As moms, most of us have been guilty of burning the candle at both ends. Because, let’s face it–our lives are BUSY! Couple motherhood with being a wife, caring for your home, holding down a job, and dealing with a million other responsibilities, and I think we can all admit it…most of the time, our plates are full!
But the reality is that when we try to take on too much too often, we will eventually burn out. In fact, you might even be feeling burned out right now. Maybe you are tired all the time, or having trouble staying focused. Maybe you feel disconnected from your friends or your spouse or even from God. Maybe you feel depressed or anxious or stressed.
When we’re overwhelmed, our lives suffer. We snap at our children or scream at our spouse. We sometimes drop important balls–miss appointments or birthdays, or let people down. We might try to alleviate our stress by overeating, spending money we don’t really have, or engaging in unhealthy behaviors (like that THIRD glass of wine), but those coping mechanisms only tend to make things worse.
If you feel like you’re burning out, stressing out or overwhelmed, maybe it’s time to step back and take a break. Here are 20 signs you’re pushing yourself too hard.
Personally, I’m the kind of person that likes being busy, at least most of the time. I enjoy being engaged and involved in all sorts of projects. Call me crazy, but I have to admit I like achieving big tasks and taking on extra responsibility. I feel good about myself when I accomplish something difficult, or when I take on a challenge that appears to be insurmountable.
Except when I don’t. Because then I hate being busy, and all I want to do is stop the madness.
But I’m learning, slowly, that sometimes it is okay to let things go. For instance, a few years ago we tried homeschooling for a year. There was a lot I loved about it, but there was also a lot I didn’t. Eventually we made the hard decision to send our girls back to school.
I’m not going to lie, I felt like a big fat failure.
But once I admitted it wasn’t working for our family, there was an enormous sense of relief that washed over me. I didn’t realize the toll it had taken until it was over. Life is like that. So often, we don’t realize just how frustrated we are or how challenging a situation is until it’s over.
Keep in mind, there are quite a few signs and symptoms that indicate you might be pushing yourself a little too hard. In fact, this is topic that I discuss in detail in my new book, Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind & Soul, which speaks to the fact that the clutter in our lives isn’t always just the physical stuff filling up our homes, but often the mental and spiritual clutter that weighs us down and makes us feel out of whack.
But just like runners training for a race, there’s a point when you want to push yourself to achieve optimum results, but not so hard that you crash and burn. Here are some signs you might be pushing yourself to hard:
1. Exhaustion and Sleep Issues
If you’re feeling tired all the time or if you’re battling insomnia (or both), these are clear signs you may be in over your head. Try to aim for 7½ to 8 hours of sleep per night. If you just can’t seem to get what you need or if you’re still exhausted despite hitting the 8-hour quota, please visit your doctor.
2. Frequent Illness
Everybody gets a cold or flu bug now and again, but if you’re sick all the time, something might be wrong. This is a big one for me. Have you ever heard, “If you don’t take a break, your body will take one for you”? One season I experienced colds and respiratory infections for six months straight!
3. Headaches and Stomachaches
Even if you’re a migraine sufferer or if you have digestive issues, constant flare-ups can be a symptom and sign of stress. If you notice your body is experiencing more pain and discomfort than usual, see a doctor and consider addressing the source of some of the stress, if at all possible.
4. Sports Injuries
If you (or your kids) are frequently experiencing sports injuries and strains, perhaps you’re training too hard or taking on too many physical challenges. Kids can be taking on too much as well, so it’s up to you as a parent to reinforce limits and help them understand it’s okay to sit out once in a while.
5. Feeling Overwhelmed
We all feel overwhelmed once in a while, but if you’re regularly feeling like things are spinning out of control and it seems like you can’t get a handle on anything, it might be time to take a break and reset.
6. Forgetting Things
Again, everyone forgets things sometimes, but if you’re noticing marked confusion or forgetfulness, it might be a sign of too much stress. The worst part of forgetting things is how it compounds the feelings of stress even more so. If you’re searching for answers on the tip of your tongue, it might be time for some rest and relaxation. Our brains need breaks, too.
7. Feeling Stressed, Anxious or Angry
If you feel you’re on the verge of screaming at someone or ready to explode all the time, it can be really miserable. Of course, it’s normal to feel nervous, worried or angry sometimes, but if it seems you’re in a constant state of irritation and distress, it’s probably time to seek some help or to cut back on your to-do list. A big red flag? Erupting in anger for almost no reason.
8. Feeling Sad, Depressed, or in Despair
A little sadness is natural, even healthy. (Who doesn’t need a good cry every once in a while?) Clinical depression, however, is dangerous and should be taken very seriously. As a sufferer of depression, I can attest that it can be utterly overwhelming and is usually very discernible from simply feeling blue. Depression is crushing and life-threatening. If you feel you’re depressed, tearful or unhappy most of the time, then please reach out to get some help.
9. Frequent Fighting
If you and your spouse can barely be around each other without fighting, or if you’re experiencing a higher-than-usual amount of conflict in your relationship, it could be a sign you’re both stretched too thin. Take a step back before it takes a toll on your relationship.
10. Lashing Out at Your Kids
We’ve all had moments when we’ve snapped at our kids, and it feels terrible, of course. If you find you’re short-tempered or easily frustrated with your children for benign situations, it may be a sign you’re approaching stressed-out.
11. Isolating Yourself or Feeling Like You Aren’t Social Enough
For some people, every weekend means a social gathering or activity. For others, maybe your social calendar only needs to be visited a few times a month. You know what’s normal for you, so if you start feeling isolated or like you’re not seeing friends and family as frequently as you’d like, then something might be amiss. Pay attention to comments from your nearest and dearest as well. Sometimes those who know us best might pick up on isolating behaviors faster than we can pick up on them on our own.
12. Taking Offense (Too Easily)
If every social interaction leaves you feeling hurt, annoyed or stepped on, it might be a sign you’re feeling vulnerable because you’re emotionally strained. When we are exhausted or feeling raw, every comment can come off as offensive or harsh, even if it was unintended. If you feel like everyone is frustrating you or hurting your feelings, you might need a break.
13. Destructive Habits
When we’re trying to keep up with everything, we can develop bad habits and rely on coping behaviors that are damaging to our bodies, minds and souls. Using drugs, drinking too much, and even overspending can become addictive. When this happens, it’s time to take a step back to realize that we’re often using these quick-fixes to try to make ourselves feel better, rather than addressing the stress at hand.
14. Skipping Spiritual Time
If you’re skipping church, prayer or Bible study simply because you feel you don’t have time, try to pause and reassess priorities. Our time with God is the most important time we can spend. By isolating ourselves from church and worship, we’re left feeling like we’re telling God we don’t have time for Him. You’ll feel much better when you revamp your schedule and regain some peace.
15. Feeling Guilt or Feeling Distant from God
If you’re constantly wracked with a sense of guilt or a feeling that something is missing, or if you’re just avoiding prayer because you feel you might be unworthy or not enough—it’s truly time to reach out. When you feel that distance, it means you are pulling away from God, not the other way around. Remember God loves us not because we are worthy, but because HE is.
16. Missing Appointments and Events
If you’re unable to keep appointments and commitments because you either can’t keep track or you just keep forgetting, your calendar is probably too full. Really look it over and think about what items you can scale back on or say no to. Check out this post, for some practical tips on how to Take your calendar back.
17. Mistakes at Work
Many times, our busy personal lives can spill over into our work lives. If you’re taking on too much outside of the office, you might find yourself unfocused or unable to handle as much at work. Conversely, if you’re taking on too much at work and you find you’re unable to let it go when you’re home, it’s probably time to refocus your work/life balance.
18. Financial Problems—Overspending and Late Bills
When we’re stressed, finances can seem insurmountable. Not only do we spend to cope with stress (it’s easier to go out to eat than to fix dinner; it’s easier to buy a gift than to take the time to make something), but we can also find ourselves avoiding our bills and falling behind. It can become a vicious cycle. Get a handle on your budget and work to get things under control so you can address your stress.
19. A Messy Home
If you feel you’re constantly running around and you never have time to clean your house, let alone relax in it, it’s time to re-prioritize. A messy, disorganized home can add to the chaos of our lives, as it becomes a place of stress rather than a sanctuary from the world around us. Organize your home so you can count on it as a retreat, rather than a place of increased stress.
20. Falling Behind in School
Our children feel the pressure of our stress as well. Have your kids fallen behind on assignments because you haven’t had time to go over homework or help? Are they struggling because of too many evening extracurricular activities, lessons and clubs? Kids can get just as stressed out as adults and childhood should be a time of creativity and growth, not stress and deadlines. Help your kids get their stress under control and make sure your stress isn’t spilling over onto them.
By identifying these signs and symptoms of stress, we can better head it off before it takes over our lives. Remember: life is short! It should be joyful and fun (not miserable drudgery). Give yourself time to appreciate the beauty in day-to-day activities and let go of the pressure to do it all!
P.S. Unstuffed is now available in bookstores everywhere, and if you’ve been feeling weighed down by clutter, it might just be the message your heart needs to hear! Jam-packed with inspiring personal stories as well as practical tips you can implement right away, it is a guilt-free, stress-free guide to taking our life back from all the STUFF weighing down our lives.