If you’ve been back at work for a few months after maternity leave, you’ve probably noticed that life has changed dramatically from the baby pace of maternity leave to a new normal: go-go-go. If you find yourself falling apart more often and having meltdowns you don’t see coming, it may be worth checking in on your own stress level and emotional state on a more regular basis. How to this, you ask? I’ve got an awesome and simple tool in mind.
Checking in on YOU
First, know that new mama meltdowns are absolutely normal. You are NOT at all alone in this. (And know that you can always seek help if you think you might be suffering from post-partum depression or anxiety.)
Second, consider a quick and easy – but amazingly effective – weekly check-in with yourself. I just attended a conference sponsored by the ThirdPath Institute, and their Founder and President, the amazing Jessica DeGroot, taught me this awesome technique:
Once a week, stop and give yourself two ratings – one for work, and one for home/life – on a 5-point scale, where 1 = everything is peachy and calm, and 5 = five alarm fire.
I love this idea as a way to check in on a regular, planned basis, and to see what the trends are in your life. Being in the 4/5 zone is okay for a little while and is normal, as activity in work and life always ebb and flow. But the 4/5 danger zone is just not sustainable in the long run.
Checking in on Your Team
If you manage others at work, also consider using this tool on a weekly basis with your team. Ask each team member for their numbers – both for work and for home – and keep tabs on trends. Jessica said she does this with her colleagues at ThirdPath, and that it’s been a really effective way to check the team’s pulse. I also used a similar strategy with a colleague I managed a few years ago and was glad to have been reminded of it this week.
Your colleagues’ numbers will, of course, go up in advance of a big conference or project deadline. But then you need to figure out ways to get them back down, so the team is not in a continuous state of near disaster. “Episodic” (as ThirdPath calls them) busy periods are okay; chronic, not so much. (Also check out more strategies for Returning to Work After Maternity Leave a Better Manager.)
So You (or Your Team) are Going off the Rails…
If YOU are verging on the five-alarm fire more often than not, either with work or at home, it’s time to look hard at how you’re spending your time and how well you are taking care of yourself (or not). A few suggestions:
- Check out ThirdPath’s Resources for Individuals – including monthly coaching through their “OMG (Overwhelm Mitigation Group) Programs”.
- Learn about Micro-Self Care – I know you’re incredibly busy and don’t have much time for yourself, mama. AND there are ways to re-set your brain and bring some calm to your world using techniques that don’t take much time.
- Delegate More – get some things off your plate. Here are thoughts on exactly what you can consider delegating.
- Spend Time Planning with Your Partner – being sure your partner knows how you are feeling, and making weekly time to tackle life’s details together can make a huge difference in reducing overwhelm. (My husband and I do a weekly “Saturday Meeting” that truly saves us.)
- Lower Your Standards and Get Okay with the Baby Pace – it’s okay to cut yourself some (make that a LOT of) slack, mama. You are doing enough. And you ARE enough. Both at work AND at home.
And what’s the solution when YOUR TEAM at work has been in five-alarm mode so long that your colleagues are about to go off the rails (or jump ship)?
- Get More Hands on Deck: especially if you’re in a billable hour world, where more hours mean more revenue, can you hire someone – even temporarily – to take the pressure off? Or recruit someone from another team who may not be so busy right now to come support your team for a while?
- Prioritize and Reduce Your Commitments: if you’re in a world with a finite amount of resources, and more work does not mean more revenue, consider carefully what’s on your plate. If it means you can only commit to your top two priorities instead of your top four by a certain date, then make that decision and communicate it broadly. Easier said than done, I know…but critical for the survival of your team.
Taking your and your team’s pulse in this thoughtful and intentional way can save sanity all around. If you use or try out this technique, let me know in comments below how it goes.
Want more strategies for navigating working-mama-land? If you’re heading back to work after maternity leave soon, join the next session of Mindful Return for a curriculum and some amazing peer mentoring.