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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Helpless & Overwhelmed 2

Dear Readers: You may recall the letter from "Helpless and Overwhelmed," who was working overtime, dealing with financial problems, in an unstable marriage and feeling out of control at work and at home.

Your letters, suggestions and concern for this woman have been inspiring. I am devoting today's column to some of your responses.

-- I can relate with "Helpless and Overwhelmed" because I've been there and am still working at getting out of a rut that I helped dig over the years. It takes a great deal of time to rearrange one's life.

My first observation is that her marriage could be suffering because of the overtime she says she is working. She may not even realize that she is avoiding her husband, so a good place to start might be by assessing her priorities.

Second, she sounds as though her identity comes from her work. So many of us believe we are what we do, and this leads to all kinds of trouble with our lives. Work, properly viewed, is nothing but a means to financial independence.

Furthermore, "hard work" will not necessarily lead to financial independence. This is erroneous thinking. We need to be rewarded monetarily for our work as well as satisfied in other respects. For years I made sacrifices and worked overtime which only made other people rich, not me.

I'm not sure that going back to school is her answer. The answer is recognizing where the growth industries in America are and making a job change. 

- An opinion.

--Dear Helpless and Overwhelmed,

1. Talk to your husband and tell him how you feel. If he doesn't give you the answers you need, give him an ultimatum -- marriage counseling or out. If he loves you enough he'll stay and go to counseling.

2. Dump all of the problems from the 60 coworkers. If they can't do their job without your help, then they won't have jobs soon. Has it ever occurred to you that you probably wouldn't have so many overtime hours if you only had to do your work? Think back to when you first started your job. You probably worked normal business hours.

3. Seriously consider bankruptcy. An attorney can explain the different types of bankruptcy. It will affect your credit and it will be difficult to buy a house or get credit cards for a while, but you will be amazed at how much stress will be gone from your life.

4. After you have done all of the above, then you can start thinking about school, switching jobs or starting a new career. Good luck! 

- Been there

-- Helpless and Overwhelmed: I know your story. I was in a similar 'beckon call' position, and what I did was try to think back to what I was hired for. What department? What person? And how did I get to be everyone's assistant?

Ask your managers where they want your focus to be. Then let the other departments know what your main focus is, and let them fend for themselves.

It was hard for me to make the necessary changes because I really did want to help everyone, but needed to realize I couldn't because it was hurting me in the process.

- Doing better

Please tell "Helpless and Overwhelmed" that there have been wonderful advances in the medical field that can help battle anxiety and stress.

Finding the right medication helped reduce my anxiety, enable me to focus on work and family, and reduce worries, all without becoming a "drugged out zombie"!

"Hopeless and overwhelmed" should speak to her physician. I was afraid to talk to my doctor because I didn't want him to think I was nuts! But he was understood, and worked with me to find the right medication. Not hopeless anymore.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
For more Ask Sue articles, click here.

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