I think it’s human nature for us to want to say “Yes!” as often as we can. I am extremely guilty of this. A college friend of mine and I used to joke that we would constantly overbook ourselves (at the time, it was for social engagements, but the concept is the same) and have to back out of events and appointments all the time. The sad thing is it was (and very much still is) true to the core. I want to be everywhere at the same time and help everyone all at once.
I end up neglecting myself when I begin committing myself to too many things at once. My health, attitude, and mood all suffer – and my family suffers as a by-product.
Learning how to juggle my desire to help others and be involved in everything with my own sanity is something I will constantly be working on.
Below are 9 signs you may be struggling with spreading yourself too thin and how to fix them. Even if you just implement one or two of these, I think you’ll see a big difference in your mood and health.
- Social engagements seem like a chore. Picture this: Your best friend invites you to an evening of cocktails and dinner to catch up with one another. While you know you should be thrilled to (finally!) spend some time with her, you secretly dread having to leave the house when all you want to do is eat a pint of ice cream in your pajamas…in bed. FIX IT: During seasons you know will be busy, carve time out for social engagements on your calendar – plan for them. Your friends and family will be happy you’re spending time with them, and you’ll be glad to get out for an evening knowing you’ve already planned for it.
- You’re exhausted (all the time). When you’re constantly exhausted, your body is trying to tell you something. Whether it be that you simply haven’t gotten enough rest, or haven’t gotten enough good rest, it’s time to listen to your body and stop saying, “Yes!” FIX IT: Instead of staying up late to put finishing touches on a project or answer emails (or whatever else is nagging at you), write down those tasks, close your laptop, and turn your brain off (preferably by getting in bed at a decent hour). It’s no secret that getting a good night’s sleep relieves stress levels, so getting a decent amount of rest will help make you sharper the next day. And since you’ve written down the tasks you were working on, there’s really no holding you back! Is it really important for those tasks to get done when everyone else is sleeping, and, therefore, unable to appreciate your hard work? Probably not.
- You’re stressed to the max (all the time). Stressed about what to cook for dinner? How to fit in your daily workout? How you’ll a manage to pick up the kids with so many other things on your plate today? These aren’t things that should be adding stress to your life, so it’s possible they seem stressful just because you’re filled to the brim and can’t manage adding one more task to your day without completely overriding another task. FIX IT: Become an expert at delegating. There are plenty of people in your life who love you and want to help you. Let them! Pick up dinner at the local market. Have your husband or mom or sister pick up the kids. Schedule a workout with a friend who will hold you accountable. These people want to help you. Let them!
- You feel like your free time is non-existent. Does your work constantly bleed over into your free time? You answer emails when you should be spending time with your family in the evenings. You schedule client meetings on the weekends so you have more time to tackle your to-do list during the week. You spend your Saturday evening doing laundry instead of going out with friends. If you feel like you no longer have any free time to do the things you enjoy, it’s time to take a step back. FIX IT: Figure out what tasks can wait, and let them wait. The laundry can get done in a couple of days. Unless something earth-shattering needs to be answered right now, your emails will still be there first thing in the morning. Your clients aren’t in a hurry or have flexibility? Schedule meetings with them further out rather than trying to meet with them immediately. They’ll be thankful you’re giving them the time and attention they need rather than rushing through a meeting or showing up tired.
- Your eating habits have changed. You’ve made it a habit of hitting the drive-thru for lunch and dinner….and breakfast. You can’t remember the last time you bought a piece of fruit from a (gasp!) real grocery store. FIX IT: I get it. We all have busy days/weeks/months, but we shouldn’t put our health at risk just to manage our stress levels. If you know you have a busy week ahead, plan your meals in advance. Spend 30 minutes on Sunday afternoon planning and/or prepping meals – preferably meals that are quick and easy. Better yet, spend Sunday afternoon cooking a crockpot of oatmeal and a large pot of stew that you can eat on throughout the week. In addition, keep healthy, portable snacks in your car, purse, studio – wherever you need to grab something quickly! These can include apples, bananas, protein bars, baby carrots, nuts – anything that’s easy to grab – (just be sure to portion out snacks like nuts).
- You’re forgetful. You’re to the point where you have so many tasks to complete and so many people to please that the tiniest (or largest!) task can be forgotten, and it’s really a game of Russian roulette of which thing falls first. FIX IT: WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. When you know you’re busy and your brain can’t handle one more inkling of a thought, it’s time to start writing everything down. Keep a small notepad and pen in your purse or easily accessible on your desk. When an idea, new appointment, or thought pops in your head that you need to remember for later, write it down. Or use your Smartphone notepad for quick notes. At the end of the day, consolidate your notes and appointments on your calendar so everything is in one place.
- You have a constant headache. Or stomach ache. Or congestion. If you just haven’t been feeling 100% lately, it could be because you actually are sick. Or it could be because your body is telling you to slow down and rest. FIX IT: Carve out some time every day (or every other day if every day is just too much right now) to meditate, do yoga, go for a run, or simply sit quietly with your thoughts. Allow yourself this time to decompress and not think about any of those items on your to-do list or tasks that need to get done. Start making this a daily ritual, and it will give you something to look forward to each day.
- You aren’t listening to your spouse, friend, family member or colleague (READ: you aren’t listening to anyone). You have so much whirling around in your head these days that when someone speaks to you, your mind is going in a million different directions. You really are trying your best to listen to them, but you’re also thinking about getting your current project done in the next 3 days, responding to an important phone call you should have returned a week ago, submitting your work to an upcoming show, and cooking dinner tonight. FIX IT: Similar to #6, write your thoughts down as they come to you. Even if you’re in the middle of a busy spurt, you’ll be able to concentrate on listening to your spouse, brother, child, or friend without worrying about forgetting something else. And you will learn to filter out what you hear based on your priorities!
- You have a hard time unplugging. Can’t put down that iPhone? Feel the constant need to tweet and post on Facebook and take photos for Instagram? Finally climb in bed, but pull out your iPad to check your email one last time before you (try to) fall asleep? FIX IT: This is a tough love situation. There’s no real easy solution except to change your habits. If you know you are going to check your email right before bed, don’t leave your phone or tablet or laptop anywhere near your bed. If you absolutely have to feel “on top of it” with regard to social media, start scheduling your posts on Facebook and Twitter. There are also apps that allow you to schedule Instagram posts as well. When you’re with friends, clients, or family, put your phone down. Unless you are waiting on a life-shattering phone call, there’s no reason you need to be attached to your phone for the hour or two you are spending valuable time with someone else.