How to Start Preparing for a Possible Layoff Today

How to Start Preparing for a Possible Layoff Today

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As someone who has experienced a layoff firsthand, I know how important it is to be prepared for the possibility of losing your job. While it’s never easy to think about being one of those selected for layoff, the truth is that it’s always better to be prepared than to be caught off guard.

If you read or watch the news with any regularity, you might think we’re already in a recession. Inflation is high, and tech layoffs have been constant for months now. But in reality as of January 2023, the job market remains tight and the unemployment rate remains low. No recession – yet. That all might change further in the year as the Fed continues to increase interest rates as it pursues its plan to fight inflation and cool the hot labor market. If a worldwide pandemic caused by a bat coronavirus has proven anything, it’s that no one can predict the future. What we do know is that it’s important to prepare for a potential layoff in advance, whether there have been signs one might be coming or not, and definitely if you see one in your tea leaves.

If You Believe Your Layoff Is Imminent

Let’s start with the incredibly practical and immediate: Many people use their work email address for their professional affiliations and some even use it for personal reasons. Change these over to another email address. If you do get laid off, you might completely lose access to your email with no notice. If your membership in professional orgs related to your work is important to you, change the email address so you don’t lose access. Do the same with any personal emails that are coming there, especially your health insurance. I had always used my work email address for my health insurance, thinking I would always be going to a new work account – ha! I was a sweet summer child. Don’t make that mistake.

Next, I recommend two steps. First, get a copy of any legal documents you’ve signed for this employment. Have you signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA)? Do you have a non-compete? You want to have read these documents with fresh eyes and have them saved to a personal drive so you can refer to them when preparing your LinkedIn, resume, cover letter, and interview stories. Depending on what these documents say, you might also want to save examples of your work to a personal drive. Some workplaces strictly prohibit this so please refer back to those documents above all else. However, if you can use examples of your work for a portfolio, writing samples, or work samples, it will be incredibly helpful to you. This is your time to grab those items before you lose access to your drives.

If You Believe Your Layoff Is Coming Within This Quarter

Most people put off medical and dental care because workplaces are notorious for leave shaming. Given the state of COVID, the tripledemic, employee absenteeism, and child illness, the likelihood is that you are overworked, exhausted, and not taking care of yourself even more than normal. I’m going to need you to stop that and get on the caring for yourself train. That tooth that’s bothering you? It’s going to hurt a lot more in a few months, and without dental insurance or on COBRA, the pain intensifies. If you’ve got something that’s been bothering you, please go get it checked out. Have you been putting off preventive care? The time is now for that colonoscopy. And even if you feel as fit as a fiddle, please go for a check-up and have a general blood work panel done. Follow up on anything that comes up immediately. This is for you and anyone else on your health insurance.

Next, please stock up on your medications and those of your family members. There are obviously a great number of rules and restrictions on this, but some doctors and pharmacists will make adjustments if you tell them that you believe you will be losing your health insurance. It’s worth doing what you can, and talking to them to see if it will help.

If You Believe Your Layoff Is Coming This Year

You might think if you knew a layoff was coming this far off, you would leave rather than prep. My opinion is that there might be reasons for sticking it out. Maybe severance, maybe pride, maybe some benefit specific to your workplace. Who knows?

One of the most effective ways to prepare for a layoff this far off is to start building up your savings. This can help to cushion the blow if you do lose your job and give you the flexibility to make better choices, rather than necessary choices. You have to start somewhere! Even having one paycheck saved is better than none. And then you just keep adding to your savings account. Experts recommend having at least six months of expenses saved up in case of a layoff, but if you’ve been reading LinkedIn posts about how long it has taken some to return to the workforce, you’d probably aim for more. My personal recommendation is one year. In my family, we call this fund “the lifeboat.”

Another important long term step in preparing for a layoff is to nurture your professional network. This can include connecting with current colleagues and vendors, joining industry-specific groups or organizations, staying active on LinkedIn, and touching base with your former colleagues and contacts. Nurturing your professional network – or even starting to build one if you’ve neglected it – can help you stay connected to potential job opportunities and can also provide valuable support and resources in the event of a layoff. Research shows that casual connections are better for a job search than warmer contacts so don’t worry about having to build lifelong friendships here.

Your current job is probably full of all sorts of “opportunities” for you to take on extra work for no additional compensation. I don’t like this at all, but I do think taking on additional responsibilities at work is a way to add a skill to your resume, work on a big project, and meet new people, which can help you with your next career move. You have to weigh the pain of the additional work to the potential benefit, but it’s definitely something to consider.

If You Believe Your Layoff Is A Sign

Maybe you love what you do and want to continue on your current career path. Or maybe you have taken 35+ Buzzfeed quizzes on what your next career should be. A layoff or potential layoff can be a good time to reassess your life and how your career fits into it. Does it fit in your life or does it take over?

Or maybe you’d just like to make more money. According to recent research, people who change jobs are more likely to experience salary growth than those who stay with the same employer. This means that if you do experience a layoff, it could be an opportunity to explore new career paths and potentially earn a higher salary.

If you’re thinking changing careers might be the answer, listen to this podcast episode where I interview Christie Nadratowski about leaving higher ed / ed tech for tech / customer success.

Remember, You Are Not Your Work

Finally, it’s important to remember that a layoff is not indicative that you are not worthy. Capitalism ties our worth as humans to our productive output. In fact, layoffs have been called by sociologists a form of “social death” – the condition of people not accepted as fully human by wider society.

You are a person who works because eating never gets old. If you live in America, your ability to care for your body, teeth, and eyes are largely connected to employment. But you, you are not your job. You are a human with loves and gripes and talents and people who love you. If you’re selected for layoff, it does not make you less. You are still worthy.

And if you’re living under the threat of layoff or remaining after organization layoffs, you are worthy too.

In conclusion, it’s always better to be prepared than to be caught off guard. By reviewing what your current situation is and taking the appropriate actions, you can be better equipped to weather the storm if you do experience a layoff. And with the potential for salary growth when changing jobs or negotiating your salary or pursuing a new career path, a layoff can even be an opportunity to change your life for the better. It certainly has been for me. So don’t be afraid to start preparing for the possibility of a layoff – it could be the best thing you ever do for yourself.

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Heyo, I'm Cristin!

Why a Layoff Might Be the Perfect Time to Change Careers

Why a Layoff Might Be the Perfect Time to Change Careers

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If you’ve recently experienced a layoff, or believe you’re about to experience one, you’re probably going through a slew of emotions, many involving overwhelm and terror. And for most of the folks I work with after or anticipating a layoff, that’s exactly how they feel, and the only thing they can focus on is getting a new position doing what they were doing before.

But every so often, I meet someone who sees the layoff as the perfect opportunity to finally do something else, a moment for reinvention. I have two recent clients (names changed to protect their privacy) who fell into this category so I asked them both why they saw this as the perfect time to change careers.

Example 1 – A pivot from theatre to account management

First up, I asked Jessica, a former theatre person like myself, what motivated her to use her layoff to look for a change. She, like me and many other people, had pursued what I call “soul work” as her first career, and found it somewhat wanting. Though she enjoyed her work in the performing arts, there was no promotion potential, therefore no potential for more money, and it took a tremendous amount of time, time that she was not spending with her family. Jessica was looking for work that felt good, but it didn’t need to feel great. She no longer tied her identity to work and therefore she didn’t need it to say something about who she was as a person.

Jessica landed a fully remote position within a fintech SaaS start-up.

This, my friends, is huge, and it’s incredibly uncommon for someone to come to me already having made and internalized this information. This left us free to pursue work that would achieve her other life goals – working remotely, making more money, having nights and weekends free, and being able to invest in retirement.

Example 2 – A pivot from engineering to big pharma

Next, I asked my client Sam. Sam pursued a doctorate degree in the sciences right out of high school, and had no particular desire to change careers until she got a bad boss. Bad bosses, we’ve all had them, and they’re the most prominent reason people leave their jobs. Sam used this as motivation to go back to school and get a Masters degree (yes, on top of a doctorate, and no, I never recommend this – please DM me if you are thinking about going to grad school and let’s talk about it) and got the first job she could out of her field. The problem was that this job was not exactly in her new field and that she knew the likelihood of layoff at this company was high.

Sam increased her pay by $15K and got her new position right before her layoff.

Sam came to me having already selected her new field, and had even received a Masters degree in it, because of the pay potential and the work / life balance of the industry. But we needed to gain access to an incredibly competitive, notoriously insular field with the layoff potential right around the corner. Sam felt that if she was going to get in front of the layoff, she might as well use this shift to get the job she actually wanted at the kind of company she wanted to work at.

Maybe you identify with Jessica and Sam. Maybe you feel that your layoff is just the push you need for a change (it certainly was for me too).

If you’re thinking that same way, here are a few things to consider:

Reflect on your strengths and goals

A layoff can be a good time to reflect on what you’re good at and what your long-term goals are. You can also reflect on what you’re not good at and what you really dislike doing. You can also think about all the ways you would like your life to go, and how your current career pushes against those desires. This can help you identify both what you want and don’t for life and work.

Network and build your professional network

Networking can be key to finding out about whole new industries and fields, in addition to future job opportunities. What even exists? When you go out and meet people, you make discoveries. A layoff or potential layoff can also be a good time to reach out to your existing network to touch base, which also leads to new information.

Take advantage of free resources (like this site)

There is a whole world of free resources available to help you explore new careers, meet new people, and upskill in exciting ways. Take a free class! Attend a workshop from your local library. Join free networking groups. Dabble and test out ideas.

Forget your (most) current salary and don’t disclose it to anyone who asks

What you made at your last or current position is your own business and no one else’s. No one gets to determine what you can make based on what you made in the past. New job, new you, new pay.

Invest in yourself

A layoff can be a wonderful time to invest in yourself. Taking a short course on a topic you find interesting or hiring a coach or a service provider can do wonders in building clarity and creating momentum.

And of course, if I can help you, I’d be happy to! Check out my resources on deciding if it’s time to leave, the what next workshop, and more.

Discover the system to change careers without a demotion or a pay cut.

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Heyo, I'm Cristin!

Last One Standing: How to Survive Remaining After a Mass Layoff

Last One Standing: How to Survive Remaining After a Mass Layoff

A single wishy with the text Last One Standing: How to Survive Remaining After a Mass Layoff

If you’ve ever been the only one left in your department after a round of layoffs, you know how overwhelming it can be to suddenly have all that extra work on your plate. Department of 8? Try party of one. It can be an emotionally draining experience, often traumatizing, and it’s completely normal to feel grief and sadness for your coworkers, guilt that you still have a job, and anger at your supervisors who did this to you.

But when layoffs happen at an organization, it’s because things are not going well. There’s no time for processing, let alone a break. How do you survive all the extra work and manage your grief and guilt at the same time? Here are a few tips to help you get through it:

Take breaks

It’s always important to take breaks, especially when you feel like you don’t have time. Taking breaks can help you to recharge and refocus, which can make you more productive in the long run. This never feels true in the moment, but it always is. Exhaustion makes a 15 minute task take an hour. Take a 30-minute break, do it in 15 minutes, and save 15 minutes!

Reach out for support

It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and sad after a round of layoffs. Reach out to a friend or family member for support, or consider talking to a therapist to help you process your emotions. Processing is key to being able to work through how you feel while continuing to do the work you need to do to keep your job.

Set boundaries

It can be tempting to try to do everything on your own after a layoff, but it’s important to set boundaries and ask for help when you need it. This can help you to avoid burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance. This might include not taking calls on weekends or not responding to emails after 6 PM. These boundaries should align with your needs and your life.

Focus on what you can control

It’s natural to feel anxious and worried after a layoff, but try to focus on what you can control. And what’s out of your control? You have to release your obligation to those tasks, situations, people, etc. You can control your own actions, not other people’s. You can control what you say “yes” or “no” to, not how people respond to that.

Take care of yourself

Make sure to prioritize your health and well-being during this stressful time. This might mean getting enough sleep, eating well, and finding time for activities that help you relax and de-stress. I love going for a 30-minute walk every day. Some folks need to journal or meditate. Find your non-negotiables and work them into your day.

Remember that it’s not personal

You being kept, someone else being laid off, these are business decisions that have nothing to do with your worth. You are worthy. Your work is not your identity.

Look for opportunities

While it may be difficult to think about at first, it’s important to remember that layoffs within an organization can bring opportunities. Can you get a new title for taking on more work? Can you take on a task that will look great on your resume? Can you get some budget or management experience? Look for ways to take on new responsibilities or explore new career paths without having to take big risks.


One last tip: A lot of folks remaining at an organization after a mass layoff feel guilt. Because they feel so guilty, they avoid talking, texting, emailing, or even checking in at all on their former colleagues. This avoidance makes the folks who have been laid off feel terrible, and it does nothing to help the folks remaining feel better. Isolation makes everything worse. Instead, focus on connection. It’s not their fault or your fault; you’re both experiencing the effects of a toxic system. Connect genuinely, in a method that feels good to you, instead of shunning people.

It’s not easy to survive all the extra work and manage your grief and sadness after a layoff. Whether we like it or not (I don’t like it), work has become a primary community for us all. But by taking care of yourself, setting strong boundaries with your work, and centering the human connection, you can navigate this very difficult circumstance, survive it, and come out whole on the other side.

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Heyo, I'm Cristin!

Hedge Your Bets Against a Layoff with a Second Full Time Job

Hedge Your Bets Against a Layoff with a Second Full Time Job

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It was early in the world of pandemic remote work, and Business Insider had an article on being “overemployed,” as in having two (or sometimes more) full-time remote jobs at the same time. The founder of the Overemployed movement Isaac tells his story on his site, essentially that being passed up for promotion sent him looking for other work, and once he got that new job, he decided to work two jobs at the same time. Not only did it help him reach his financial goals faster, but it also helped him hedge his bets against a potential future layoff.

I found the story interesting and passed it on to a former client and a few friends. I enjoyed how the founder encouraged folks to develop a healthier relationship to work. This is essentially my life’s work! I also thought that such stories would send BI readers into a frenzy and send everyone back to the office. After about a month or so, one of my friends reached out to me and said, “I’d like to try this overemployed thing. Think you can help me?” Why, indeed I thought I could. I read the blog posts on Isaac’s site, whatever articles I could find on the subject, made some resume and LinkedIn adjustments, and we went to town. 

And it worked! And has worked for the individual for well over a year now. Since then, I’ve helped a dozen folks pursue then manage overemployment. Read on to see if it’s the right fit for you.

So what is overemployment, exactly?

Overemployment is working two or more full time remote jobs at the same time. Think of it as similar to “moonlighting” (great show by the way, have you seen it?), which was having work outside your normal 9 to 5 gig. Overemployment is the same, except you’re working these two jobs at the same exact hours in the day. 

That’s gotta be illegal, right?

No, it’s not illegal. It is a contract violation for most employment contracts and could and probably would result in getting fired if one or both of your employers found out (and that has definitely happened to people). It also can get complicated tax wise and with your social security, and one of the benefits of Isaac’s Discord community is being able to have those conversations with other folks who are doing the same thing.

It’s kind of ethically murky, isn’t it?

I don’t think so, but let’s work through some ideas around it. From 1979 to 2020, net productivity rose 61.8%, while the hourly pay of typical workers grew far slower—increasing only 17.5% over four decades (after adjusting for inflation). You’re getting more done – far more done – but making less. Where is that money going? In a new study, two researchers Price and Edwards calculated that economic inequality in the United States grew $47 trillion from 1975 through 2018. Folks worked harder and got more done, and that money avalanched up to the richest 1%.

Wow, okay, that’s a lot, but the government gave us a lot of money when the COVID-19 pandemic started. Clearly, we cut into that $47 trillion number, right?

No. No, we did not. In fact, the pandemic resulted in the greatest wealth transfer from lower to upper class in history. The World Inequality Report produced by a network of social scientists estimated that billionaires this year collectively own 3.5% of global household wealth, up from slightly above 2% at the start of the pandemic in early 2020.

What about logistics? Is it hard to work two jobs at the same time? 

For the most part, my clients work one job for several months in a row, get the lay of the land, the politics, the personalities, and the people understood before they pursue a second full-time job or what you might call a J2. I think it would be difficult to do that with two places at once. But once you have an understanding of the players and what’s expected of you, it’s much easier to navigate.

Why do you think this helps with layoffs?

Sadly, unemployment does not cover enough for a person to live on, let alone a family. Not everyone is eligible for unemployment either. Combined with severance, if you’re lucky enough to get severance, you might have a few months at best before you would be rather screwed. And if you need your COBRA insurance, you’ve got even less time to get new employment. Whereas if you’re working two full-time jobs at once, you’re still going to be able to maintain your standard of living and take care of your family without the terror.

Who do you recommend this for?

I think being overemployed is worth considering if you’ve done substantial work to separate your identity from your work. If you’re interested in moving to a commerce mode, rather than a capitalist mode, and you’ve started to examine your conditioning, this could work well for you. If you aren’t interested in doing those things or can’t or don’t want to, definitely don’t try this because you will hate yourself and turn yourself into HR. It won’t be worth the effort of getting a second job. And it’s fine if it’s not a fit for you; I couldn’t do it either. #CatholicGuilt follows you everywhere.

I also think this is worth considering if you’re worried about being laid off and want to prep for it, but also don’t want to lose the severance you would get from your current job and be ineligible for unemployment at the new job. I’ve seen that happen, and it sucks.


If you’re interested in pursuing this as an option for yourself and could use a coach for getting the J2 and navigating the interplay of your jobs, fill out this form here.

Cristin with one hand on her hip and the other pointing up to the side

Heyo, I'm Cristin!

The 7 Signs Layoffs Might Be Coming to You

The 7 Signs Layoffs Might Be Coming to You

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If you’re on LinkedIn any day of the week, you’ve probably seen a post from someone who was laid off, maybe even that day. Since the COVID-19 pandemic laid off nearly 20 million American workers, people are much more open about being laid off, something that once was too shameful to publicly disclose. Now people share their layoff news immediately after they receive their notice and add an “Open to Work” banner on their profile picture. This is great news for the American workforce because it brings sunlight to something previously in the dark.

Perhaps you’ve never been in an organization that was preparing for layoffs. Maybe you have, but it was 20 years ago. Or perhaps your Spidey sense in tingling. Wherever your personal experience stands, there are a few common signs that layoffs may be coming to your organization. They are:

Decreased profits or revenue

If your company is experiencing financial difficulties or a drop in profits or revenue, it may be a sign that layoffs are on the horizon. It’s completely normal for organizations to have changes in revenue or profitability, but if a large amount of stress and / or frenzied attempts at making quick cash arise, it can be a sign that cash flow problems are happening or on the horizon.

Restructuring or reorganization

If your company is undergoing restructuring or reorganization, it may be a sign that layoffs are coming. Restructuring can be positive, leading to promotions and new opportunities, but it can also lead to duplicative departments and individuals.

Changes in leadership

If there are changes in leadership, such as a new CEO or management team, it may be a sign that the new leaders are planning to make changes to the workforce. This could be anything from new leaders bringing in their own people from previous organizations or their network to changes in priorities.

Hiring freeze

If your company has instituted a hiring freeze, it may be a sign that layoffs are coming. Particularly worrisome is when organizations can’t replace outgoing workers, as opposed to when they can’t create new positions for growing business needs.

Decreased morale

If you notice that your coworkers seem more stressed or worried than usual, it may be a sign that layoffs are coming. I’ve personally never seen layoffs come to a happy, well resourced, well treated organization.

Changes in company culture

If you notice changes in company culture, such as a shift towards cost-cutting measures or a focus on short-term goals, particularly when these changes violate previously stated company values or norms, it may be a sign that layoffs are coming.

Changes in company communication

If you notice a decrease in communication from management or a lack of transparency, it may be a sign that layoffs are coming. Most people are pretty bad at maintaining the facade that what you’re currently working on matters so they reduce their time with you.


It’s important to remember that these signs do not necessarily mean that layoffs are coming, but they may be indicators that you should be prepared for the possibility. One or two signs? It’s probably not worth being concerned about. Three or four? That’s definitely more concerning, and I would definitely have my eyes open about the possibility of impending layoffs. 5 or more? I would say they’re imminent, and you should read this blog post on how to prepare.

The fact that you’re reading this means you’re concerned, and even if you make it through this round of layoffs, the next one, or all of them, very few organizations weather layoffs and remain a pleasant place to work. Definitely consider your own mental health in how you choose to respond being in this kind of environment. You can read this blog post about how to survive being one of the last ones standing.


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Heyo, I'm Cristin!

How do I give myself grace?

How do I give myself grace?

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“Dear Cristin” is Executive Coach Cristin Downs directly answering a reader, client, or student question. There will be expletives. Submit your question here.

A client recently was giving herself a hard time. She wasn’t progressing as quickly as she wanted to be. She felt like she had clarity on what she wanted but couldn’t get her actions to match her desires. But she had also been going through a very difficult rough patch, work wise, relationship wise, physically, furry friend wise. And since it’s 2021, there’s also a pandemic. Honestly, it’s a shit show for the world and specifically for her, and Lordy, I have been there. And fairly recently. I sometimes think if I knew everything that was going to come at me in 2018 to 2020 ish, I would have probably… I don’t know. Definitely cried. I would have been incapacitated by terror. But that’s not how it works, right, we don’t know what’s going to happen, we just keep going, one step after the other, sometimes two steps back, and somehow we keep moving. And sometimes the only thing we’re moving through is time. Sometimes our bodies and our brains are in a jar of peanut butter. Yet time marches on.

And I think because of that, sometimes we can forget how much we’re going through when we look at each instance by itself. But that’s not how trauma or grief or sleep deprivation works. That shit is cumulative and you cannot look at events individually. Compound factors.

OR there is a very real possibility that we judge ourselves based on old metrics, rules, or even old childhood or family patterns around being strong or taking one for the team – as in your family – or whatever story you’re currently playing out. You might be reading from an old script about how you are supposed to be.

So I suggested to my beautiful client that she give herself a bit of grace after everything she’s been going through.

And she said, okay, give myself grace, that sounds reasonable. But what does it actually look like? What do I actually do to give myself grace?

That, my rockstars, that very excellent question is what we’re going to dive into today.

You can be told a thousand times to give yourself grace, but if you don’t know what that flipping means, practically, it’s just another cute kitschy Target item you have to dust. I’ll preface everything I suggest here with a caveat – this will differ for each person. I’m going to cover the types of things to consider, and how it has worked for me and my current and past clients. But everything I talk about, always, will differ per person. There will be things that you will out and out reject, and that is absolutely amazing. Knowing what won’t work is so flipping useful. And anyone whomever tells you there is ONE singular way to do something is giving you a big clue that it’s time to run in the opposite direction.

We’re going to cover 3 points:

1) People pleasing and how it fills your time.

2) Committing to actions because of how you think you should be.

3) Believing you need to do something a certain way for it to be done at your level of expectations.

First and foremost, I allow myself to do less which very often allows me to do more of what I actually need to do. But it doesn’t have to, that’s just often a byproduct of doing less.

A lot of people, especially anyone who identifies as a woman, connect their self worth with how people feel about them, which results in a ton of people pleasing. It’s hard to knock that out of your head. Mine was a happy accident.

What happened was, I had a baby. I had a hard time with the milk making, and I had to go back to work at 6 weeks because AMERICA and there was little to no sleeping and there was so much eating and pumping. Seriously, I was Brad Pitt in Ocean’s Eleven, I had to eat so much to make milk for my giant baby. When I look back on that first year of my son’s life, I am always surprised I survived. That’s a summary of my activities – work long hours, pretend at work to not have a baby, eat, feed baby, rock baby, wonder how people had second babies. People pleasing had no time in that schedule. Of course, at first, I attempted to maintain my previous level of people pleasing, but it was not physically possible – both related to my exhaustion and the laws of physics. I said yes to a few too many people in those first months, and it resulted in lots of crying and messing things up, and I realized I need to stop. But I didn’t know how to stop. I came up with this idea that I would create a list in my phone, in Evernote, and it had 5 spots. Every time I said yes to helping someone, it took a spot. Even if that item was months away, say like performing a wedding ceremony – yes, I am a Reverend – it took a spot. I felt like there was emotional labor and thought as soon as I said yes, and the task needed space on the list. Once the 5 spots were gone, they were gone, and then I had to start saying… NO. At first, I tried to explain the 5 spots concept, but then I just said, I wish I could but no. Sometimes, people were fine. Sometimes people cheered, yes, say no. And sometimes people stopped being friends with me or associates of mine.

This very simple list saved my life. And eventually, over time, I no longer needed the list. I somehow began to understand that 1) people didn’t need me to do things for them for them to love me, and 2) how to prioritize my time on what I wanted to do and what would fill me up.

Are you a people pleaser? Does this story feel like you? Where are you making decisions based on how you think other people will feel? I hope this doesn’t catch you off guard, but you don’t even know if that perception of feeling is even true. You might be completely wrong. It’s why you have to deeply connect to you – what you want to do, how you want to feel, and why. If you stopped doing things for other people, how much less would you be doing?

Second point to consider is saying yes or no to things that you think you should be able to do – or not do – because of the kind of person you tell yourself you are. And that person would absolutely do! Or never ever do! whatever the heck is in front of you.

For example, I have a client who finds her extended family exhausting. She loves them, absolutely, they mean the world to her. But they exhaust her and stress her out beyond all measure. She loses her cool, she loses her schedule, it upsets the entire dynamic of her actual family, and it takes them weeks to recover. By why then, does she insist of them staying at her home when they come to town to visit? The stress in advance is so much, everyone has a pretty piss poor time because it’s not going well, and then it takes days and sometimes weeks to restore equilibrium after her family departs. But the story she tells herself is, I am the kind of matriarch that can do this, I can fill this family role. Instead, how about some grace? Maybe the family doesn’t even want to stay there but does because she insists. She insists because she believes I am this type of person, and this type of person does this.

Another client fills every second of her kids’ lives. I am talking every.single.second. Camps! Teams! Classes! Play dates! And of course, these kids don’t drive and there’s no teleportation so she is filling every second of her life. The story she tells herself is that a good Mom makes sure her kid plays sports and a musical instrument and attends culturally events but also learns about good citizenship, and that is just not true. Do you know the average stay at home in the 70’s spent less time with her kids than modern working Moms do? Moms today are killing themselves based on an illusion of some bygone era that never even really existed.

Where might you be doing this? Do you have a story that you’re the party animal so you can’t stay home and watch kids movies in your pajamas? Alone?

I’ll tell you one of my stories is that I am an intellectual and I read high brow fiction and watch clever movies and shows. In reality, I like cozy mysteries, shoot ’em up action movies (even though I am anti gun), and apocalypse flicks. And I love them all. And that doesn’t mean I don’t also enjoy high brow shit; it just means that when I am happy and cozy and comfy or sad or need to work through something, I’m watching Gunpowder Milkshake.

Now, point #3, is believing you have to do something in a certain way or to a certain standard for it to “count” against some sort of imaginary, completely arbitrary made up level.

For example, I have a client who believes exercise has to look a certain way or it doesn’t count. If it’s not Instagrammable, is it still exercise? The answer is a resounding yes. If it’s 15 minutes in your pajamas, it still counts! Does it count if you have an exercise bike that isn’t a Peloton? Also yes.

I have a friend who beats herself up if she doesn’t cook dinner, if it’s something cold or take-out. When I was a kid, breakfast for dinner was the freaking best. I didn’t think it was bad, and I have happy memories even now. And honestly, keeping kids alive is hard. If you are feeding them, that’s great.

I once had a client who needed to deliver some bad news to someone, and she had decided that the way to do it was a very specific way and that was in person, face to face. She was shy and nonconfrontational, and the idea of delivering the news in person was impossible for her. We worked very hard for her to just deliver the news. If she could do this confrontation, that would be a win. She didn’t need to start with something that filled her with complete terror. She could tell the person on the phone. But more than the confrontation itself, she had to give herself grace that even if she couldn’t do exactly what she thought she needed to, she would still be learning and growing and delivering news that was her responsibility to give.

What about you? Have you set arbitrary immovable guidelines for yourself? What if you just let the thing happen or get done without deciding in advance what the level of perfection needs to be?

So to review, the three ways I think you should consider giving yourself some grace are:

1) Stop people pleasing and letting it fill all your time.

2) Stop doing things because you think you should be doing them to be the kind of person you think you are or should be.

3) Stop believing you need to do something a certain way for it to be done at your ridiculously high level of expectations.

How does that feel? Does it feel a little baggy, like you’ve got some room to breathe in that life of yours? I hope so.

Wishing you some practical grace.

Cristin with one hand on her hip and the other pointing up to the side

Heyo, I'm Cristin!