Life Hacks for a Stressed-out Working Mum

Lisa, one of our Letterlife Beta Users, also active in the Letterlife Coach program would like to share some insight with the rest of you. And I, as her coach, agree. Her take homes apply to so many of us who love our jobs so much that it sometimes takes over our entire lives. Lisa is surprised that her new life hacks already have positive ripple effects for her and her family.

This is her story:

I have realized for quite some time now that I needed to do some serious change in my life. And for the first time, I decided I wasn’t going to choose the easiest way that presented itself! 

Let me give you a practical example from my life: I live with my husband and our 8-year-old autistic daughter Sandra. The mornings, especially leaving our daughter at school is really challenging for all of us. I’m not sure if I have the words to describe the despair, I feel having to rush an autistic child through her morning rituals, just to leave her crying outside of school so that I can hurry home to start my workday at 08.30. I know my husband feels the same way, and that we both really struggle with doing what’s best for our daughter, at the same time fulfilling our duties at work. I have suffered several episodes of burnout in my work life already and I could feel that the symptoms were creeping up on me again. So, something needed to be done. I could not go on like this for very many more weeks…

But then I started my coaching program. The theme to work around was pretty crystal clear as you might suspect. Me and my coach discussed different ways to approach this challenge of changing our morning routines to something better for everyone in our family. We set up my individual goals, how to measure change and agreed on how my coach would hold me accountable.

And this is when the magic happened. I could have easily kept going on according to my old modus operandi (put all my energy into getting my husband to either take over the morning routines or at least argue that we devide the mornings equally between us). But I chose another way. A way where I kept control of the outcome and decided to take all the mornings. This would be tough, but it would give our daughter increased predictability and me the benefit of leaving pick up from school to my husband. Also, I dared to challenge a couple of “old inflexible truths”! Like that my workday had to start at 8 a.m. When I was able to release the time pressure that caused so much stress in our morning routine and give myself and my daughter just an extra 30 minutes, the mornings turned out quite differently. I was surprised that I “was allowed to just decide” a thing like this. And that it worked. I think I’m going to keep challenge more “truths” about other areas in life that cause stress. 

I soon realized that it’s not only stress that is infectious, but that a calm approach and attitude can be transmitted between family members as well. Previously, me and my husband used to “intrude on each other’s territories” mainly to compensate for things we were worried that the other wouldn’t do. We divide the day between us and stay out of each other’s business unless the other one explicitly asks for help. So now, my husband leaves home for work at 7 a.m. and isn’t even there for me and my daughters morning routines. Instead, he picks her up after school and I have time to exercise or just relax before the evening routine kicks in. We still see each other but we avoid the stress and irritation of rubbing each other the wrong way.

To be honest, some “side effects” that I didn’t expect emerged from this new family routine. When I was no longer responsible for the after-school pick-up I didn’t have a hard end time for my workday. The whole idea with this routine was to get some solid recovery time but now work could encroach on this without anyone noticing but myself. I’m also not entirely sure what counts as recovery for me. So, me and my coach had to go back to the whiteboard and discuss strategies to finish work and make time for recovery before the family arrives home at 5 p.m:

1. Time is of the essence! We decided that I will stop working at 3 p.m. To make sure I don’t forget I will set an alarm on my phone for 2:30. After this, I cannot start up anything new, only wrap up what I’m already working on. I make lists of what was interrupted and didn’t finish so I can pick up there the next day.

2. Border control! I have installed autoreply on my work email saying, “Hello and thank you for your email. I am currently working between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. If your matter is urgent, mark it as URGENT! and I will make sure to prioritize it immediately when I’m back! All the best, Lisa.” 

3. Not lost in transition! To find the bridges between a workday and recovery time, I can choose between a 3-minute moving body scanning, just scrolling through Instagram for 5 minutes or do a short breathing. practice. And this is the bridge! Not the recovery!

4. Recovery of the essence! I need to explore what recovery is to me. Watching Netflix series, exercise, scrolling through social media, see a friend or read a book? Today I don’t know but my coach told me that it might be almost anything as long as it’s not illicit drugs or criminal behavior;) Oh, perhaps I forgot to mention that we use humor as a tool in our coaching sessions.

Looking back on my five-week coaching program I’d say that I feel proud of my progress. It really feels like most of the insights and change came from within me. My coach was only there as a “catalyst”. That is really empowering. And don’t worry, I’m also a very realistic and pragmatic person. I don’t expect the sky to open and to live happily ever after. But I do think that these five short sessions got me some core pieces of the puzzle that I needed to move forward on my own. And I look forward to continuing to share my progress and struggles with my neurodiverse sisters in the Letterlife community.

/Lisa

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