Kirsty McWilliam: Finding your fire

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Whether you’re looking to turbo-charge your career or find a better work-life balance, our coach and columnist Kirsty McWilliam can help. This month, she shares her advice on how to manage life when you’re busy. Really, really busy…

I am so busy being busy, time is flying away. After all, as the saying goes, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’. But while that is very cool if you are an eight-year-old and out playing with your friends, it’s not so great if you are a mother of two boys, juggling life and work and remembering to feed everyone. Never mind trying to find ‘me’ time - you become happy just keeping everyone alive.

The fact is, I am busy, and I can’t remember the last time I was not busy. During 2017, I was in New Zealand and a friend, having shared how overwhelmed she was, told me she’s found a book by a local author, nutritional biochemist Dr Libby Weaver, called Rushing Women’s Syndrome which resonated with her. I was intrigued.

Dr Libby says that our generation has new challenges - as we struggle to juggle families, career and the chaos of life, it can leave us and, more importantly, our stress hormones, in a state of turmoil.

When I first read Dr Libby’s book, I instantly dismissed her claim that if you checked your email while on the toilet, you were an acute sufferer of rushing woman syndrome, or RWS. Surely, I thought, that’s just good time management? Apparently not. She goes even further to say that if our standard reply when asked how we are is ‘busy’, if we don’t sleep enough and make poor food choices, or perhaps warm up in the morning with coffee and wind down at night with wine, then we are full on rushing women. Add to this the fact most of us struggle to say no, and try to fit so much into our day (Chair of the Parent Council? Oh, go on then…) and it starts to look all too familiar. Perhaps I could no longer deny my rushing tendencies?

We live in a different world to our mothers. We don’t have an off switch - no more relaxing after the 6 o’clock news for the evening, with work done and the house tidy. Our emails are pinging, we catch up on work whilst trying to make dinner and oversee homework. Our phone is both our social connection, and our work chain, which can easily coax us into a downward spiral. The busyness phenomenon crept in unnoticed while we were all too busy trying to have it all, and now we’re left wondering, when do we get to switch off?

Let’s start by working out what is going on for us. I actually experienced a feeling of ‘rushing’ as soon as I looked out for it - like a fluttering in my chest. How long had I had this? Some simple yoga belly breaths slow it down, so I just need to remember to be aware of it - and I’m not talking about in moments of high stress. Rushing can occur when I am hanging up the washing with only two minutes left before I need to leave the house, or while simply remembering the list in my head for the day ahead.

So what is causing us to rush? Are our expectations too high, of both others and ourselves? Do we act as the CEO of our own homes? We might share the physical load, but who does the mental work? What stops us asking for help? Are we worried it looks like we really can’t do it all? Perhaps we are the victims of our own success. After all, if you want a job done quickly, ask a busy person…

If this is you, perhaps next time you’re asked to take something on, stop before you say yes. Because every time you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else - most likely your chance to switch off and stop rushing. And next time you ask me how I am, I am going to try my very best to say ‘very well, thanks’ and then take a big deep breath. Because hanging up the washing is only a 100m sprint if I make it one…

Kirsty is the founder of Coaching Direct, an Edinburgh-based centre for emotional intelligence, coaching and training. Want to explore further? Subscribe to Coaching Direct’s Emotional Intelligence podcasts and video at or follow on Facebook at