Exhausted and worried? How to Stop Spinning Your Wheels

Need to stop spinning your wheels? I frequently talk with bright and caring women who are tired of running in place. Here’s what I’ve learned.

stop spinning your wheels
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / SergeyNivens

Do you feel like you’re working hard but not getting anywhere? Are you seeking “work-life balance” (a term I’m not fond of)?

Maybe you fall into fall into one of these three categories? Are you a…

  • A stay-at-home mother who dreams about returning to work, or doing something fulfilling, but can’t imagine your family’s ability to function without you?
  • An employed woman overwhelmed by career demands yet not seeing many opportunities for advancement let alone a break?
  • A talented woman who works tirelessly and endlessly in your own business or career and worries about ever having some time for a personal life?

Have you evern heard yourself saying…

“I need more billable hours—cutting back at work would be career suicide.”

“My child gets upset when I miss a soccer practice, let alone a game.”

“I made a commitment to running this dreadful committee—I can’t get out of it.”

“I’d love to go out, but I can’t tonite.”

“I need to be on-call for …”

If you have or feel similarly, take a deep breath. You have more options than you think you do.

And, you’re probably much better off than you believe you are. When you’re in the thick of things, you’re more likely to feel negative about your circumstances. If you’re a mouse in a maze all you see are the walls, you feel stuck and panicked. But, you can’t see how well you’re actually doing.

Because you are devoted, I can almost guarantee you are doing well. I can say this with confidence because I have witnessed it with so many smart and caring women.

How to stop spinning your wheels

So, let’s try to take a bird’s eye view instead of that of a trapped mouse. Here are concrete suggestions based on my work with clients:

  1. Show some self-compassion. No one can be perfect and you are most likely placing unreasonable expectations on yourself. Believe it or not, being hard on yourself is actually demotivating and erodes your self-confidence. (Learn more from this book note.)
  2. Pay close attention to what’s going right in your life. You are likely to be moving forward without even realizing it. The human brain is wired to focus on what’s missing or going wrong. Therefore, you have to make a conscious effort to see that your hard work is paying off. Try this: What worried you a month ago, last quarter, or last year? Most likely, you resolved it and moved on. Paying attention to that progress can be a source of strength.
  3. Remember that your thoughts and words shape your reality. Be aware of the things you say and what you tend to obsess about. “Always” and “never” are clues that your thoughts need correcting. Replace negative thoughts and words with statements that are true and inspiring, or, better yet, with actions that are energizing. For example, instead of saying, “I’m so busy,” try saying, “I live an active, full life.” Instead of thinking, “My skills are becoming obsolete with each passing year,” think of things, even obscure skills, you are learning every day. When bad things happen, don’t say: “Ugh, story of my life!” Instead try: “I got thru problems before, I’ll do it again.”
  4. Find ways to do less but better. Decide on the few things you want to do and/or have control over. Then, wholeheartedly say “yes” to those fewer activities then work on saying “no” to all other obligations. Likewise, say “no” to people who drain you and “yes” to those who energize you. (Need help? Then, check out this article.) Worry less about making everyone happy; concentrate on helping fewer people who are important to you. Skip extraneous details, focusing on the essential parts. (Want more? Check out this book note.)
  5. Look for ways to slow the pace. First, question your assumptions about what you really need to do, how to get it done, and when the real deadline is. Then, ask yourself, “What is the right thing for me to do right now?” Recognize the importance of rest and giving your brain a break.

In conclusion, to stop spinning your wheels, focus on the progress you are making, not on how you’re falling short of perfection. This requires self-compassion and shifting how you think about what is required of you and how you are doing.

Please let me know how it goes.

This is a revised and updated version of an older article first published in November 2015.