20 Signs You’re Pushing Yourself too Hard


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20 Signs You're Pushing Yourself Too Hard | Avoid Burnout | Warning Signs of Stress | Signs of Self-Induced Stress | Stress Relief

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.

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.

Unstuffed: Decluttering  Your Home, Mind and Soul by Ruth SoukupKeep 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:

Getting a cold or case of the sniffles may be a sign you're pushing yourself too hard.

Physical Symptoms

 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.

If you feel like you're ready to cover your ears and scream, it may be a sign you need to slow down and step back.

Emotional Symptoms

 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.

Frequent fighting in your relationship? Can't see eye-to-eye with your partner? You may both be under too much stress.

Relationship Symptoms

 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.

Sometimes stress can make us feel alone, like we're a kid again, sitting on the swings at the playground, staring into the sunset.

Spiritual Symptoms

 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.

Are you multi-tasking too much? Talking on the phone, trying to help your kids fix breakfast and feeling frazzled?

Practical Symptoms

 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.

Are you close to burning out? 20 signs you might be pushing yourself too hard.



  1. April 15 at 10:26AM

    I’ve definitely been guilty of pushing myself too hard in the past. I tend to expect a lot out of myself in general. I’m learning that a lot of things just require patience of me. Things take time to develop and being a perfectionist is so overrated.

  2. April 15 at 03:52PM

    This is exactly what I needed to hear this week! It’s so easy for me to pile on the to-do list because I think I have to do it all and I have to do it now. While there are some things that can’t wait, there are also some that can. I’ve realized that when I get burned out from pushing myself too hard, nothing gets done anyway.

  3. April 15 at 04:30PM

    Wow! This hit me really hard right now. I needed to hear it. I’m so overwhelmed right now and just trying to get my mind wrapped around everything. I have exhibited all of the emotional symptoms you listed. Thank you for the encouragement to let some things go.

  4. Peggy
    April 15 at 05:25PM

    Been there done that and still feel overwhelmed at times. Loved your reminder about God’s love.

  5. My frugal life @ youtube.
    April 16 at 03:33PM

    I have been so busy lately. With the spring being here, it’s the garden season, new baby chicks, puppies…. And I also have everyday things I do, kids, housework… When I start to burn out, I tend to be stingy with my time and then people think I am mad at them, when I a really not, just too busy.

  6. April 19 at 07:01PM

    Great post. I know personally, when I am stressed out, I feel like I fail at everything. I feel that keeping control over your schedule is so important not overdoing it with other activities. My husband and I have also learned that when we feel like we are failing, it is time to learn from what is going on. Do we need to cut something out or is the circumstance leading us in a different direction. I love this post.

  7. April 21 at 02:11PM

    Thanks for this great post! I can definitely identify with a number of these, and it is such a helpful list to step back and assess things. I definitely want to get a copy of your new book! 🙂

  8. Danielle
    April 26 at 11:01AM

    Thank you for this!
    I am in a tough situation right now, because I can identify that yes, I am stressed, but I can’t really do anything about it at the time! I am nearly a full 9 months pregnant, and am currently playing the waiting game. I have had symptoms of labor for nearly 2 weeks, but this little guy just doesn’t want to come out yet!
    We unexpectedly found out that we were going to have baby number 5 just two weeks before our family of 6 was ready to make a huge move! It was topped by morning sickness, and every one of our usual familial helpers being tied up with their kids heading off to the first days of school, a nephew being born, and in-laws caring for sick loved ones. I can’t blame any of them, but at the most stressful point in my life, we had very little help. I am very grateful for the help I did have, but it was a lot to deal with alone. My husband was still going to work every day, and when he was home, we had a CONSTANT flow of visitors, either wanting to see the new house, bringing us “things,” or amazingly, asking US for things! He ended up helping his brother move for two days just a month after our move, and we really needed him at home! The house we moved to is fantastic, and the property was a dream come true, but there is and was so much to do, and we just felt so spread thin! Things are/were feeling better more recently, but as I said, with baby about to arrive, my stress level has spiked once again! I want the baby to come because I want to hold him and have him be here, but I also want him to be born so life can begin to be “normal” for the first time in over 10 months since this whole journey began!
    My biggest fault in all of this is simply not asking for more help. We have tried to cut back as much as possible to keep from burning out, but there has never been a time in my life where I would have loved for more help with the kids…unfortunately, a lot of the time when I did seek out help, no one was available. A season of amazing, wonderful changes, but I think more than anything, God has been putting us through a season of growth! Sorry for the ramblings! Love your site!

  9. diana
    January 17 at 02:02PM

    God can talk to me in many ways! For instance this site. I know clinical depression, it’s very very different from situational depression. Ask youself this question, “if I had a billion dollars right now, would I feel any differently. ” If you say no, please talk to someone, you can’t fix this by being strong or bucking up. Chemicals in your brain can get out of wack just as if you were diabetic. Get help, its ok, you’re not crazy! Too much stress even the fun kind, can deplete your brain and it can be fixed! Its ok to say no and set boundaries for yourself!

  10. Anna Sue
    January 20 at 01:05PM

    What a great article! I can certainly relate to the struggles of a working mom, who was also carrying most of the weight of the household responsibilities, chores, errands, cleaning, bills, appointments, kids homework, the works. I had no time for myself. I’ve always loved arts & crafts and found that my creativity was one way of not only distressing but doing something for ME! I began occasionally staying up late just to get my “Me time”. Of course it felt good, but that was not the solution. By making time for God instead, all other things fell into place as I asked Him for help. He is an awesome God & wants his children to be happy. Seek HIM first and all other burdens will decrease! Let go & let God.

    • Anonymous
      May 7 at 11:11PM

      Anna Sue…thank you for your comment. God wanted me to hear that and I’m thankful for your words he had you say!

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