‘I have so much on my plate! I can’t take it anymore! I am constantly juggling work, the kids, my partner’s needs, my extended family….. And then there’s our friends, the kids friends …. Oh and did I mention that I am secretary of the hockey club – again! Yes – I know I said I wouldn’t take it on again…. But there was no-one else who would do it so….’
I’ll be ok!
Does this sound familiar?
Is there a bit of YOU in this scenario – just a tiny bit?
The truth is that there is probably a part of this in most people!
So my question is: ‘Why do so many people complain about feeling overwhelmed and stressed, but opt to do nothing about it?’
Is it that people don’t know how to turn their stressful lives around – or even where or how to start? Or is it that people like to complain about their load because it feeds a sense of feeling that they are superhuman; and in spite of their load, they can and will ‘manage’!
Sounds crazy, I know! But what other explanation is there for the rapidly increasing stress levels in society that individuals don’t seem to want to seek help to change?
There appears to be a reluctance to acknowledge when we have too many demands on our plate – presumably it makes people feel inadequate if they are seen to be admitting they can’t cope! But surely it is to be admired when someone can clearly define the limits of their time and energy?
Many of us have grown up ‘liking to help’. It makes us feel good about ourselves and we have learned that it is the ‘right thing to do’ whereas selfishness has long been considered distasteful. We also like to make things run smoothly for others – our family our workplace or team, our social groups.
But at what cost?
What is the personal cost at ‘running on empty’ for too long?
If we were a motor car we would have seized up at the first hint of running on empty, and whilst the human body is a far more sophisticated ‘machine’ than a car, why do we so often insist on mis-treating it?
My sense is that for too many there is a strong need to be all things to all people, with individuals measuring personal value or self worth according to how much they can do. It is also gratifying to be efficient and to get lots done, and this in its own right can be motivating, which is important in fulfilling our human need to have a purpose. This is the positive form of stress known as ‘eustress’.
So the question becomes ‘What is enough stress, what is too much, and how will I know the difference?’
The best clue in answering this question is YOU!
If you find yourself complaining that you have too much on your plate, look at what things have changed about yourself recently. Are you sleeping as well or as much as usual, has your diet changed from healthy to the convenience of take-aways, do you still have fun with your friends, has your exercise routine dropped off? These are vital clues to where your stress levels are at, and such changes are likely to creep up over time – just as stress has a tendency to creep up without you noticing: one minute everything is fine, and the next you are in a world of personal pain without knowing why!
We all know it is important to remain hydrated, and the same is true for your energy. I call it Energetic Hydration. The more energy we give out to our family, friends, social connections and work, the more energy we use, and unless we top up our energy – just like our cars need petrol – we will end up running on empty. Unlike our cars which are easier to repair, we can cause considerable damage to ourselves which might take years to repair, if repair is even possible.
Make no mistake: excessive stress is causing you harm!
Here are some hints to help you enjoy giving to your world without pushing yourself to the point of collapse:
1. Learn to recognise when you feel your load is overwhelming. This means it is time to stop and re-assess your priorities.
2. Understand that it is acceptable to say ‘no’ in some situations! This is one of the most difficult things for people to master, especially those who like to help or please others. However, it is an important skill to learn, and can in fact feel liberating. Too often people try to put extra tasks onto people who don’t or won’t stand up for themselves, but saying no for a valid reason is not going to make them think any less of you – in fact they are likely to respect you more!
3. Only take on tasks that you can fit into your schedule (albeit with minor adjustment). If you take on too much you will end up doing nothing well, letting everyone down, including yourself.
4. Take note if you find yourself not enjoying the things you used to – this is a classic sign of overwhelm. It is also a sign that something needs to change!
5. Take particular notice of your mood. Fluctuations are a common sign of stress, and this not only affects you but everyone around you!
Remember that stress is normal and a fact of life. Excessive stress is dangerous and over time it will cause you harm, both physically and mentally. It will also impact your loved ones, so look for the signs and take action to change.
If you are feeling ‘so’ stressed, it is NOT ok!