to be done, or should have been done by now, is why you cannot focus, get into a flow, or enjoy the process. The point is to sober and ground yourself with the realization that everything can not and will not happen right now. If it helps the fear of forgetting a concern or a to-do you want to revisit, make a list. Take it out of your head, and put it on a paper. But you need to release yourself from the need to keep 100 tabs open in your mind. Try one thing at a time. Be here. Focus on being present and intentional with your one thing, and you’ll find that you are more happy with the work you do. 

We have glorified multi-tasking entirely too much. And I am a multi-tasker myself, all I have to tell you is I am a mother. Here is what such an expert multi-tasker has found: you can do one thing well or half ass three. Either way, I have decided I would rather be done and satisfied with my one thing at a time, acknowledging and allowing the time that requires, rather than being done with multiple things via pure chaos, ending disappointed in my work, and ironically returning to the same tasks to fix mistakes made whilst my half-assing. Being in a stressed frenzy does nothing for your quality of work. Speed can come with time, but lack of concentration will always be a burden. Slow down. Don’t start at the end. Start exactly where you are.

2. It is okay for me to say no, and it is okay to ask for help. It is always okay, even if it’s probably not what someone wants to hear. 

Be real with people about how long something will take. Be honest when you are unable to do exactly as asked. Maybe you can do half of the ask, or maybe you can’t do any of it. Be honest, and watch how everything is perfectly fine. It literally surprised me the first couple times I said no and found the other person to be very understanding, even going as far to say they then asked how they could help ME. Then there were a few times where the person wasn’t very understanding. And guess what? It didn’t hurt so bad. Five awkward seconds of my life and then we all got over it. I know that I need to take care of myself and worry less about someone else’s response to that. Outside permission, approval or open understanding is NOT a factor in me taking care of myself. 

And when you need help, ask. If they can, they will. They won’t disown you and they won’t fire you. They will respect your honesty, and they won’t consider you weak or a burden. Just a human. Oddly enough, we tend to like it when we sense that we are dealing with another human. Collaboration can be bonding and efficient. We are meant to help one another. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. The worse they can say is no. Five awkward seconds and then we’ll all get over it. But you must exercise your right to ask, you must know that you can.

I still chase my tail at times, but I know better. And each day, I do a little better. If you have fallen into the cycle of overwork and burnout, just know your worth has no direct tie to your productivity. Take care of yourself physically and mentally, even if it means saying no or asking for help in order to do so. You’ll find that the world is a forgiving place, where bumps and bruises heal, people are typically inclined to understand one another, and even unpleasant social interactions come to an end. It is your job to set those boundaries, be honest in the face of people displeasing, and take fierce, loving care of yourself. That is the kind of TLC you and your dreams deserve.

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