Stress & Climbing Out of a Hole

November 7, 2019

Just popping in with my monthly “losing my (#$&@” post.

we will just illustrate this post with leaves and a Carolina blue sky rather than a picture of my sullen face

I am going to admit it: I feel overwhelmed right now. With work projects, kid things, just all the things. I feel unhappy about that and just down in general. I have some form of compassion fatigue from work, and just feel OVER IT. And I do not see an avenue for catchup in sight.


Delegate. I have a team of others working with me in the GME space now. I need to make sure I am not trying to do 8328 tiny little things. I need to TAKE THE TIME and effort needed to train others to do things and be clear about expectations.

Create a very firm plan for when I do have unscheduled time (ie time with no patients or meetings). I will force myself not to put all 8328 things (from the line above) on the list but limit to a reasonable number of important things.

Get in my workouts because I really really need NEED the endorphins right now.

Stop eating the Halloween candy and other (#$@ so frequently because it is not helping me in any regard.

Go to bed early most nights because the time change has really messed me up.

Get back into some therapy, which I’ve done on one brief occasion before. I may try our podcast sponsor Better Help because I am concerned that trying to fit in-person visits into my life will be stressful in and of itself. (NO this post is not an ad for them!)

There you go. I guess this is proof that my planning methods will not render anyone invincible to work life stress or mood issues. Even if I wish they did!


  • Reply Sarah November 7, 2019 at 6:09 am

    Right there with you, and I blame $%&5%@ daylight savings, as usual! Left a stressful day at the office to pickup 3 cranky kids, and it was dark and cold before 5 pm even arrived. I truly admire your ability not only to post so honestly, but to develop a plan to “climb out of the hole”. The BOBW episode was well timed this week!

  • Reply Liz B. November 7, 2019 at 6:22 am

    This was me last month. DST has actually helped me crawl out of it by making it easier to wake up earlier – I just wake up at the same time, meaning an hour earlier by sleeping the same amount of hours. It has also made going to bed earlier easier throughout the week. Laura mentioned this trick in a “Before Breakfast” episode, and so far it’s worked. Here I am at 5:15 a.m. CST post a 1-mile run!

    I’ve also started using light therapy to help shift my circadian rhythms to earlier times. I feel like it’s really helping. I bought a 10,000 lumens light and hung it on my blinds right next to my treadmill, so I can use it to simulate the sun while I run.

    Thanks so much, as always, for your honesty! You help so many people by letting us know we are not alone in the struggle! Chin up and I hope you start feeling better soon…try out the Happiness Lab podcast!

  • Reply Sara November 7, 2019 at 8:52 am

    Hang in there! ❤️ Feeling the same way these days – it’s a fun time of year with the holidays and for us an upcoming Disney (!!) vacation and my birthday. All wonderful things, but it’s crazy at work with end of year things, which doesn’t make it easier! My VP told me recently to “delegate until it’s uncomfortable” – such good advice and I’m trying to do that as much as I can! Like you, I have so many amazing, smart people that can help me and I need to remind myself not to try and do everything myself.

  • Reply Rachel S November 7, 2019 at 9:31 am

    Except for a few details, I could have written this! THANK YOU for being so open here on your blog. Between your recent podcast episode and the post from September that inspired it, and this post and many others of yours, I feel relief knowing it’s not just me. One of my favorite things is that you don’t just vent, but you say, “ok, I feel this way, but here’s what I’m going to do to get through it”. And that’s what we all need to do! And I completely agree about the therapy thing – I keep thinking I need to get into therapy but finding the time to do it seems even more stressful! Thank you again, sending good vibes your way 🙂

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns November 7, 2019 at 9:48 am

    Sending lots of love and light to you. It’s tough to go through these hard phases where you feel overwhelmed. I’m right there with you as we bought a house at the end of October and our current house goes on the market today. Since the market is cooling a bit, our realtor wanted to stage the heck out of it so we moved most of our furniture over to the new house over the weekend and it got staged this week. We have a 20 month old so dealing with all of this was so stressful/time consuming. I just want to go to bed and wake up in December when we have moved/settled. We are going to my parents for the weekend and are hoping our house will sell while we are gone (there’s a good chance it will as the first time home buyer market is still hot here). I’m looking forward to being somewhere where there isn’t anything that can or need to do – I can just relax and soak up time with my parents and someone else will handle meal planning for a change!! 😛

  • Reply Kate November 7, 2019 at 10:08 am

    I’m sure there are many things going on, but it might help to alleviate some of the decision fatigue around your newish role. While you’re experienced at the medical side, give yourself the compassion as you would for someone who has only done a job for 2 years. There would be a lot of support for someone with that amount of experience.

    You might have to create the system of support yourself FOR yourself… As your own manager., specifically 2 and 3.

    2. Block out chunks way in advance. As to your schedule with a DNS (do not schedule). Teach others what that means and what are the 1-2 exceptions you pre-decide.

    3. Pre-decide. Create an if/then decision tree. Train your team on them. The article has good examples. Like Obama and only certain suits! Ex: you always delegate into coffee chats to a more experienced student. You always refuse 1 hour meetings for initial project meetings because it will be wasted.

    You’re doing several hard things at once, and want to do them well. It’s very admirable and inspiring that you keep wanting to do an excellent job.

    • Reply KGC November 7, 2019 at 11:17 am

      I realize this comment is directed at SHU, but I just want to thank you for posting this article! I’m in a similar feeling of total overwhelm right now and I really loved how the information was presented here. I’m going to see what I can do to incorporate some of these tips into my own life. I think none of this is groundbreaking, persay (especially as someone who reads this blog and listens to BoBW) but sometimes it’s hearing it for the nth time or presented in a new way that makes it stick. Thanks again!

  • Reply Sue November 7, 2019 at 10:57 am

    Just wanted to encourage you and say that when you find the right therapist, it really can be life-changing. I have been in therapy on and off for 8 years with a truly gifted therapist. Sometimes it’s been a year, sometimes I just go to talk about one thing, one time, and not again for months or years. I always feel a tiny bit of guilt because it is $$$, but honestly, it changes my ability to cope with the hard things and find joy/experience so much more satisfaction. Just wanted to throw that out there! Also, your commitment to exercise always inspires me.

    • Reply Kate November 7, 2019 at 11:01 am

      Yes! I had a 24 hour Holter test as a 24yo in grad school. It feels my heart was shopping beats and erratic. Nope. Just stress. But it felt so real! Doctor recommended therapy and I’m still benefiting 8 years later

  • Reply Jennifer November 7, 2019 at 11:30 am

    I was getting ready this morning and thought “I hate everyone and everything right now” and immediately thought of your post and the most recent BoBW Podcast episode and it made me laugh. Because I am definitely in the wonderful PMS phase of my cycle and am feeling a little overwhelmed with work and the iminent holidays. I want to say thank you for sharing the real, not always happy truth of your life. It helps me feel not as alone when I am going through the same things. That there is nothing wrong with me, everyone goes through phases like this too.

  • Reply omdg November 7, 2019 at 12:02 pm

    Remind yourself that you can only do what you can do, no matter what external pressures are being applied to you. Sometimes perfection can be the enemy of getting things done. Can you hire some weekend childcare so you can set aside a chunk of time for crossing some things off your list? Sometimes working on a weekend makes me feel better because I’ve actually gotten stuff accomplished. I totally feel you. Hang in there.

  • Reply Anisha November 7, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    No suggestions, just wanted to say hang in there! Sounds like you have some great strategies to make things more manageable.

  • Reply Sara B. November 7, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    Yup. I have days where I’m like “I hate my life,” even though that’s not really true. Increasingly, its meetings. Especially those annoying standing check-in meetings where your opinion is needed for 10 minutes out of the hour but your presence is required in order to be collaborative or whatever, and one in 5 meetings it was super useful to be there and the rest of the time it’s not. Delegating the meeting when possible has helped. I’m also asking to attend by phone more and just multitasking through the annoying parts, maybe attending in-person 50% of the time for networking / face time needs. (I took Laura’s advice, found a really good excuse the first time – I had to be out of town for a family emergency and my usual backup is on medical leave, and now it’s more normal. And my on-leave backup does it too, now.) Multitasking isn’t ideal – I’d rather have shorter / fewer meetings or virtual check-ins and have focused time, but hospitals culture changes slowly and it makes me feel better to get caught up on email deleting or grocery ordering or whatever and not having that get pushed off by another half-useful meeting I attended fully. Hang in there.

  • Reply Ashley G. November 7, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    I second all the therapy comments! I too put this off for entirely too long and it was truly life-changing. I was holding myself to unattainable expectations and then making myself miserable when I couldn’t meet them. After 10 or so months of therapy I seem to have finally (mostly) stopped doing this! It is a process and it is HARD, but I reserved one lunch break per month for it and I have never regretted it. I definitely did dread the sessions at first, though. Again, hard. Also, thank you for the honesty on this blog. So refreshing and helpful for the rest of us! This plus all the comments feel like a nice anonymous cheering squad/support group.

  • Reply Ali November 7, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    Just chiming in to say I’m right there with you. My husband talks me down off the ledge once a week when I’m in full stress out mode. His latest point, which is SO true, is that this is just a season…not forever (which is very much true for the stress I’m experiencing now). Working out helps. The giant volume of Halloween candy I have consumed the last week does not (whhhyy? It isn’t even good!)

    Best wishes to you!

  • Reply Kersti November 7, 2019 at 4:48 pm

    I’ve been having this feeling this week. A couple of random thoughts: 1) I feel like upholders get a bit of “obliger rebellion,” where you just get fed up being the reliable one who is always meeting expectations and making sure others are taken care of; sometimes I think it’s helpful to get to this point because you realize you are being taken advantage of and have the strength to start saying “no” or delegating; 2) I have compassion fatigue as a lawyer–some clients are always the “victim” and you have to set boundaries to stay sane; and 3) sometimes when I feel overwhelmed, I tell myself for the foreseeable future I’m focusing just on getting nagging work and home projects done and taking care of myself, and that’s it–no volunteer work, limited family stuff, no work interruptions or “extracurriculars”, no new clients or cases, no complicated hobbies, etc. Just getting things done that are already on my list and taking care of myself and ignoring everything else to the extent I can until I feel sufficiently caught up. Anyway, you are in good company with feeling overwhelmed!

    • Reply Kersti November 7, 2019 at 5:52 pm

      Also, I forgot to say–a recommendation about therapy. I would suggest looking for someone who works with gifted adults. It sounds elitist but therapists who work with the gifted may be better able to handle the issues that high achieving and perfectionistic adults face.

  • Reply Lori C November 7, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    A couple years ago I found myself feeling a similar sense of overwhelm. There was too much to do and not enough hours in my work day. One trick that really helped me was to invest the time when I got into work in the morning to do a brain dump on a legal pad of all the items I could think of “to do.” I would then review them and number the top three to five in order of priority. I would then do a quick once over of the other items and see which of those I could quickly get off my plate. (Ie they were sitting with me but ultimately I needed someone else to do something before I could close it out). I would send a series of quick emails delegating those things. Then I would jump into my top three priorities I had labeled and NOT LOOK UP! No email distractions allowed! (So much easier said than done). This really really helped move things along. It was also KEY to accept that all of the things were not going to get done. Once I accepted that, it really helped my stress level!! Hang in there. As they say, this too shall pass and at least you are aware of how it’s impacting you.

  • Reply Greta November 8, 2019 at 1:08 am

    I echo the others here. The podcast was timed perfectly this week – just a tough week all around. Mine is exacerbated by being 25 weeks pregnant with number 3 and not sleeping well and an interim management change where I have inherited four new direct reports and a bunch of regulatory requirements that I didn’t realize! Hang tough and thank you.

  • Reply Louise van Loosen November 8, 2019 at 11:25 am

    Hey Sarah, thanks for the full disclosure that even superhero moms that rocks at getting the best of both worlds thing sorted have these days/weeks/phases from time to time. Got to your fabulous podcast through Laura’s books & blog and now I’m totally hooked and so motivated! So there you go, you’re doing that stuff to a random stranger 😄. The two of you have the most dynamic chemistry and really balance each other out -I just love all the tips & tricks but mostly the way how you’re changing the narrative that ‘you just can’t have it all’. No, not all but definitely the stuff that matters (and get rid/outsource/delegate the rest). Hope you find a coach or therapist you have great connection with – I personally love therapy and it has helped me make some really positive changes in my life at the times I needed to. And hope you ditch that Halloween candy too – I’m nearing the end of a week sans sugar after a putting myself in a near-diabetic coma post-Halloween and feeling so much better for it! Go Sarah, you and Laura are such real life super women and all the more real table for keeping it real!

  • Reply Susan November 8, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    I am there with you too. Sick for 2 days this week and now a massive to do list to catch up on. It never seems to end. Hang in there! We can only do one thing at a time!

  • Reply Jessie November 11, 2019 at 3:53 pm

    Thank you so much for these open and honest posts! As others have mentioned, it is a relief to see that it is normal to feel this way even with all the thoughtful planning, outsourcing, etc. This blog and the podcast have been a lifesaver for me as a newish mom with a career and a husband going through residency 🙂 Thank you!

  • Reply Donna Sava November 12, 2019 at 9:15 am

    You are human! We all forget this…good for you for giving yourself kudos on the weekend. It will never be perfect…but it doesn’t have to be. It has to work for you. Some days the best we can do is keep our heads above water and caffeinate heavily…or maybe that’s just me! LOL! Hang in there…life seems to go in cycles! This too shall pass momma! Sending a hug!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger November 13, 2019 at 5:23 am

      thank you Donna <3

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