One Monday morning in May I found myself crying in my lunch break and trying to decide whether to go home or go back to my desk. It wasn’t regular Mondayitis. I felt like I was failing at everything, especially at work. I couldn’t think straight and I didn’t feel like my usual productive energetic self. I was experiencing a mama meltdown.
In hindsight there were many factors that lead to this moment. I want to share what I learnt from this experience with you so that you can avoid feeling like this too.
I know it sounds really obvious but ask yourself “am I getting enough sleep?” You also have to answer yourself honestly. In the week leading up to my meltdown I was going to bed late and waking up early. On the morning of said meltdown I was up at 4am with my 1 year old. For the previous week she’d been waking up between 3am and 5am (ready to start the day despite it still being dark until 6.30am) and sometimes during the night as well. I had been blaming her for my tiredness and perking myself up with coffee during the day. That was only a bandaid solution. If I was really taking care of myself though I should have anticipated her early wakings and put myself to bed earlier. Recognise when you’re feeling tired and put yourself to bed early. It only took a couple of early nights to make me feel human again. Sleep deprivation among parents is a huge factor in well being and resilience.
I’m a huge advocate for regular exercise. All the endorphins feel amazing and keep my mental health in check. The week before my meltdown I hadn’t been able to go to my regular gym sessions due to being sick with a sinus infection. This was definitely a contributing factor to my meltdown. Regular exercise feels so good, gives me more energy, helps me sleep better and process thoughts and feelings.
3. Ask for help.
When I returned to my corporate role in March, after a second stint of maternity leave, I asked my colleagues to treat me like a new employee. I assumed business systems and processes had changed (most had improved) and I wanted to relearn everything. At some point though I stopped asking for help and felt as though I should be able to do everything on my own.
I was trying to prove myself in the workplace to the point where I felt like I was failing at everything. Although I really wanted to retreat and disappear on the day of my meltdown I knew that it wouldn’t solve anything. Part of the reason I felt so overwhelmed at work was all the public holidays and sick leave I’d taken. I was playing catch up and felt as though I wasn’t managing my workload as well as I could/should have been.
It wasn’t easy sharing my feelings of failure and struggles with my supervisor and I worried that I would seem incompetent. I also knew things wouldn’t improve if I kept trying to do everything on my own. I also recognised this was a major opportunity for personal and professional growth.
My supervisor helped me realise I’d taken on too much and needed to be clearer with my colleagues about the scope of my role and offered me some guidance and direction. After asking for help it was like a great weight and fog had been lifted and I was suddenly able to think clearly and productively handle even the most daunting tasks on my to do list.
Never underestimate the importance of asking for help when you feel stuck. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.
I hope you never find yourself in a situation like I did where you feel completely overwhelmed and like you’re failing at everything. If you ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed please ask for help from your family, a friend, colleague/boss or even Lifeline Australia (13 11 14). It’s not easy asking for help but it feels so much better than putting unnecessary pressure and expectations on yourself.