Dealing with Overwhelm at Work with Rachel Kelly
With all the incredible advances in technology comes a never-ending struggle to tend to your endless notifications. In the workplace, especially the freelancing and entrepreneur arena, this translates to being reachable 24-7 and raises expectations of clients to near unrealistic levels. If you’re a client-centred service you might have experienced personal sacrifice to satisfy these demands. This comes at the cost of mental health and manifests as worker burnout.
Burnout at work is a prevalent but under-discussed topic. It’s often unrecognized until you’re in crisis and can disable the overwhelmed worker with flow-on effects felt particularly hard by freelancers. Each and every one of us, either directly or indirectly, has seen the effects this can have and a common question from the time-poor worker emerges: how do I deal with and prevent it?
Enter Rachel Kelly: a long-standing friend and self-proclaimed Jill-of-all-trades, Rachel has enjoyed a multitude of jobs in freelance graphic design, social media marketing and copywriting before a travel writing job gave her the taste of an office-less lifestyle - one she found too delicious to give up. She embarked on her own as an entrepreneur freelancer but found she missed the camaraderie and social aspect of an office environment and was underwhelmed with her sad office parties of one. Around this time, a salaried dream job was withdrawn at the last minute leading to job stress though with the silver lining of a newfound sense of self-determination. Through her own patronage of co-working spaces, she identified an area of need for like-minded women paving the way for the foundation of Make Lemonade: a Toronto-based co-working space for entrepreneurial women.
In this episode, Rachel discusses her tactics for dealing with overwhelm at work and strategies to prevent it by employing achievable daily practices.
TOPICS WE COVER:
It’s okay to change your mind. You’ve got time
Nothing is impossible, it’s just complicated
Working backwards from the worst possible scenario for reassurance
Learning the benefits of starting and ending your day with resonance breathing
Practising gratitude every day
Writing out our wins at the end of each week and celebrating victory
Challenging society: scheduling freedom and practising daily activities against the norm
You can do anything, but you can’t do everything
Remember, when life hands you lemons, you can make lemonade
Rachel Kelly’s co-working space for women in Toronto, CA:
Address: 326 Adelaide Street West, Toronto
The Breathing App: https://eddiestern.com/the-breathing-app/
Rachel: This is a reminder I tell myself all the time, is that you can do anything, but you can't do everything. All of us are just one single person, rely on your support system, whatever that may be.
Vitina: Namaste and welcome. I'm Vitina Blumenthal and you're listening to the Soul Compass podcast: the place for creative minds and soul-preneurs, just like yourself, to find your inner calm and deepen your self-discovery journey. You'll learn practical tips from experts and get inspired to enhance your mental and emotional well-being. Turn off your notifications, put your phone on airplane mode for this episode. It's time to focus and renew your commitment to yourself.
Vitina: This episode is brought to you by the Soul Compass necklace. I co-created the Soul Compass symbol in 2015 as a symbol of life's greatest journey: the inward journey of self-discovery of course. In 2019, I partnered with a local Toronto jeweller, Blue Boho to create this symbol into a necklace for those who are on a spiritual journey of enlightenment and discovery. I created this piece to wear as a reminder of the strength and courage it takes to continue staying course on this path, even through the beauty of life’s struggles. It's a reminder to stop looking outside of yourself and to slow down enough to hear the whispers of your soul to point you in the right direction. While I would like to continue to keep this show ad-free, the profits from this necklace, a gift for yourself or maybe someone you know who is on a personal journey, helps fuel this show.
You can head to SoulCompass.life and click on "Shop" to purchase or to learn more. Running your business can be very overwhelming. The workload is constantly growing along with the jumbled to-do lists, projects, and calendars. I'm sure you're flooded with emails and messages and that's not to mention all the social media pings. I get it. You love what you do, but there are distractions everywhere and it's hard to feel productive. Working on a project itself often seems so easy on the outside. Am I right? Yet, the emotional work involved in growing your creative business is not so easy. Whether you're starting out or hitting your stride after a few years in the game, there is no better time than the beginning of a new year to change your habits and mindset to make your work life easier and more efficient.
Hello and welcome to another Soul Compass episode. Excited to dive into this week's topic with you: Dealing with overwhelm at work, but before we get started, speaking of overwhelm, we're going to take a moment to check in to see where you're at today. If you're driving, just sitting up a little bit taller in your seat, reaching the spine tall and reaching the crown of the head towards the ceiling. If you're walking, maybe slowing down your pace, and if you're seated comfortably in a chair, just uncrossing your legs and grounding both feet onto the earth and sitting tall in your chair.
If it's safe to do so, gently closing your eyes and placing the palms of your hands in your lap and just tuning in, noticing your breath. You're seeing where you're at today. Noticing where you're at mentally and as you observe, just simply observe. Don't attach to where you're at right now. You're just taking note. You're exactly where you're supposed to be. Noticing where you're at emotionally. Are you feeling really energized, maybe excessively energized, you're feeling more stress and anxiety, or maybe you're feeling depleted of energy. Maybe you're feeling a little dull and again, simply being the observer. Moving your awareness to your physical body, are there any sensations or body parts that are speaking to you right now? And just taking note, maybe breathing deeper and directing the breath to that area. We'll take three deep breaths together.
Taking a deep inhale in through the nose, <breaths in>, pausing at the top and exhale to let it go <breaths out>. Deep inhale in through your nose <breaths in>. Pause. Exhale to let it go <breaths out>. A last time, deep inhale all the way to your lower belly. Pause and on the exhale, allowing the forehead, the jaw to soften and allowing the shoulders to softly draw away from your ears.
Vitina: Now that I have you focused present in the, now let's dive into this week's episode. So with all the incredible advances in technology, really does come a never-ending struggle to tend to your endless notifications in the workplace, especially the freelancing and entrepreneur arena. This translates to being reachable 24-7 and it definitely raises expectations of clients to near unrealistic levels. If you specifically are a client-centred service, you might've experienced personal sacrifice to satisfy these high demands, but this definitely comes at a cost, a cost to your mental health, and it manifests as a worker burnout. It's often unrecognized until you're in crisis mode and can disable the overwhelmed worker with flow-on effects felt particularly hard by freelancers and entrepreneurs, especially ones that are really passionate about their business and what they're doing and how they're serving.
Vitina: Each and every one of us has either directly or indirectly seen the effects this can have. And the common question really is how do I deal with it and how can I prevent it? Today's episode we have Rachel Kelly joining us, a longstanding friend and a self-proclaimed Jill-of-all-trades. Rachel has enjoyed a multitude of jobs in freelance, graphic design, social media marketing and copywriting before a travel writing job, which gave her a taste of an office-less lifestyle and one she found too delicious to give up. She embarked on her own as an entrepreneur freelancer but found she missed the camaraderie and social aspect of an office environment and was underwhelmed with her sad office parties of one. Around this time, a salary dream job was withdrawn at the last minute leading to job stress though with the silver lining of a newfound sense of self-determination. Through her own patronage of coworking spaces, she identified an area of need for like-minded women paving the way for the foundation of Make Lemonade, a Toronto-based co-working space for entrepreneurial women.
Vitina: In this episode, Rachel discusses her tactics for dealing with overwhelm at work and strategies to prevent it by employing achievable daily practices. Some topics that we cover in this week's episode is that it's okay to change your mind, you've got time. Nothing is impossible, it's just complicated. How to work backwards from the worst possible scenario for reassurance. Learning the benefits of starting and ending your day with a breathing technique that she reveals to us. Practising gratitude every day, challenging society, scheduling freedom, and practising daily activities against the norm. And remembering that you can do anything but you can't do everything. That being said, let's dive into this week's episode.
Vitina: Rachel, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today.
Rachel Kelly: I am so pumped to be here too. Thank you for having me.
Vitina: You're so welcome. Rachel and I met probably almost two years ago now at Dovetail Summit. Like always, shouting out Alexis over here because I've met so many amazing women through her, and I have to get her on the podcast very soon, this isn't fair. I met Rachel, and we really connected at Dovetail and she owns a really, really awesome business here in Toronto, which she'll tell us a little bit more about, but Rachel, why don't you tell us a little bit more about your journey and how you started Make Lemonade. A big part of the Soul Compass podcast is really inspiring people through story and through experience and I'm curious to know what was that moment in your life that you were like, "Heck, yes, I am jumping in and I'm doing this".
Rachel: That's so funny. Just to think that now that has been probably three years ago now that my life dramatically changed. I was freelancing for a couple of years. I coined myself as like a Jill of all trades. I just said, if you have a gig that needs to be done, and you can pay me, I'll Google it and figure it out. That led me to all types of different jobs, a lot of like graphic design, copywriting, that was when Instagram was just getting started out. Definitely getting into hashtags and understanding what that world was like. I actually worked for a travel magazine for a couple of years, and that was my very first remote job. What happened there was something went off my brain and I was like, "I don't need to work in an office for the rest of my life." I thought that's what people typically had to do. That was the first change that happened for me, but something else happened too. After a while, the romance died off of being able to work from anywhere and have my own schedule, because I started to find myself being really jealous and envious of people who had their work office parties. I didn't have any of those fun parties to be invited to, it was a party of one.
I ended up actually joining a co-working space. I was there for about a year here in Toronto, and over time, though, I just started to grow out of it, and something else happened. I was freelancing for a marketing agency, a small company out of this co-working space, and they actually offered me my very first salary position. That would mean that I quit all my other gigs, and was going to go full steam working for this company, and I was so excited. I quit everything else. I bought a couch because I was going to get a salary, and that's what you do if you're going to be an adult now. I was all set to do that, and then the day before I was supposed to start working for them, they were like, "Never mind, can you continue freelancing for us instead?"
That was like the little record rip in my life where I was like, "Oh, shoot, what are we doing here?" I was bitter and upset at this company for doing that and pulling the rug from under my feet, but what I really was upset about was that that meant that I actually had to figure things out for myself, and over the years of freelancing and all the gig work, I had balanced that with travelling all over the world. That meant that I really thought I was finding myself on these journeys, but only to realize it's usually when you come home and you actually have to look inside that you have to figure all the answers out.
That really caused the record rip because I was like, "Shit, now I have to figure stuff out, and that is scary, and that's harder". I'd had this idea for a co-working space or like a shared space, something that was more than a coffee shop, it still had the aesthetic vibes and the atmosphere, but it was practical like a co-working space, and all the spaces that I had been to in Toronto didn't really have exactly what I was looking for. When I asked myself, about a week after this happened, I said, life is handing me a lemon, what am I going to do about it? Let's just make lemonade. That happened in October of 2016, and a whole year later, I opened Make Lemonade in September of 2017, and here we are today.
Vitina: I just have to point out that I love that you said that buying a couch defines adulthood.
Rachel: Yes, I had an asset, and that was this motivation behind it, because it took about a year, okay, from idea to finding an office space and following the list of actually opening up the shared workspace, that this couch was staring at me the entire time for this whole year where I was like, I need to make this work, and I also wanted to prove to this company that it didn't turn out, that like just let me show you, I'm just going to make this work for me.
Vitina: It's so funny what fuels our fire, right? It's like we don't know at the time what this issue or this setback is really fuelling, but in hindsight, we can look and be like, "Oh, that's what that was planted for. So it can make space for me to actually follow through on my dream."
Rachel: Yes, absolutely. Yes. There's a lot of times where you ask yourself, "Why is this happening to me? What's going on?" The most frustrating thing is sometimes when it's like 5, 10 years later, you're like, "That's what that lesson was all about".
Vitina: Totally. I could only imagine that through your work experience, through time as a freelancer and now running this business for over two years, you are the perfect person to ask about dealing with overwhelm in the workplace.
Rachel: Yes, because I dealt with it. [laughs]
Vitina: Amazing. Rachel is on the show today to really break down her method, her tips, her techniques on dealing with overwhelm in the workplace. Rachel, I will let you take it from here.
Rachel: Okay, cool. Welcome to my show. [laughs] Okay, this was the very first thing that I actually told myself before I even decided to dive deep and sign this scary lease and really commit myself to start a business, and I'm sure everyone can relate to being afraid of committing to something, and sometimes changing your life radically. Something that's always been in the back of my mind is the line, 'You can always change.' I kind of now told myself, "I can always change, nothing's impossible, it's just complicated." Sometimes I just work myself backwards from that and just go, "what I'm doing now doesn't mean this is what I need to do forever", and if I don't like something, I can figure out a way to get myself out of it. Even just this past week, we've been like, we've got to get this project done on this date, and then we started to realize, it's Thursday, it's not going to be done this week, why don't we just change the due date? That's okay. It's going to be fine.
Vitina: It's one of those things I know I can put so much pressure on myself whether it's a project that I said I was going to do or a deadline, and at the end of the day, if no one's dying, we've got time.
Rachel: Yes, this is actually something. It's not on my list for what we're going to talk about, but it just reminded me of another thing that I definitely do, and it really helps us. I asked myself, what was the worst thing that could happen with my business, and I started to go, "Hey, it's probably not like somebody commenting something mean on Instagram, it's probably not, whatever it is", and then I started to realize if the worst thing that happened were to happen, I'm not going to get an email about it. I'm not going to get a text about it. Someone's going to give me a phone call, and that's when I just gave myself the permission to turn off all my notifications and start strictly saying, "This is when I'm working, and this is when I'm not working", and that's changed so much. Once I figured out, the worst thing that can happen for me really is the WiFi going down, there's a fire, there's a flood, or someone gets seriously injured, and all of those things, I'm getting a phone call, no one's going to DM me on Instagram and say you might want to check the flood. Sometimes just working backwards and saying, "What's the worst possible scenario", and going backwards from there.
Vitina: Oh, that's such a good one. I love that. Okay, what other goodies have you got?
Rachel: This is something that I actually just started bringing into my life at the beginning of 2020. I learned about something called resonance breathing. It's when you equal out how you're breathing. You can do like four breaths in, hold for four breaths, and then four breaths out. I've been trying to do this for five minutes every morning, that's it, and I use the support of an app called The Breathing App, and it's just like two-tone. It's like in and out, and what's great is you set a timer. I've sometimes done it before I go to bed too, but because it ends right at five minutes or the time I set, I don't need to be back on my phone or anything. When I'm in bed or in the morning when I'm starting.
I have some notes about why resonance breathing is good. The first one is that it balances out your nervous system. It lowers anxiety and stress, and it increases your alertness and your ability to make decisions, which we all need help with that all the time. I found since I've been doing that, just basically for the month of January, it has really just helped me feel nice and calm, and that's how I want to go into this year.
Vitina: Yes, and I'm sure breathing techniques have always been really intriguing to me, especially when I teach in yoga, and creating the energy of the room, and that equal breath is so grounding, and it's such a beautiful tool for everyone to use in their everyday life. If there's one thing, I still say meditation, for sure, but [chuckles] for sure the breathing is super, super helpful.
Rachel: Yes, for sure. For me, I understand that this is a part of the practice of meditating, I think for somebody who's just beginning with meditation, and that's that I definitely identify there too. I try to be like, how are we going to vision our life and this and that. I usually look at a prompt or something and think about it during that time, but I can see my mind drifting. For me, I just try to be like let's just focus on breathing in and out and see where things go. I'm excited to see that a year from now, let's see what that's going to be like, and maybe I'll just be floating on a cloud by the end of the year.
Vitina: I really hope for your sake you are. [laughs] Yes, what you're saying, to echo what you're saying, as a beginner, focusing on your breath is for sure the first point that you want to focus on. If not, maybe your body, but again, your breath is part of your bodily movement. That's really cool. I'm really happy you brought that up.
Rachel: The next thing I have on my list is gratitude, practising gratitude every day. This is something I do in the morning too where I have this journal, and I just write out something that I'm grateful for, whether it's I'm grateful for the sun today, I'm grateful for my business, I'm grateful for this muffin, it doesn't really matter. For me, it's a nice challenge to then actually be able to look back on a month, or on days when life doesn't feel as great to look at all the good things in my life and feel really great about that.
Vitina: Oh, I can even tell by your energy of how much joy that brings you.
Rachel: Yes, and that ties in with my next point. I find this has really helped with business especially: writing out our wins at the end of each week because there are so many exciting things that happen throughout the week that you forget to just even point that out. I'm doing this again as an experiment because, at the end of 2019, I was on a retreat, and there was this practice where we had to write out our entire year and look month by month what had happened. I realized if it wasn't for my calendar, I had no idea what I had done in the year. You look through Instagram and this and that, but I couldn't really pinpoint what were some of the big milestones and big things that had happened. Now we've been doing that every week. At the end of the week, we talk about our stats and our numbers, but we also say what are the good things that have happened so that at the end of the year, we can go great, this is what we did. How amazing is that?
Vitina: I love that. I'm curious to know, how do you celebrate your wins?
Rachel: That's the part that I really struggle with, but I have a reminder on my calendar once a month now to plan something fun for the team here, and the team is just myself and Ashley, who's part of Make Lemonade as well. Whether it's like we're going to go out for a lunch together and get champagne, or we have this big goal of once we hit this certain sales target, we're getting two yellow matching jumpsuits, or it's, and this ties in with something that we do every Friday as well, where we ask each other how we challenge society. I think that that is a celebration all the time where. When I talk about challenging society, we encourage each other now to work from home on certain days. Or if you want to go to a yoga class in the middle of the day, go do that. Those are ways that are challenging society on a regular basis because we are typically programmed to think that we need to work 9:00 to 5:00. For some people, that's the way that it needs to be. However, in some people's lives, when you do have that freedom to schedule, something else happens where you get this analysis- paralysis, and there are too many options, but you don't give yourself permission to do anything. I'm trying to celebrate wins on a regular basis by challenging society. [laughs]
Vitina: I love it. You know what, our society was so built on more of a testosterone-based cycle versus a female cycle. This could be a whole other episode. We touched on it in another episode with Erin Doppelt with cycle-syncing, and it's so true. Women experience the day every month differently [laughs] than the way society has created it. I'm sure you have a lot of women that are coming into Make Lemonade actually, no, it's all women or female-identifying.
Rachel: Yes, it's based for women, but anyone can still come and work out of Make Lemonade. I wanted to make sure that we weren't just like gender exclusive. We were a space that was welcoming to all types of people because we all do business together and it's just not fair to turn away your dad or your business partner or your banker. We all need to work together.
Vitina: Absolutely. I love that you're doing that. Also touching on your wins, I can really, really appreciate that. As an entrepreneur who can put a lot of pressure and be really hard on herself, it's hard to recognize the wins, and I know that you can get that. It's like, oh, no, but I haven't reached my actual goal yet, but there are so many wins along the journey. I love that you brought gratitude into being an antidote for overwhelm.
Rachel: Yes. Then my final point, and this is a reminder I tell myself all the time, is that you can do anything, but you can't do everything. All of us are just one single person, rely on your support system, whatever that may be. Sometimes that's just pressing pause on your inbox so that you're not bombarded with Emails all the time. Sometimes that's offloading the project to get someone else to do it. Sometimes that's saying, "Oh, look, my calendar is completely full. I'm just going to say no to half of it instead", but yes, you can do whatever the heck you want in this world, but you can't do all of it.
Vitina: I'm curious to know because you have a physical space. There is overhead there. I know at the beginning when you're starting out a business, the funds aren't always that accessible. You're not raining funds at this point yet. I'm really curious to know when you started, and you're overwhelmed, you talked about delegating it sounds like what you were saying, how would you do that if you maybe didn't have the budget to do that yet?
Rachel: I like to refer to my very early days, my fictional assistant named Sally. That was a person who lived in my head, and I would imaginatively take off one hat on my head and put on a different one and be like, "okay, we're no longer Rachel, founder of Make Lemonade. We're Sally, her awesome assistant who's going to help with this project". A lot of it was compartmentalizing. When I'm talking about, I guess, delegating and whatnot, sometimes it doesn't mean that you need to spend money to do it. I've been constantly hearing this, that some of the 'most successful entrepreneurs' out there are the ones who have mastered time management. It's a constant reminder all the time and a constant challenge, but I think sometimes we put so much pressure on ourselves, that I've written a blog post for my business, and now that needs to go around LinkedIn and Facebook and Instagram, and I need to tweet about it and email everybody.
One thing that's actually really helped with Make Lemonade, is I made this decision right from the beginning that we don't do Twitter, we just don't, and that's okay. That's a perfect example of saying we can do anything. We don't have to do everything. That's just a simple way of dealing with that.
Vitina: That's a great example. Thank you for sharing that. That's such a beautiful reminder for myself included.
Rachel: Yes, we feel sometimes there are so many people looking at us, but the reality is there are a lot less people looking than you think.
Vitina: Yes, it's so true. We think we're a lot more important than we actually are, but we are really important.
Rachel: We are really important. I remind myself all the time that I'm the most important being in my world, and I need to take care of myself first. I can't serve anything else or anybody else if I can't serve myself, and I follow that all the time.
Vitina: I love that. To recap, we have:
Rachel: You can always change, you're not stuck in what you're doing. Nothing is impossible, it's just complicated. Practice gratitude as much as you possibly can. Practice resonance breathing, try for five minutes a day. At the end of every week, write out all of your wins. Remind yourself that you can do anything, but not everything. Remember that when life hands you lemons, you can make lemonade.
Vitina: Yes, I love it. Rachel, thank you so much for joining us today. I know that some of our listeners will really resonate with you, and where can they find you? What do you have going on that they can really follow?
Rachel: If you're in Toronto, do come and visit us. We're at 326 Adelaide Street West here in Toronto. Wherever you are on the internet, then you would love Hump Day Magic. It's a from-the-heart newsletter that comes from our community here with tidbits about entrepreneurship, business tips and other news happening in the Make Lemonade world. You can get that by going to makelemonade.ca/magic.
Vitina: You should definitely follow them on Instagram. Their design is epic. Where can they find you on Instagram?
Rachel: We are @makelemonadeco.
Vitina: Amazing. Thank you so much for joining us, Rachel.
Rachel: This was so fun. Thank you.
Vitina: That's a wrap for this week's episode. To stay connected between our episodes, you can head over to SoulCompass.life and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on all things self-discovery. And please don't forget to hit subscribe in your podcast player right now so you never miss an episode. If this content inspired you even just a wee bit, please leave me a note telling me on iTunes. I read every one of your comments personally, and your feedback really helps me grow the show and produce the type of content you find valuable.
Thank you again for dedicating time to your self-discovery journey. Not only are you contributing to your own mental and emotional wellbeing, but you are contributing to a healthier, more harmonious world and raising the consciousness of our planet. You, my friend, are amazing and beautiful, just the way you are. Thank you for being part of our journey and thank you for letting us become part of yours.