We are not designed to live in fifth gear the whole time


If you were to read one article to read this week, it is this one.

How are women feeling?

Frightening stats from a recent survey show that of 15,000 women across Australia*:

• 66.9% of women felt nervous, anxious or on edge on several days or more in the last four weeks
• 46.1%  reported that a doctor or a psychologist had diagnosed them with depression or anxiety: and
• 34.3% of women reported that they didn’t get time to themselves on a weekly basis.

We are not designed to live in fifth gear the whole time

Peta Slocombe, psychologist and founder of the Mental Health Check In describes how this can come about through all the modern day demands on us all,  but particularly women.

We are not designed to live in fifth gear the whole time,” Slocombe says. “A practical strategy is being mindful that not everything in a day needs to be a ten out of ten.

One thing Slocombe strongly recommends for perfectionist women struggling with anxiety and overwhelm is recognising the need for different speeds, or gears, depending on the day and competing priorities. Having one set of expectations for everything isn’t a realistic way to live.

Feeling like you’re constantly letting people down is a sign you might need to assess how you’re expending your energy.

It’s the psychological equivalent of gear changing. Some things really matter, others are nice to have and other things simply don’t matter,” Slocombe says. “You don’t have to drop things altogether and suddenly not care about your professional performance or your parenting – but you need to learn that life isn’t black and white and take an aerial view of your own life.

Slocombe recommends mentally rating the importance of tasks and demands and considering how much of your psychological battery you are willing to devote to each. Without doing this many of us habitually treat everything as a top priority and absolutely critical.

Perfectionism isn’t just having a preference for high standards – it’s being dogged about not accepting anything less than perfection which can be debilitating.

“You have to consider the time available and the whole context. If you’re a perfectionist about the house and you’re home full-time with no other stressors then that might be realistic. But if you also work and you have toddlers and kids, it probably isn’t,” Slocombe says. “The trick is to move your thinking towards this: given the time available and all the constraints what is the best anyone can do under the circumstances?”

What’s on your to do list?

This means thinking about what’s on your to do list.

  • Firstly, do you have to do it?
  • Secondly, if you do have to do it; to what standard? In many cases, we set our own standards. Those standards are often well in excess of what anyone else would expect of us.

It may be that you feel that you need to do more, be more, show up more than others in the workplace to be properly seen. If this is the case, consider what self talk is contributing to this. Is it real? If it is real, then consider if this job/workplace is the right place for you.

Perhaps mentoring several people at work, being on the P&C and volunteering on the weekend is something that gives you purpose, but it may create more ripples of stress elsewhere in your life when you run out of time. Consider whether volunteering for one thing at a time or allocating an amount of time each week or month for pro bono / volunteer activities can make this more manageable.

Do you really need to have your family around for dinner every week? And if so, does it have to be a three course meal? Could you share it with your siblings or order pizza every so often.

Are there aspects of house maintenance that you could either outsource or do less of, or get someone else to do?


  • Much of what Slocombe says may resonate with you. If it does, and it’s debilitating rather than exhilarating, think about whether getting some advice on ways to manage it could be of some use.
  • There are practical things you can do that change the way you view your priorities and the way in which they need to be undertaken.
  • Whilst it may seem counter intuitive if you are already feeling overwhelmed, taking time to think about this is the first step.
  • Hoping it will get better on its own is not a strategy. Sometimes it does, but it’s rare.
  • Mostly, the key takeaway from this is: you are not alone.


As always, if you’d like to get in touch – you can click here.

If you’d like to read any of the 300+ blog posts on this site, you can click here. These blogs talk specifically about mental health.

If you’d like to buy one of my books, you can click here.

And if you’d like to sign up to permission to dream programme, you can click here.

See you next week,




*Thanks to Women’s Agenda for the stats and quotes from Peta Slocombe.

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