How to Pace Yourself at Work During Pregnancy

In April of this year, the co-author of my book, Mollie, and I were scheduled to appear on hello america to promote our new book, great feelings.

The weeks leading up to the launch were a whirlwind of presentations, taking interviews, recording podcasts and executing a complex multi-channel marketing strategy. On top of all that, we were also both working full time. And besides, I was six months pregnant.

Our call time was 5:45. The day before our scheduled interview, my nerves were vibrating with anticipation. Every time I managed to fall asleep, I woke up with a start 30 minutes later. When my alarm clock went off at 4:30 a.m., I had already been up for over an hour.

At the studio, a small crew did my makeup and curled my hair, then ushered me to a seat next to Mollie. I was starting to feel a little nauseous, but tried to ignore the acidity in my stomach. I figured it was nerves and it would sort itself out once the interview started.

“We’ll be live in two minutes,” a producer informed us as she rushed off. I took a deep breath and the room tilted ominously. Black dots clouded my vision. Mollie was saying something, but I couldn’t hear her because of the blood pounding in my ears.

“I’m going to pass out,” I announced panicked. Instinctively, I slid out of my chair and lay down on the floor. The producer rushed over to hand me a granola bar, which I inhaled, desperately hoping it would make me feel better. It didn’t help. I ended up crawling off set and Mollie filmed the segment on her own. I spent the rest of the day in bed with a nurse who called me to check on me every few hours.

I’ve almost always been able to get through extremely busy weeks. When I got pregnant, I told myself that nothing should change. I could take as many as I always had; I would just be pregnant.

Things didn’t turn out that way.

Here are five practices that I put in place to better pace myself, and that I would have liked to adopt from the start. Depending on your organization and your manager, you may not be able to implement them all, but hopefully these tips will inspire you to take a step back and set better boundaries where you can.

be honest with you

It took me (too) long to accept that pregnancy comes with new physical limitations. I always prided myself on being someone who could do anything. Although I learned not to sleep all night, go months without taking time off, or fill every day of the week with back-to-back meetings, I was still able to balance both a full-time job and a busy schedule. parallel projects. I was proud of this ability, and it felt crucial to my identity to continue showing myself the way I always had, even though I was pregnant.

failure hello america appearance was my first sign that things had to change. Once I hit the third trimester, I struggled with severe insomnia that left me feeling frustrated and forgetful. I finally had to tell my team and my manager, then push back my morning meetings for a few hours to get a chance to catch up on sleep.

Research shows that it’s often easier for women to stand up for others than for themselves, so I also started passing on opportunities and even my calendar through trusted friends and colleagues before taking steps. commitments. They encouraged me to slow down and not feel guilty.

Ditch the absolutes

I tended to think in extremes. For example, if a sales manager at my job told me that an event or webinar would help them generate new business, I felt compelled to immediately see how I could make it happen, or I thought I had to turn them down altogether. I could either show up 100% or it wasn’t worth showing up at all.

Now I am looking for compromises. In the sales manager example, I’m looking at the current content calendar to see when we could add a webinar, then break it up into multiple tasks and delegate as much as possible. This approach has also made me a better manager. When challenges arose, I used to step in with solutions. I am now asking my team members to come up with a few options on their own first, which we will then discuss together. By stepping back, I better help my team learn and grow.

Perform a weekly (or daily) schedule audit

One of the most frustrating things about pregnancy is that how I feel changes from day to day. Some mornings I wake up well rested and full of energy. Other days, I’m groggy and a flare-up of sciatica (pain that radiates down my back and legs) keeps me from sitting at my desk for more than a few hours.

To make sure I’m taking care of myself and not letting anything go at work, I regularly re-evaluate my schedule. Every Sunday evening, I review my schedule for the coming week and identify any days that seem particularly busy or exhausting. If I see I have a full day of back-to-back meetings, I’ll find a few that I can email, push to another week, or turn into a phone call instead of a video call.

If I start to feel bad, I’ll take a moment to make sure I’m not putting unnecessary pressure on myself. For example, I’ll review upcoming deadlines and revisit my to-do list to see if there are any non-urgent, non-important tasks that I can deprioritize. Often, I can also push an internal deadline for a day or two to give myself and my team a little more leeway. If you don’t have that kind of schedule flexibility, see if there are ways to briefly reset between meetings, or look for upcoming social events that you can skip or push to another weekend.

Set yourself three daily goals, then give yourself the grace

The first thing I do when I get to my computer each morning is write down the three work-related tasks I want to accomplish that day. I make sure my list is achievable given my schedule and physical health. For example, if I’m in a meeting most of the day, one of my tasks might be: “Get ready for your one-on-one at 2 p.m.” I also try to be as precise and realistic as possible. Rather than “Work on the client presentation”, which has no clear endpoint, I write “Create a complete first draft of the client presentation”.

I then review the list and ask myself, “If I complete these tasks, will I have made measurable progress toward important goals?” » I have found that when my answer is yes, I end the day feeling accomplished and have a much easier time disconnecting from work and giving myself the time I need to rest and recharge. .

Remember that every “yes” implies a “no”

Saying no is hard, especially when you’re used to being able to say yes. The best advice I’ve received on how to build your boundary-defining muscles is to consider the opportunity cost of taking on a new demand.

The next time you’re about to say yes, pause. Ask yourself:

  • If I say yes, what do I win?
  • If I do this, what will I not can you do instead?
  • If I say no, what’s the worst thing that would happen?

Once I’m ready to move on with a no, I come up with two sentences: one to say to the other person and one to say to myself. For example, when I decline a co-worker’s invitation, I can say, “I would love to, but I have to take it slower this week. And later in the month? and say, “Saying no to this now doesn’t make me a bad co-worker.” It makes me a human being who needs rest.

Being forced to work through new limitations takes practice and patience. These steps have helped me to give myself grace and better invest in my well-being.

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