Sometimes, there is no Kaboom, no catastrophe that derails your plan. Sometimes you simply push yourself too hard, you ignore the warning signs that you’ve pushed too hard.
Maybe you’re like me and over-committed yourself to classes, a day job, writing, blogging, and other activities. Perhaps you had a sudden, unexpected health problem. Or you’ve simply gotten worn down by the day-to-day things that get under your skin. Now you barely have the energy to get through the day. Or you’ve caught the current flu bug or cold and you can’t seem to get over it. Your body and mind say ENOUGH.
I found myself in that position at the end of January. For six months I pushed myself, working 12- 15 hour days every day of the week. It was an invigorating time. I was learning new things, doing new, fascinating, and highly enjoyable things. I accomplished a ton. Then, I completed the last big project and my brain and body went WHOA. I should have paid attention to the warning signs. Do you know the warning signs that you need a break?
Warning Signs You’ve Pushed Too Hard:
- Your Productivity Declines – you put in more hours, yet get less and less done.
- You Don’t Have Time – for a favor, a commitment, a date with your friend or sweetheart, or even for your cherished indulgences.
- You Forget – to eat, an appointment, where you put that report or your keys.
- Things Are Out of Control – you’re always late; your normally neat desk is a mess; the dirty dishes are mutating in the sink; the stacks of bills or laundry (or both) are quickly becoming a mountain you can’t climb.
- Lack of Focus or Creativity – you flit from one task to the next, never finishing and never find a solution; you struggle to come up with new ideas, solutions to problems, or how to express an idea.
- Loss of Joy – you are beginning to dread tasks that normally you find enjoyable.
- Sleep Issues – you can’t sleep; can’t stay asleep, or you want to do nothing but sleep.
- Irritability – you snap at loved ones unjustly; you find yourself ‘just one more stupid driver’ short of total road rage.
- Health Issues – you have migraines or stomach problems on a daily basis; your acne, arthritis or asthma flares more frequently.
- Warnings from Friends and Family – you haven’t talked in weeks; your significant other tiptoes around the house afraid to disturb you; friends and family tell you that you’re always busy, or they sit you down for an ‘intervention.’
You don’t want to know how up-close and personal I know all those warning signs. Really, you don’t. 🙂
But you do want to know what you can do when you recognize the warning signs in yourself.
Five Things to Do to Beat Stress:
- Check Your Body
Are you fatigued despite getting 7 or 8 hours of sleep? Is your urine dark? The first sign of dehydration is fatigue. Be certain to drink plenty of water every day.
Is your resting heart rate up? Is your blood pressure up? If yes, be certain you get more sleep and more exercise. It’s not a matter of ‘when I can fit it in,’ it’s a matter of get it done or pay a price.
Re-prioritize – take a day to look at what you want to accomplish.
- Look hard at your list. Are there some things that really don’t need to be done right now? Put them aside. Are there some pieces of what you do that you can outsource? Hire a laundry lady or a housekeeper; have the secretary type up those letters, or you can ask your family to help with tasks for a while.
- Make a new plan. Break the task into smaller chunks that are more manageable. Make goals that allow you time to do the next four items on this list.
- Schedule Fun – do something you love. Even just one hour a week can help. Take a walk, a swim, a jog. Meditate. Listen to music. Watch a movie. Read a book.
- Take time off – An hour, a day, a week or more. Do something entirely different, at a different pace. Give yourself permission to breathe, to laugh, to do absolutely nothing.
Self Care, a learned skill
Slowing down is not something I do willingly. I tend to be a bit (DH chimes in with “majorly!”) obsessive. I throw everything I’ve got into a project. I forget to sleep, to eat, to call friends and family. This is true not just for my writing or blogging, but of attention to my day job, household chores, whatever I want to ‘get done.’ I don’t seem to know how to pace myself. But, I’m learning.
If you push yourself too hard, something has got to give. Don’t be like me and let exhaustion make it impossible to work. Yes, there are times when an extra workload is needed. Just remember to listen: Listen to your body, your mind, your friends, and your family.
To my dear readers: Thank you all so very much for your kind thoughts and wishes for me. I have belatedly followed my own advice. I’ve made new goals and going forward from here.
Your readership means more to me than you can know. And when you take the time to leave a comment or two, I am thrilled and honored you’ve chosen to spend your valuable time with me.
What about you? Have you ever pushed yourself too hard? How did you recover?
Hi Lynette! Welcome back 🙂 I recognize my self in your post–I definitely had to slow down and prioritize in the last couple of months. It’s not easy, but knowing my priorities is especially helpful.
Love this post!
Thanks, Coleen. I so appreciate your support.
I’m sorry you had to learn the hard way that you, too, have limits. Take the excellent advice you’ve outlined for the rest of us, and take care of yourself. We’ll take whatever sliver of time you have for us.
Thanks, Pat. Hmm. Limits. I followed so many rules for so much of my life, I really rebel against limits. LOL! This isn’t the first time I’ve hit my head on this particular wall. The first step is to admit you have a problem, right? Only 11 more steps to go! 🙂
Hi Lynette, I call that feeling the Splat. You know, like when Daffy Duck hits a wall at full speed and melts down to the floor in a flat puddle? Yep, been there more than once.
You give great advice on getting your feet back under you. Great post. Happy to see you back in action.
The Splat! LOVE that. Thanks so much for stopping by Prue.
Hi Lynette! It is soo great to see you!
Yet, I am so sad to hear that you’ve had to go through burn-out. Oh yes, I know how that feels. I’m going through that right now. When you live through long term stress, that’s what happens. Yet for me, I have no choice but to operate in spurts. It is the reason why I am only blogging once a week. I do appreciate the reason why Kristen wants us to blog more, but my health can’t sustain that kind of pace. I have CFS and some other issues so I have to listen to my body.
I really do appreciate your great advice and will take it to heart! I do hope that you are getting your strength back and will be able to continue writing these awesome blogs that we all love to read! Take care Lynette! 🙂
Karen. Thank you! Wow. Health issues are the pits. I have decided I’ll be blogging twice a week. And I’ve learned I have to get everything ready to go on the weekend and use some of the automated features of wordpress. You are so kind and such a loyal supporter, Karen. Thank you so very much. I can’t express how much it means to me. (a sad admission for a writer!)
Oh how I hear you.
Why is it that we women think need to be able to do it all? Many years ago my son was seriously ill so I threw myself into my career to forget, that was how I coped with it. Then my mother ended up in intensive care and twenty four hours later I was diagnosed with cancer.
Do you think the Universe was trying to tell me something? Did I listen? Nope.
The great idea was that I was going to write a great romance – yeah right – the cancer came back and three years later I STILL take on too much. What the hell is wrong with us? I think it’s a generational thing. We think we can have it all. We think we can be the BEST wife – sex goddess in the bedroom, chef, decorator, therapist, friend and essential other to our OH/HB/EO. BEST mother, BEST daughter, BEST friend, BEST person in the entire world and everyone will love us but deep inside we do not feel we are good enough.
All this comes from my childhood. I’m from a Scottish Presbyterian background (Catholic father – I know – we were torn in two) where children are never ever praised therefore we never feel we’re ever ‘good enough’ or ‘worthy’. If we did well then it was only to be expected. But if we fail then we’re finished and would never amount to much.
You want to be a writer? Then write. That’s it. Writing feeds something deep within us creative types. So go for for it. Don’t let anyone stop you. Be who you need to be. Be selfish because for years you’ve put every single person in your life before yourself. No more. Look after you because if you’re rocking and cooking on gas then the rest of the essential others in your life rock and cook too. That’s it. The End.
Oh my goodness, Christine. Wow. And WOW. BIG HUG right back at you. You were from Scotish Presb and Catholic! Whew. My dad was the son of a Southern Baptist minister and my mom’s dad was a Nazarene deacon. Thank you so much for sharing that with me, with us. Love this line: “Look after you because if you’re rocking and cooking on gas then the rest of the essential others in your life rock and cook too.” Thank you, I will do better at taking care of myself.
What an absolutely great post! I’m terrible about pushing myself too hard. I’m actually recovering right now from completely burning myself out, and I’d forgotten how good I used to feel and how much I was able to get done. Now the trick will be to find balance so that I don’t drive myself into the ground again.
Thank you, Marcy. Balance is indeed a trick. If I learn it first, I’ll tell you the trick. If you learn it first, you tell me! Deal?
Ok, so this is exactly what happened to me recently. I am always go, go, go with so much on my plate. Well, two weeks ago I got really sick and didn’t have the energy to do anything. Now I am slowly getting my energy back. but it’s taking longer than usual. I am going to follow you advice and drink more water and write a list to see what needs to get done. Thanks for the help!
Emma, please take care of yourself. It’s so hard. As Christine said in her reply, we set such a high bar for ourselves sometimes. Thanks so much for using some of your precious energy to comment on my post!
I happened here after reading Marcy Kennedy’s encouragement to read your blog on Facebook. This is great stuff you’ve written!! But is it just me, or are there really only 5 things listed under your “Ten Things to Do to Beat Stress” section? Maybe you were too busy or too stressed to write all 10? 🙂 Wishing you a stress free relaxing day.
Thank you, Jan. LOL! You have sharp, editorial eyes. (The only one who noticed my
editing mistakeeditor’s mistake). I originally had ten items, but decided five of them were really subsets of the first five. Then SOMEONE (not me, not I, it was she!) forgot to correct the subtitle. I’m fixing it now. (Hmmm, seems I need to fire my editor – are you interested???)
I read this yesterday, meant to comment, and then… you guessed it, I got sidetracked. About 20 times. At least! So glad I saw this on Facebook – I don’t really have anything to add except I can soooo relate – and thank you!
Thanks, Jennette! I really appreciate your coming back to comment!
excellent, excellent post. I am down again with the third iteration of a nasty flu bug. why? too much, too often, too long. I needed to read this post today. thanks so much
take care of yourself.
Thank you, Louise. Oh, my. The flu is nasty. Please, please slow down and take care of yourself.
Well, you described much of my life. I can always feel this state of ‘too much’ creeping up on me. Sometimes I fix it right away, sometimes not. 😉 I’m at a huge shift/re-prioritize stage right now and just making the decision to make the necessary changes makes me feel better.
So glad to see you back! HUGS.
Ginger, I admire you for the ability to be aware of ‘too much’ creeping up on you. Good luck with your re-prioritizing! And thanks. I’m glad to be back, too. 🙂
Wow, you pushed yourself really hard for 6 months. No wonder that your body and mind started giving the warning signs. Thanks for sharing your experience and survival tips.
I recognize some of the symptoms as a mother of twin toddlers. I try to squeeze way too much into my day when they go to bed and get too little sleep. It’s amazing how much lack of sleep affects your thinking and temper (and not for the better). But this is just a short phase and luckily we have helpers 🙂
Thank you for stopping by Reetta. Oh. My. Twin toddlers! I have a niece and nephew who are twins, so I know a little of what you may be experiencing. One baby is exhausting – Two?!!! Isn’t it sad how it’s basic needs, like the amount of sleep we get, is what we sacrifice first? I’m really glad you have helpers. And a great attitude. It _is_ a short phase. And one full of wonderful moments that I know you cherish.