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When the tools are not enough.

I get to talk to my clients regularly about the role their own mental health plays in their executive presence and their leadership development. For some, the idea of ‘thinking about feelings’ and ‘feeling about thinking’ is new and challenging work, for others it’s a comfortable space to grow and reflect. As the hashtag #bellLetsTalk fills my feed today, I thought I’d share my own experience this past year.

About six months ago I notice that I was using every tool I had to manage anxiety, stress, burnout, and generalized grief (as many/most of us are), and while they worked to help me get back to equanimity, they weren’t working for long. I mentioned this to my coach – that I felt like I was using every tool I had all the time, and that actively managing and processing all the emotions I mentioned above was becoming a constant task. It felt like putting bandages on top of bandages.

To switch metaphors, we talked about it being like putting $5 of gas in the car, so you could get where you needed to go and then doing it again the next time – putting another $5 dollars in. But what I actually needed was to stop and fill up the whole tank. For me, the question that helped me think about filling my whole tank was ‘what can I let go of? and what can I replace it with?’

One of the things that I let go of that seemed counterintuitive. I let go of actively building People Lab. I rethought my goals for 2020 and 2021. I was putting pressure on myself to pivot and grow and build. I am fortunate to have an organically growing client base and I am paying my bills, and while pre-covid, spending the time to build my business and meet my goals made sense, I didn’t have the bandwidth to do this activity while having my 7-year-old at home with me. In terms of replacing it with something else – I made goals that were completely different for me. My goals are not around business building and growth. They are around self-compassion, finding joy, and noticing the good things. It’s definitely a slowing down but it’s necessary. For me, my son, and both of our mental health.

When I zoom out and think about looking back at this time in our lives, I want to be proud that I prioritized our mental health, that we built resilience, that we mourned the losses and we celebrated the smallest things and we actively look for ways to be joyful. The impact I make with my business this year may be smaller, but the long term impact will be huge, and when schools re-open, I’ll be here with my full tank, ready to go.

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