"I feel stuck on a hamsters wheel"

achievement boundaries coaching communication forward thinking helping yourself life update overwhelm self-care stress taking breaks May 30, 2023

Have you ever felt like a hamster stuck on it's wheel, unable to get off?
 That's how I described how I have been feeling lately when my own coach asked me how I was a few days ago.
 I have been feeling like I am constantly 'on' lately, tirelessly trying to get things done and yet every time I might get close to ticking something off my list, another three things get added to the end of it. 
It's so tiring.
 And I have a constant narrative in my head of what I need to do. Constant reminders that I am not achieving as much as I feel I should.
When I take the time to rationalise, I am aware that a lot of this is pressure that I am putting on myself, and in many ways I see that as a good thing. If, I didn't put pressure on myself, a lot of things wouldn't get done and for me my internal pressure leads to my ambition and outcomes that I want to achieve. I would worry if I didn't ever put any pressure on myself. Yet, I accept that there's a line. We all have a limit. And I have noticed that lately I have been crossing over mine. 
Juggling running a business, keeping on top of my health, prioritising my family & friends, looking after my mental wellbeing and having time for myself is a real challenge at times. Sometimes the rhythm feels good and I feel in flow and other times I feel like that hamster I described stuck on that wheel with three million to-do lists and absolutely zero motivation or energy to get properly stuck in to anything. 
We're all striving for balance, and yet I am not sure we can ever truly feel 'balanced'.
 To keep everything balanced at all times just isn't realistic. Instead I think we have to prioritise and accept that living with balance can mean that we have periods of time that we have to prioritise particular areas in our lives and yes, while run businesses/working, while spending time with the people we care about and prioritising our health is possible, we have to accept this isn't possible to do in equal measure all the time. 
If you're trying to get a business off the ground, or it's the busy period at work, or your kids are off of school for the summer holidays then of course you may need to pay a bit more attention and time to these areas for a period of time. The way your time is split may change. 
I spent some time thinking about what I could do to help myself, how could I encourage more of the right rhythm so that I could keep on top of my health and happiness. 
Here's what I came up with:

"I know that I can't be everything to everyone without being everything to me first." - I have to remind myself of this often. 
 One of the signs I tune into when I am feeling overwhelmed is that I notice myself feeling unable to keep on top of my social life. My list of whatsapp messages that I haven't been able to focus on replying to gets longer and longer, I begin to tell friends I will get back to them that day and then take another two or three days to get around to it. My responses feel like they come from a place of 'needing' to respond rather than feeling 'able' to respond. I say yes to things before considering if it's something I can/want/have time to do. I find myself almost ignoring things because I don't have the mental capacity to deal with them. 
After speaking to my coach, I realised I am just not in a position to be able to hold this many conversations going right now and I can't say yes to everything. 
 This is no reflection on anyone else - I am genuinely so lucky to have such good friends that they are always supportive and generous with their responses. This is a pure reflection of me and how overwhelmed I am feeling.
Rather than constantly trying to say yes, I decided to just be honest about what I could and couldn't fit in and even let some friends know that I have a lot that I am juggling at the moment and may not be as present for a couple of months. Communicating simply made a big difference and free'd my mind from constantly thinking about who I needed to respond to. 

Sometimes when we're struggling people can't see it. If you had had a fall and broke your leg and as a result were on crutches then people would see and understand why you may not be able to commit to as many things, or feel like you have the time to do as much as before. Mentally you might be on crutches right now, and I realised I am entitled to need to take some parts of my life at a slower pace at the moment. 
Allowing myself to 'say no' and 'not right now' has just meant that a whole weight has lifted. I have accepted that I just don't have the time to fit everything in because I have so much going on.
How can you relate this to your life? What boundaries could you install so that your wellbeing benefits? How can you best communicate these boundaries?
This has always been one I have struggled with a little when I feel really busy because taking breaks can feel a little counterproductive and yet I know, the opposite is true. 
I realised this the hard way, instead of taking breaks I used to just keep powering through and all that happened was that I became less and less productive with the time I had. I would be staring at my laptop screen unsure of what I was trying to achieve, find myself mindlessly scrolling on my phone not taking in anything that was in front of me. Having conversations with my family and friends where I may have been physically present, but I was far from being mentally present. I felt like I was busy all the hours under the sun, and yet what I was actually achieving in this time was far less. 
Now, I prioritise taking purposeful breaks. By purposeful, I mean appropriate breaks to the relevant need that I have (another blog on this another time). Is it fresh air and a screen break that I need? Or, would 30 minutes catching up with my sister help me to decompress the morning I have had? Do I need silence? Do I need noise?
Have a think about the types of breaks you could bring into your days/weeks/months. It's not all about waiting until your annual leave or a holiday.
What could you do in the meantime to look after yourself. Could it be an afternoon walking in nature, an evening just with your own company, time with limited decisions to make, time with pets/children/partners without your phone, time focussed on something other than work...

The phrase self-care is used often, and it's so necessary - however the meaning behind it has got a little filtered and overused. Now, when people think of self-care we think of face masks and bubble baths and while I really am all for this and completely encourage it, I also think this has diluted the importance of the core-message behind self-care.
 Self-care is about looking after yourself. Bubble baths and face masks can be a part of this, but at its core this is about the fundamentals we need to thrive - eating well, exercising, fueling yourself well and allowing yourself time to recover, noticing how you speak to yourself in your mind - choosing to be encouraging rather than discouraging, doing something for your mind such as reading or listening to insightful and educational content.
 Giving yourself space to breathe and think each day rather than clogging up every waking minute with comparisons and overthinking and stress. 
True self-care actually takes a lot of discipline - we need to plan ahead, schedule it in, do things when we don't really feel like it. However, it's vital we look after ourselves, our bodies and our minds. What do we really have if we ignore ourselves from the inside out? What can you plan to do now to look after yourself for the weeks ahead?