In last week’s post, I hit on a few key points from Brigid Schulte’s New York Times bestseller, Overwhelmed—Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time that touched on why so many of us feel overwhelmed. This week, I’m focusing on some key strategies that will help “crack the culture” of why we feel this way.
Before I go any further, though, I want to take a moment to clarify something. This book is about helping both women and men make better choices for a more fulfilling life. There is no bias against either gender—just an examination of what is and why, and then ways to help everyone make better use of their time. Translation: Men, this book is worth reading for you, too.
I want to offer some takeaways for you to chew on right now, but I can’t stress enough how worthwhile it is to read the entire book. And as I said in last week’s post, this is not a paid endorsement. I just want to share some of what I found so valuable and maybe motivate you to do your own thinking and searching…and changing.
So…where to begin? As the title suggests, the book is broken down into the three areas of work, love, and play, and Schulte examines and offers help in each.
Apparently I can’t be that structured today, so…in no particular order…the takeaways…
Find your pulse—I keep thinking that if only I had large blocks of uninterrupted time to focus, I would be much more productive…but we aren’t actually built that way. There is a rhythm—a pulse—to our lives. We inhale…and exhale. And we need to spend time working…and recovering. It’s how we will do our best work. Schulte shares research that shows that working in 90-minute stretches and then getting up and shifting gears entirely for a short period of time will greatly increase productivity. Find the pulse that works for you.
Choose your priorities—figure out what’s truly important to you and then live your life accordingly. Realign your time to focus on those choices. If you were to pick only a few things to focus on, what would they be? For instance, if spending time with your family was one of them, does your time focus reflect that?
Push yourself to play more—active play is actually a necessity for your brain. By giving yourself leisure time—time to explore, laugh, try something new—you are allowing your brain to reenergize and function better. Both historically and currently, women need more help than men in this area. We all need leisure time—and we don’t have to earn it first. Do not feel guilty about making time to have fun. If we can knock that stigma off its ridiculous high horse, we will lead healthier lives.
Denmark isn’t rotten after all—Schulte spent some time there learning what the Danish culture can offer those of us who are struggling with overwhelm. Let’s just say it is indeed a world away from American culture. The government there offers excellent formal child care, awesome paid parental leave, six weeks paid vacation…you get the idea. In Denmark, every day is meant to be lived well. You don’t live to work, you work to live. So…what if you don’t live in Denmark?
I concluded that while I don’t have the governmental realities of Denmark, I could still strive for my own private Denmark. What does that mean? As Schulte illustrates, gender roles there are very egalitarian. Women and men share responsibility in work, care of the home, and the raising of children. Work is necessary but not everything, and life shouldn’t be consumed with it. I know I am blessed that my husband already sees our marriage as a team, so our goal is to make it be even more that way. When that happens, both partners win. There is also the Danish idea of hygge, which is a lovely approach to life—and something that you can create wherever you live. (Learn more about hygge here.)
On parenting—Yes, this is the generation of the “helicopter parent” as well as the over-achieving parent. We are not doing our kids any favors by giving them so much or doing so much for them. I just love this piece of wisdom that Schulte shares from Kathy Masarie: “Love your kids. Keep them safe. Accept them as they are. Then get out of their way.” Parenting in a nutshell.
On mothers—Mothers need to stop making it so hard for themselves and each other. Stop the cult of “intensive mothering” and stop judging women—including yourself. Support each other rather than compete with one another.
On fathers—Fathers need to be connected from the very beginning to climb out of this culture of overwhelm. Schulte offers some wonderful insight about how important it is for dads to bond with their newborns—creating a foundation for lifelong engagement—and how too often gender roles get solidified when dads can do just as much as moms—and need to. One of the keys for this to happen is that new moms need to give new dads a chance to engage fully—not scoop the baby as soon as it fusses in dad’s arms.
Be still—pause. In the midst of the racing, remember to stop. Breathe. Remember the beauty of the small moments. Remember that life is short and this is all we have.
I hope these ideas I’ve shared from Schulte’s book get you thinking about some changes you can make. I know not all of us are married or have kids, and a lot of the content seems to focus on those “traditional” roles, but no matter where you are in life, you can strive to stop the merry-go-round of overwhelm that so many of us are riding and learn to live a more fulfilled life.
Of course, that having been said, as I write this I am mired in a day of overwhelm. But I am making progress. Every revolution starts with a first step, right?