“He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.”  ~Raymond Hull

What does overextending yourself look like?  It resembles lunch on your lap, misplaced keys and wearing your shirt inside out.  It looks like an elastic band that’s about to snap, and you can already anticipate the sting.  Obviously, if you want to avoid the pain, it’s best you learn how to release the tension.

You need to hear this: if you’re being flung in every direction, then you’re not really following through on anything or doing anything particularly well.

Your internal foundation will be shaky;  health, money, relationships and work will eventually crack.  What’s even worse than that is the speed with which your life will fly by without enjoying all the simple moments, these moments which are your life.

We are all busy–relationships, kids, work and friends, and it’s good to be a go-getter, but when your Martha Stewart persona has been replaced with a frenzied Wile E Coyote, things are about to blow up.

Consider this scenario:  The shrill voice of your good friend booms through the phone complaining about the stress of planning their exotic European vacation.  Wait a second–what did she just say?  Did she just say she needs you watch their dog?  That’s right, the 120 pound Marley-and-Me replica; the one that chews, drools and tries to hump your sweet golden retriever.

The last ounce of energy has just been sucked out of you.

Okay, stop right there!

It’s okay to admit that you can’t take this on right now.

If you agree to babysit the Marley-and-Me devil, you will resent your friend for it.  You will silently curse the nerve of her to drop this responsibility on you when you are in the middle of a major work project.  This is going to strain your relationship.

Your family will take the brunt of this decision.

How will you respond?  My bet is in two weeks time, you’ll be chasing Marley off your poor retriever with a broom.

We have a choice on how to respond to others’ demands. We are under no obligation.  Our first priority must be our own needs.

I know you want to be helpful and agreeable. You likely hate conflict and have no idea even how to say NO.  And I know that most of all, you don’t want to lose out on opportunities.

If we don’t recognize and satisfy our own needs then we are no good to anyone else.  Like the elastic you will eventually snap.  And then you’ll be of no use to your kids, work or your friend’s dog.

If any of this sounds like you, then you need to make some changes.

1.  You spend time worrying about time.

This is the first clue. If you stress about even a five-minute change in schedule, jump right down to the solutions.  You are overextended.

2.  You eat on the go.

The last time you sat down for a proper meal was the family Thanksgiving dinner.  Really?

3.  You’re not getting enough sleep. 

You’re so tired that all you can think about is sleep, but ironically, you’re so busy that you don’t get enough sleep.  When you do blindly fall into bed at night, you wake up at the witching hour, compiling to-do lists while wrestling with your pillow.

That’s right, you’re starting to resemble a zombie.

4.  You don’t have time for friends, favors or hobbies. 

You haven’t seen your friends in months, haven’t had time to phone your siblings in weeks and can’t even remember the last time you did something spontaneous.

If you’re starting to resent people asking for favors, it might be time to consider cutting back.

5.  Your Health.

Are you experiencing muscle tension, back aches or insomnia?  While these symptoms could be from a number of issues, overextending yourself will cause stress, which we all know is the big “silent killer.”

6.  Can’t handle changes.

You want, no, let me rephrase, you need everything to go exactly as planned, and it’s not going to go as planned.  One little shift and like a Jenga puzzle, it’s all going to come toppling down around you.

If you’ve crossed over into this muddy territory, you’ll need to consider making some changes.

You will need to write a list to assess what changes you can make.  I know you don’t have time for lists–that’s the problem, right?  Well consider taking a day off work, or wake up extra early tomorrow.

Start with outer changes. Maybe hire a housekeeper or a babysitter or maybe take a break from social engagements.  But along with outer changes, there are also some inner changes that will need to happen.

Let’s get back to a balanced life, shall we?

1.  Put you first.

Put your own needs above all others.  Much like in a plane, always put your mask on first; you are no good to anyone if you break down.

You are a mother/father, wife/husband, sister/brother and friend, but these roles don’t define who you are.  Do you something you love once a week.  Even if its just curling up with a good book.

2.  Laugh.

Stop taking life so seriously.  No matter what’s happening, life will go on; stop causing yourself unneeded stress.

3.  Learn how to be assertive–say NO.

Helpful hints to saying “no” without causing a rift:

  • Tell them “maybe,” then take the proper time to think it over.
  • Be honest and explain that you can’t commit because you have previous priorities.
  • Soften the blow by saying, “I’d love to but…”
  • Give them a suggestion: “I’m not the best person to help you with that because…”

4.  Ignore Expectations.  

Accept that what others think you should do might not be what you want or need.  And that’s okay.  You need to learn that what other people love, like golf or skiing, you really don’t enjoy.  Don’t be afraid to be honest.  Lose your “shoulds” and realize that you don’t have to do anything.

5.  You’re not Perfect.

If you miss a spot on the bathroom floor, it’s okay.  Being perfect can replace any sense of fun with a nagging, soul-sucking, endless effort that never gets anything quite right. Stop obsessing; perfectionism will only leave you frustrated.

6.  Make yourself a realistic schedule.

Take a deep breath and focus on one task at a time.  Fully complete each task before moving onto the next.

So take care of yourself today.

Take time to:

  • breathe
  • meditate
  • read
  • contemplate
  • relax
  • think
  • laugh
  • dream
  • do something that will make YOU feel happy!

What items can you streamline in your life to make things smoother?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Rest when you need it: Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty about Taking a Nap Every Day

Featured photo credit: Panda bear tired and sleeping in tree via Shutterstock

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