Mental Health: What’s on Your Plate, Mate?
Life as a tradesperson can be hectic, influenced by unpredictable day-to-day workloads, the need to juggle private and professional obligations, and a lack of private time to take stock of priorities. Professional counsellor Julie Wacker offers some tips about how to cope when your plate gets overloaded…
As life becomes increasingly hectic with age, it can be challenging to manage everything on our to-do list. To maintain a healthy balance and avoid feeling overwhelmed, it’s crucial to prioritise self-care and set clear boundaries with our workload. One effective strategy is to evaluate what tasks can be realistically accomplished without going overboard, and to let go of activities that may not be worth our time. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to not be able to accomplish everything, and that taking care of ourselves should always be a top priority, even if it means turning down excessive obligations.
Imagine yourself at a buffet: all your favourite food is there, plus some more… You can’t resist – you want it all. So, you start stacking and piling all these delicious items onto your plate. While you try to squeeze some more onto the plate, something else is slipping off… Sounds familiar?
Let’s have a closer look at your plate – called life; What is on YOUR plate? Mortgage payments, invoices, customers, job security, children’s school/kindergarten, car loan, house DIY projects, partner, parents of both of you, some sport, weekend activities, friends?
Having a lot on your plate doesn’t mean you have a full life – it is more likely to overwhelm you and it can cause a lot of stress. Life itself can become overwhelming.
Let’s take a moment and talk about your plate and strategise what you can do about it when it becomes too full.
Take inventory. Recognising all the things on your plate is the first step, bringing in some awareness that you are pretty busy most of the time. Take some time to do this, as sometimes we can’t recognise the important stuff in our lives anymore because it is always around us. You may want to write items down, which enables you to see how full your plate really is.
You may also want to ask a friend or partner what they have on their plate to ensure you have found all the main items on your plate. When you think you have found them all, look at your plate. How full is it? Is it still manageable or is it overflowing? What are your thoughts?
Now the realisation dawns that in fact you have too much on your plate. So, what are you going to do about it? Throw it all in the bin? Start over again? That is only possible in few situations. Most of the time we are bound to our word, with commitments or obligations likes contracts, mortgages, partners, parents and kids! So, back to the full plate – what can you do?
Have a look at the parts on your plate – are they all equally important? Do they have their fair share of your time and attention? Is there an imbalance between the parts on your plate and your wishes and wants?
You may want to level things out. Reducing on the one side and increasing on the other side to level the balance – but it is still the same full plate… The only solution is to take something off that plate. This is the hardest moment; you have to choose which parts need to be reduced. Start with the most pressuring thing – work out what it is that stresses you most. Work out all the things on your plate in an order of pressure. When you have done that, you can start thinking about an action plan for each item.
Secondly, when you have put your items in order, you may see that some items are not solvable by you. You may need professional help with some items on your plate, for example your mortgage. See if you can speak to your financial advisor about how to ease the load. Talking about money can be challenging and daunting – prepare yourself with all the information needed to enable them to help you.
If your work is too demanding, i.e., too many hours or too many projects, you may want to talk to your manager. Prepare yourself for this talk: have information ready, plan ahead. Don’t ambush your manager during the coffee break. Ask for a designated time for you to raise the issue.
If your plate is full because of private matters, you may want to talk to a professional to get the help you need. If matters involve your parents, your kids or your partner, there is a good chance that assistance is available. Check out the local council, school or kindergarten or counsellor for issues with your relationship.
You have realised that you need help – you can’t manage your plate on your own anymore. That is the tricky bit, and you want to ask for help. Whom can you ask? Are there friends, family members available? What can you say to them? When and how?
Asking for help sounds daunting, unfit and ‘bottom of the pecking order’ – or does it?
Most of us like to help others – pushing the car off the street, helping to load a heavy item in a cart, reaching high up to hand something down – you know what I mean. People like to help, it makes them ‘feel good’ and both the helper and the asker feel better afterwards. So, why not use this great resource? What would you do if someone you know asked for your advice and told you about their situation? You wouldn’t send them away, would you?
Sometimes, it is hard to have someone to talk to, as there is often no one around. As a sole trader, you don’t have many people around to talk to. When you work on your own at a client’s place, you cannot really tell your client about your mortgage, so you keep it to yourself and keep on going. Or you are working on a larger-scale project with some other tradespeople are around. People you hardly know. Well, you can go over to the sparky and talk about your next DIY project, but not really about the health of your parents. So, you continue on and bottle things up. In the evenings, you may have a partner to talk to but how much can you really talk about work issues? Isn’t it now the time to talk about family things? The kids’ school project, the house, the next holiday? So, where is your time to talk? When is your time to relax? When do you have ‘me time’?
Let’s check on that last point – when was the last time you had time for yourself? What did you do with that time? Another project in or around your house? Or did you mow the lawn? Work on your car? Don’t get me wrong – these things can be the right things for you to do, but sometimes you may want to spend your time differently, like going for a walk or even just sitting somewhere and looking into the void.
SO, WHAT CAN YOU DO?
After you become aware of your own situation, raising awareness is often the first step. Talk to someone about your situation. Don’t bottle it up, it only becomes worse. Find professional help for specific topics. You need to know that you are not alone, and that your situation is not unique and there is help available. And, in addition to helping yourself, you may be able to offer the help that a mate needs. There is your opportunity to help someone out, to be a mate, to listen to your mate, and to listen to your partner and listen to your kids. Together you can make a change. Even if it is a small change, it can start something bigger and better.
Don’t Pile Your Plate!
Julie Wacker is a counsellor and life-coach and founder of JWCC. Drawing from her knowledge and education in neuroscience, psychology, and business, as well as her real-life experiences as a tradeswoman, she is dedicated to helping others unlock and unleash their full potential.
You can contact Julie via email at firstname.lastname@example.org