In the past couple of years I’ve been on this journey of discovery and as part of this I’ve been re-evaluating things, a lot of things and I’ve been reflecting on my life and that of those around me. I’ve realised that in the past I’ve been juggling too many things and with my perfectionist tendencies I’ve been striving to keep everything afloat and stay on top of things and quite frankly, I know now that this is an unrealistic and unachievable task.
Why do we do this? We put an insurmountable amount of pressure on ourselves to achieve so many things and in such a small amount of time and as if that wasn’t enough we set high un-achievable expectations. Why is that?!
Even in prehistoric times women were the leaders and were often found multitasking and in those early days, cavewomen could often be found hunting, travelling, painting and carrying out numerous other roles. Multitasking was invented long before the 21st century but, my feeling is that it’s got to stop as life’s pace seems to be getting even faster and I’m not sure how many of us can (or want) to keep up!
I’ve found that as the years go by and as times change things only seem to get worse for women in the 21st century and our roles and responsibilities seem to keep increasing. I know that first-hand as my duties only seem to keep being added to and it’s increasing at such a rate that we can barely keep up. As a working mum of two boys I constantly find the amount of duties that I have to fit into a 24 hour day daunting, challenging and yet all needing to be completed by necessity.
There seems to always be something on my mind from the moment I wake until the minute my head hits the pillow. There’s the school run, uniforms to do, book bag to pack, letters and forms to go back to school then the cajoling of the boys to them out of the house on time. Then there’s the commute to work, this usually involves me running through my head all the things I need to do when I get there. Then it’s a busy day ahead running a training department, managing staff, devising strategies of how we’re going to hit target, answering calls and the never ending emails and then it’s time for lunch. Instead of a relaxing lunch break catching up with colleagues it usually comprises of me running around town gathering birthday cards, presents, buying any toiletries we need or sometimes a quick dash in the local shops (time permitting)!
Then it’s back to the office for more meetings and forward planning for future targets. I’m lucky enough to be one of those people who genuinely loves their job, no day is the same and even though it’s busy and challenging at times it’s a job where I get to do something I enjoy every day.
When work is finished it’s a dash back to get the boys and then usually off to swimming or some other hobby and then back to make tea before getting them the bath ready for bed. But, before they can go off sleep there’s words to practice, reading books to read and PE kit to get ready. Once I’ve battled with them to go to sleep, it’s usually 7.30pm and by that time I’m shattered but, there’s still lunch to make for the next day, emails to check (again), the usual check in on Facebook to see what the day’s events were and then it’s shower and bed. But before I nod off, Richard (my husband) and I usually chat through the day and sometimes if we’re really lucky we might even squeeze in an episode of one of our favourite TV shows but, more often than not we’ll just cuddle in for a few minutes and then we’re off to sleep before we’re ready to do it all again tomorrow!
I know that I am lucky enough to have a really supportive husband and we split the household chores and child care together but, there have been times when I feel like it’s hard to fit it all in.
In January 2014 I kept feeling unwell and got this terrible cough that I couldn’t shift but, because I was too busy with daily life I just left it until I realised that 3 months on I was still suffering with it. After advice from friends they suggested I go to the doctors and see about getting some medication for it. During my visit to the doctors I just broke down, I explained I’d had this cough for months but, more than that I kept getting headaches, was struggling to sleep, felt nauseous and just felt generally unwell. The doctor sympathised and then explained a course of antibiotics would do the trick but, it didn’t. After 3 courses of antibiotics I got rid of the cough but, symptoms persisted.
My family and I holidayed in April 2014 and spent a week in Spain where we just visited the beach, played in the water and generally relaxed which is exactly what I needed and I came back to work feeling refreshed but, still had some of the symptoms. In September 2014 I ran the Great North Run and raised money for a fantastic children’s charity but, as I’m not a natural runner I only managed to run 7 miles and hobbled the rest, if it wasn’t for Richard I don’t think I’d have made it, he was by my side the full way.
After this, things started to deteriorate for me and I was finding that my evenings were spent of me complaining of my ailments and I’d often be found going to bed ridiculously early just to try and get enough sleep to help make the sickness and headaches go away but, sadly that didn’t seem to happen. In the coming weeks I spent many days during the weekend sleeping and trying to use all the energy I had to be positive and playful with our two beautiful boys, but I was struggling.
In October 2014 I hit rock bottom and my symptoms got worse and the fatigue was unbearable, so much so that I had to take time off work and spent 3 weeks recovering. The first week I spent a lot of it sleeping and had various blood tests and samples taken and the rest of the time I spent relaxing and researching a condition called ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)’. During a visit to the doctors he explained that he thought I may have a condition called CFS, this was a condition I’d never heard of before and didn’t know anything about it. The doctor sent me away with a number of leaflets about CFS and said I might want to research this as it’s very likely this is the condition I had.
I spent many days researching this via the internet and social media and I found that this condition was quite common and was usually down to (research). When I read all of this literature I realised that actually this was something that I had probably been suffering with for years. My body had been running on adrenaline for so long that every time I was reacting to something it was the fight or flight syndrome.
Being off for 3 weeks gave me time to think about my life and re-evaluate the way I’d been living it. I’d been running (literally) at a million miles per hour and taking on too much, thinking that I would be able to do it all but, the scary thing is that this isn’t uncommon. Many of my female friends and colleagues often complain of the same ailments and are often seen running around completing all or more of the same tasks I’ve outlined above and this can’t be good for them or their bodies.
CFS is a serious condition and sadly can be debilitating for some, I feel lucky to have only been bed bound for a few days and have been off work for merely just a few weeks. This condition can prevent people from working and it can affect both men and women and is widely spread. I don’t pretend to be an expert on this because I know I’m not I just know a little about the condition due to the research I’ve carried out myself.
Since then I’ve had more tests and they’ve identified I’ve also got a Vitamin D deficiency so I have to take these Vitamin D tablets for the rest of my life. I am grateful that it was just this as many have to suffer daily with the effects of CFS. Despite this it has forced me to re-evaluate my life and coupled with my coaching journey I’m now living a life I love!
Upon returning to work I took it a little easier and tried not to run at such a fast pace and give my body time to recover. I also tried to eat a little healthier and keep myself hydrated with water to minimise the headaches and luckily the nausea wore off too which made the day more bearable. As I am such a positive person I hid my symptoms well but, there a few people that saw me at my worst but, with their support and family and friends I came out the other side.
So why is it that it took me to be severely fatigued to stop this ridiculous crusade to be a woman that was top of it all? There are a huge amount of roles and responsibilities a 21st Century Woman has and the list is endless; there’s the carer, the nurturer, the teacher to her children, the fun loving and caring friend, the sister, aunt, daughter and cousin, the worker, the cook, the cleaner and not forgetting the aspirations we have to be better and the pressure from society to also be the epitome of health and fitness on top of it all!
The thought of even trying to achieve half of this is exhausting, yet why do we still try?! This list of roles is entirely made up of course but, from my own experience and that of my friends I know that women living in the 21st century are looking to take on these roles as successfully as possible and this poses a big question to me – is it all possible?! And even if it were could one person manage to juggle all of these activities and would they even want their lives to look like this?!
From my personal experience I’ve now taken a step back (well kind of) I’ve now started to really think about what is it that I really want to do. I now only go to events and gatherings I want to go instead of always going because I feel like I have to and I cancel any plans I’ve made if I’m not feeling up to it. I spend my time with those that make me good about myself and have distanced myself from those who surround themselves in negativity and I try not to over plan. I’ve always been lucky enough to have many friends and family and I’d always try to fit as many events, gatherings and get togethers in one weekend as possible but, I soon found it left me exhausted and energy less so I’ve adapted my diary and now only plan 1 or 2 things in at any one time to prevent this. Due to all of these changes my life has changed for the better and the best part about it all is that I have more energy to spend with my beautiful family and as a result I’m excited by life again, which is always good!
Now, I’m much more healthy and happy even though I’m busy with coaching, Aspirational Living and work I’m living a life I choose and I know when I’m doing too much. It’s been the perfect opportunity for me to slow down, recharge my batteries and reinvigorate my body and mind before starting again in 2016!
Here are 9 ways to live the life you want;
- Revisit what makes you happy both in your personal and work life and find a way to make this part of your life daily.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself – Stop trying to do everything and be everything to everyone and stop multi tasking – it’s impossible to do a good job of anything. Just do your best and know that that’s enough.
- Stop trying to be better than anyone else just focus being the best you can.
- Don’t over plan your diary, time is the most precious commodity we have so be choosy who and where you spend it.
- Take care of you – if you don’t look after yourself you won’t be able to look after anyone else effectively.
- STOP procrastinating over things – Just do the things that make you most happy and don’t over think things – Have you ever heard of the phrase, ‘Don’t always believe what you think?’ Often we worry about things that haven’t even happened.
- Be positive and always find a way to be a ‘glass half full’ type of person – it completely changes your mindset for the better!
- See the good in people and go out of your way to help others – it’s so rewarding and is certain to put a smile on your face.
- Last, but not least don’t let life pass you by – this is your ‘one’ life, make it count and be grateful for what and who you have in your life!