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  • Elisa Torres

I Put Myself in Time Out


I am not sure if I could have taken on more changes at once. Relocating for the 3rd time in 4 years, taking on a new role as a leader of a large team, and starting an intense executive MBA program.



The first month started out okay, but very quickly I found myself feeling like I was drowning, and I couldn’t keep up with all the demands of me and the expectations I had of myself. I had no other choice; I put myself in time out. I was going to say no to as much as possible for 6 months. No travel, no new speaking engagements, no new mentees, no new volunteering events.  “No” to lots of opportunities because I could feel that this pace was unsustainable, and it was going to make me ill.


You might be thinking, “Well, that’s nice, Elisa, but I am not getting an MBA or starting a new job. What does that have to do with me”? I dare to say, “a lot”! I watch so many people make this mistake. We want to keep up with everybody’s travel habits, promotions, social media presence, and fashion sense, but we do so without stopping to count the cost. If you are consciously making these choices, it brings you joy, and you can afford it, more power to you. However, if you haven’t stopped to ask yourself “what am I doing?”, I would implore you to do that.


Here’s 3 valuable lessons I learned that might be helpful to you as you prioritize the astronomical number of opportunities available to us these days.



Comparison will ruin you

I am surrounded by incredibly brilliant and successful people in my MBA program. Many come from a quant background like engineering or finance, which is not my strength. Courses, which for some of my classmates were easy, required me to study for countless hours just to get a passing grade (hello, microeconomics and statistics). Beyond the academics, building your network is the largest benefit you can get from an MBA. We have more networking events and extracurricular activities than I ever could have imagined. I watched so many of my classmates seamlessly network and plan social events while doing well academically. Naturally, I went with the flow and said yes to every opportunity that presented itself. But I didn’t stop to check in with how I was feeling. The anxiety and sleepless nights were slowly ratcheting up, but I gave myself no grace. I thought to myself, “It was a miracle to even get into this program, and I am going to get every benefit out of it that I can.” Eventually, it dawned on me that I wasn’t going to get an award for going to every last social event or career connect. What I surely would get was more stress.


This forced me to have an honest conversation with myself. Everyone does not have the same capability, bandwidth, or responsibilities. Just because some of my classmates were able to run at this pace didn’t mean that I could. I was in over my head, and I had to get my priorities in order. It was ok to turn down opportunities and say that I was at capacity. There is no shame in that. I decided my health (spiritual, mental, physical, relational), my job, and school were my priorities. And I had to be ruthless about saying no to things that did not fit squarely into those categories.  



You have to protect yourself

Carlos Whittaker, an author and influencer that I follow, wisely noted that we consume more content in the first 15 minutes of our day than our great-grandparents consumed in an entire month.  He says, "Our souls and psyche were not created with the capacity to consume the amount of content we consume." You have to be real with yourself. We are not machines and everything we consume has an impact on us. You might not feel it right away, but it adds up.  When I coupled the amount of information I was consuming via social media plus my family, school, and work responsibilities, my head felt like it could explode. I realized that I needed to protect myself. Just because all this information is accessible and all these opportunities are available, does not mean that it is wise to consume it or partake in it. Looking at how I spent my time and what was triggering my anxiety was a worthy endeavor. Eureka! Lots of time wasted on social media or perusing the internet. Lots of time saying yes to things that I didn’t really have time for. Lots of time spent mentoring others. Little time spent restoring myself. I needed to implement practices to help me feel calmer and more grounded.


I know you hope I am going to share some magic pill to fix it all, but it really comes down to the basics that for some ungodly reason we fail to prioritize. Meditation became an almost daily practice in addition to my prayer time. I also enlisted the help of an app called Opal to drastically reduce my social media time. Specifically, I am unable to access social media from 9pm until 8am. Bye bye, doom scrolling! I prioritized sleep, exercise, and drinking water.  I stopped blogging and sharing on LinkedIn. I stopped traveling unless it was business critical. I pretty much went into hiding. I had absolutely nothing left to give outside of my core commitments. The hardest part was canceling most of my 1:1s with my mentees. This made me sad, but what was the alternative? Running myself into the ground? Everyone was so kind and understanding when I communicated these boundaries. This enabled me to create some breathing room until I could get back to a feeling of normalcy. I would implore you to evaluate your life and where you might need to set better boundaries both with yourself and with others. We cannot blindly go with the flow of society and people’s expectations of us. The cost is too high.



It's not forever

Maybe you’re a new parent, manager, or student. Every new venture has a learning curve. In the beginning, it takes you twice as long to accomplish a task. I need you to hear me - This is normal. Slowly, you will get into a better groove after you have time to learn and settle into it.  I was deeply pained by having to make these changes and I had major FOMO, but I knew that it was not forever. As I got back into the habit of studying and better understood my role at work, I slowly started feeling like myself again. It took time. There is no way around that. The 6 months I spent this way felt like an eternity, but now, I feel rested, balanced, and able to resume some of my activities. 


Speaking of which, I am in the process of booking a few trips for fun and work this year. I am taking my mom to Panama, which we are really excited about, and I have reopened a few mentorship spots. Also, my yoga game has seriously improved :) I have developed a habit, though, of checking in with myself when I make these choices. If I don't feel good or I don’t have capacity, I am able to say no. I have a long life ahead of me and I want to be my best, healthy self. I wish this for you too!  If I had not taken the time to restore myself, I imagine that I would still feel frustrated, anxious, and overwhelmed. And that, my friends, is no way to live!


Wishing you strength for the journey,


Elisa


P.S. Tell me! How are you handling and prioritizing all of life's demands?

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10 commentaires


mariafcardenas
27 févr.

Thank you for sharing your struggles. I can relate to your story in so many ways. I was accepted into a MS program at UPenn and I had to withdraw from the program due to personal and professional responsibilities. The level of stress I was going through affected my mental health and I forced myself to prioritize. I started practicing yoga, meditation, and qigong this year. These new habits made me a better person and helped me manage my anxiety.

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Aleja Ort
Aleja Ort
23 févr.

Haters are only doing their job, which is to make you more famous! Lovely message my dear Elisa. Huge hug and continue creating your delightful artwork.

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Alexandra Algarin
Alexandra Algarin
20 févr.

Such a great read! I too have had to set boundaries in my life for my own sanity. It has made me a better friend, wife, and mom.

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Elisa Torres
Elisa Torres
21 févr.
En réponse à

Thank you for taking the time to read it! Glad you have found some balance for yourself!

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marklehman
20 févr.

Very insightful. Everybody has a different maximum capacity for stuff in their lives. Dialing back is the only coping mechanism to keep you from jumping off the cliff. Hope you are doing well. Mark. BTW I retired and do not miss the work, hospital environment, nor the demands I put on myself to succeed on a daily basis.

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Elisa Torres
Elisa Torres
20 févr.
En réponse à

Hi Dr. Lehman! Congrats on your retirement! I hope you are enjoying it after so many years helping others.

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James Terracciano
James Terracciano
20 févr.

This was a great post to start my day with!

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Elisa Torres
Elisa Torres
20 févr.
En réponse à

So glad you found it helpful!

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