I was sat in the coffeeshop adjacent to my condo, staring at my computer screen, the cursor blinking, my mind racing, pen tap-tap-tapping the tabletop. My gaze wandered to the guy sitting next to me, who shot me a sideways glance, one that distinctly read: “I’m-about-two-seconds-away-from-shoving-that-pen-down-your-throat-sweetheart.” I mouthed ‘sorry’ and sat on my hands, the only way I could get the fidgeting to subside.
In my inbox sat two emails, both requesting me to be a guest speaker at pretty big conferences later in the year. They’d been opened a few days prior, gathering moss and awaiting my response, which I’m sure was expected to be an enthusiastic, “Yes!”. But my initial reaction wasn’t of excitement or pride in myself. Despite the fact that both of these people had reached out to me, my initial feeling was a lump in my throat and the fear-mongering voice inside saying, “You’re not good enough.”
“I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be… whelmed?” Ahhhh, classic ’90s teen movie quote (points to anyone who can name that flick).
Although I don’t even know the answer to that though-provoking piece of pop culture history, I do know that the feeling of being overwhelmed is very real. The past couple of months since I got back from our trip to Australia have been a continuous up and down roller coaster for me – planning a wedding, travelling for work, doing my taxes, applying for Damien’s permanent residency…. all whilst keeping my brand afloat, managing a business and planning my next big project, That Renegade Girl. It was just SO MUCH all at once. And instead of tackling it head on, I just got more and more overwhelmed by the constant running thoughts of everything I needed to get done… and I just avoided it. That tactic didn’t last long, and soon enough, the weight of it all came crashing down. I got irritated and snappy with the people closest to me, I couldn’t sleep at night and I lost the joy in what I do for a living.
What I’ve learned after a few tearful breakdowns, is that I actually have control over most of these overwhelming feelings – that although there are many factors in our lives that aren’t so easy to deal with (the pain of losing a loved one, the exhaustion of having a new baby, etc.), there are plenty that I’m able to change just by stepping back, taking a breather and looking at things from an outside perspective.
Over the past three weeks, I’ve been focusing on how to manage these feelings of being completely overwhelmed, and what I can do to keep them from resurfacing every time life gets busy or throws a curveball my way. Here are five habits I’ve formed that have made a huge difference in both my mental state and physical state (stress ain’t good for the skin, boo boo).
1) Give your calendar some room to breathe.
One of the main reasons we start to feel overwhelmed with life is because we try to be everything to everyone. We pack our schedules to the brim, squeezing in meetings, coffee dates, events and projects until our days are back-to-back from dusk ’til dawn. I found this was something I struggled with the most because of the nature of my job – a huge part of it is to network and be visible. But because of this, I wasn’t getting anything done – my to-do list just kept growing each time I said ‘yes’ to something. So, I started practicing the art of saying ‘no’ – saying ‘no’ to events, saying ‘no’ to coffee meet-ups, saying ‘no’ to new projects. And by making that simple change, by taking control of my time, I suddenly found myself with a much more flexible schedule and even days that were completely void of promises to other people.
Seven weeks ago, I decided to take on a new project.
I had found myself stuck in a rut – seeing the same bloggers at every event, interacting only with people within my industry, and not really growing my circle outside of who and what I already knew. It was all fine and dandy, but I was uninspired. Nothing was setting my soul on fire. So I started something called #52WOMEN.
The concept was simple – each week over the course of a year, I would meet up with a woman I knew little to nothing about, and just have a conversation. That’s it. I would engage in something I hadn’t done in awhile: the art of active listening. Blocking out the distractions and just connecting to someone without feeling the need to check my phone or snap a photo of my food for Instagram. I started the project in the hope that I would find that inspiration again and expand my network of badass women.
Never did I imagine that something so simple could have such a positive impact on my life (and inspire all of you, too!). When I announced I was doing this project, you guys went CRAZY sending me DMs and emails of women I just had to feature. You told me about your sisters, your friends, your nail artists and mentors, and my list just kept growing. What started as something I was doing mostly for myself has become something much bigger – a platform for women to support other women, hear their stories and make connections.
Week 1 | Autumn Hachey
My first meet-up had to be with the woman who inspired me to take on this project. When I first stumbled upon Autumn Hachey’s Instagram page, I noticed her using the hashtag #52coffeedates – essentially going for coffee with a different person each week (an old friend, a colleague, a friend of a friend, whomever) as a way to explore the city and meet new people. I loved the simplicity of the idea and the format of doing something for 52 weeks, and the inspiration came at just the right time as I was frustrated with complacency. We sat down for coffee at ODIN and I basically learned that Autumn is a straight-up BOSS. She was bubbly and sweet, but super switched-on and overflowing with creativity. Not only does she have an awesome lifestyle + design blog, but she’s also a content marketing strategist for Leon’s AND is the editor in chief of their decor magazine. Oh, and she’s only in her early twenties, so like…. she’s killing it.
“An empowered woman can be selfish or selfless. That’s the beauty of being female.”
Holler. Clap. Whistle. Fuck yes.
Those were a few of the reactions given over and over as I sat with 100+ young women on Wednesday night, gathered in the light-filled, lofty Free Space on Claremont St. to chat about everything it means to be a female in the modern age. It was the first meeting of Bad Girls Collective, a new kind of book club that brings like-minded women together to celebrate all things female. And sitting there amongst those women, good energy radiating throughout the space, I knew I was part of something that was about to become very big.