Message One: Stop the Overwhelm – Set Boundaries

I have a confession to make: My original plan for this “Stop the Overwhelm – Set Boundaries” series was to send these emails and release a string of short complementary videos.

But as I worked diligently through the weeks of planning, outlining and writing (hey, when I put something out into the world, I want it to serve people well), my life and work began to get more and more hectic. In case you don’t already know, I am an entrepreneur and life/business coach for family caregivers who want to be in the workforce on their own terms, AND I am a mother to two teenage young men, I have been married for 26 years, and I am the primary caregiver for my own mother, who lives in a house attached to mine.

“Hectic” can be the default for my life unless I stay really on top of it. That’s my reality. (And FYI, this isn’t a misery competition – no matter what your life and work looks like, your hectic is just as valid and real as mine!)

I dove into the creation of this series already knowing exactly which skills I want to share with you, because it’s a foundation of my work these days. I write, coach, teach or podcast about this stuff in some way every day. So I thought it would be simple to just find a fresh angle to talk about it this time. 

But then… I dug a little deeper into just how I originally learned some of these skills and along the way, I uncovered some emotional pain I haven’t thought about in a while. To put it bluntly, I was thrown off my game by how intensely that pain came back up for me. That’s OK, it happens that way sometimes as part of growing and I do have the support I need to handle it, but yikes I wasn’t expecting it.

Now, you may have already seen this coming, but guess where I ended up – again? Overwhelmed. That’s right. I’m in the middle of crafting what I think is a rather meaningful series on how to stop overwhelm, and I ended up right smack in the middle of it. 

How did I get here this time? Just like all overwhelm, it came from the one-two punch of both my circumstances (all the stuff going on around me) and the thoughts I had about what was happening. That second piece there, the piece where I think all kinds of wild and emotionally-loaded things about my circumstances? Well, these thoughts are full of self-judgment, which is a weapon I use very effectively against myself. Yeah, ouch.

But still, for days I tried to deny the feelings of overwhelm starting to creep back into my head. I kept telling myself my old story: that I was fine and that everything was under control.

So what was the breaking point for me, where I had to acknowledge my overwhelm? Well, the past few days for me felt more and more grumpy and basically joyless. Even though I was doing lots of things that normally refill my self-care bucket, I was spending every minute feeling like I should be doing something else. I was acting really cranky with myself, my family and my dog.

And then, yesterday, a dear friend who lives far away had surgery for a life-threatening illness and I spent the whole day trying to ignore my worry. I was already feeling a lot of frustration about filming and producing the videos I had originally planned for this series, which I had to push back over and over again because of a long sequence of circumstances that were far outside of my control (like several internet outages and lots of repair techs tromping around in my space). Then two major appliances in my house broke and I just lost it.

Even so, I tried to tell myself I could handle it all, that I could soldier through this. I wanted so badly to stick to my original communication plan for this series, and I told myself I could grit my teeth and crank it out.

Then last night, my sleep was terrible. My dreams were confusing and exhausting. Twice, I woke up almost in tears.

That’s what did it for me. I finally realized I had reached my limit. I was stuck in my overwhelm. I knew something had to change. I’ve been here way too many times before, which is how I know the skills to get myself out of this state of overwhelm.

So I woke up this morning and practiced the exact four skills I’m going to lay out for you across these messages. And it’s how I decided these messages are now going to be a total of six straightforward emails,* with no new videos (although I will point you toward some older videos I made, which are still quite relevant to this topic). I promise I’ll keep these email messages as brief as I can, but I hope you’ll read even the ones that are maybe a little long, because this is all coming from my heart. Honestly, I need this right now as much as you do.

I’m going to cover one skill per email. I don’t have any desire to be mysterious about this, so here are the skills, in order: (1) choose just one thing to focus on; (2) get curious so you can acknowledge what’s actually happening; (3) decide what you want instead; and (4) set a personal boundary if it’s appropriate.

That’s it for today.** In message two (I’ll post the link here when I relase it), I’ll talk about skill number one.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear if you have any questions, or if anything I said struck a nerve with you. Leave a comment below or email me.

-Kay Coughlin, CEO and Life/Business Coach, and mother, wife and caregiver

*One thing I refuse to give up on is my commitment to making my work as accessible as possible, so I’m still going to make an audio version of each message. Here’s where you can find the recording of this message if you prefer to listen rather than read. Look for “Message One” in the overwhelm series. You can also read these on my website if that’s easier – you can find the series page here.

**I am not going to get fancy here or wordsmith this series too much (and you have no idea how hard that is for me). My goal is to make sense and help you with your overwhelm, period.  I’m not going to try to be authentic (too much pressure!), I’m going to do my best to be real instead. Maybe you’ll need to buckle up for this. I know I already have.

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Kay Coughlin, CEO of Facilitator On Fire, is a business coach for the non-profit sector and social justice businesses. She is also well-known for being an advocate for family caregivers.

In every forum she can find, she shouts that it's OK for every human to earn a living, set and enforce boundaries around their bodies, thoughts, feelings and actions. You can join Kay's free, private online community to talk about boundaries here.

Kay also teaches about emotional labor, how to rest, and Human Giver Syndrome, and is the host of the "From One Caregiver to Another" podcast and author of "From One Caregiver to Another - Overcoming Your Emotional Grind."

Kay is well-known for her public speaking on boundaries and self-care. 

Facilitator on Fire is a subsidiary of Donor Relations Mindset LLC, which Kay founded in 2015. She lives with her husband and children in central Ohio, and is the primary caregiver for her own mother, who lives right next door. Kay can be found on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Copyright 2022. All rights reserved, Julia Kay Coughlin and Facilitator On Fire.

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