When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

Highlights from “Overwhelmed: Work Love and Play When No One Has The Time” by Brigid Schulte.



Overwhelm… That mix of feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, fragmented, even despairing, is a common theme among many women I speak to and coach, and something I have struggled with too.   Early into reading Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has The Time by Brigid Schulte,  I knew that I would write a blog post about  it.  There is so much to learn and absorb and take action from after reading this book.   I highly recommend it.

Brigid Schulte covers three main areas in the book – Work, Love and Play, book ended by sections called “Time Confetti” and “Finding Time” plus “Time Serenity”. She is funny and endearing and makes really powerful observations based on her research.   In reading this book, there is an opportunity to see:  first how we fit into the larger systemic challenges that are causing overwhelm; and then, also what we might do about it, at least on a personal level.  It does require taking a good and compassionate and curious look at oneself in the process, and I think it is totally worth the effort.

I was fascinated and also dismayed to hear the story of how the United States came so close to having universal childcare in the 1970s.   Her observations and ideas about interrupted time and the myth of the “ideal worker” were also really compelling. Finally, I keep reflecting on her words about “alloparents” – trusted, nurturing adults other than the mother, who can take care of children. Whether Mums are working outside the home or inside the home, they need and deserve a lot of help…from all parents.

Here’s a video where she and her husband Tom tell the Thanksgiving story she shares in the book – how one crisis prompted some deep improvements for their relationship.  I love how she talks about being “partners” with her husband in terms of their family responsibilities.

Thanksgiving Story Video

The Appendix is entitled “Do One Thing” and has a long list of suggestions for action.
Here are a couple of some of my favourite ideas for action  from the Appendix:

  • Reimagine career trajectories, replacing steep, narrow, one-way ladders with lattices, broad fields with meandering paths that wind through them. Think fluidity.   Could we create sine curves, career tracks of intensity and pullback, for both men and women? As a working mother friend of mine said, “It there are on-ramps back into the workplace for disgraced politicians like Eliot Spitzer, then why not for parents?

Don’t you love the language she uses and the images she creates here? So much possibility!

  • Give your brain a rest. Get out of your head and into your body, your breath, or the moment. Women, especially, are prone to ruminating and worrying.   Notice the thoughts without judgment, choose to think in a different way, and rewire your brain. Ask for help and delegate. Write the to-do list in an enormous brain dump and then give yourself permission not to do it all. Take five minutes to pour the clutter of anxieties into a Worry Journal. Uncontaminate your time.

To this one I say, a resounding YES!

Remember you can always create a “worry journal” on the Making Room For You journaling site.  It is free and secure.  I am there journaling too.   Click here to begin.

I see connections between this action item and  Give and Take by Adam Grant, especially around the asking for help and delegating part.   See my blog post on that book for more: Are You Exhausted From Giving? Inspiration from Give and Take.

Brigid Schulte also refers to Carol Dweck’s work on Mindset, which I have blogged about here and here.  This is a very important concept to keep revisiting, especially when we are trying new things such as some of the actions above – in other words, practice makes progress, be open to experimenting,  be open to failing and trying again.

I would love to hear any insights you get from reading this book or this post.

PS I am really looking forward to hearing Brigid Shculte speak here in Toronto in February at the GTA International Coach Federation Annual Conference. I will certainly share  any helpful highlights of that with you too.



Author: Milisa Burns

Milisa Burns is a certified professional coach, former lawyer and married mother of three, with her own website: www.milisaburns.com.

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