I know I’m not the only one who’s been here…you’ve got so much on your plate that you feel like you need to clone yourself in order to get it all done.
In fact, you feel like you’re drowning at times. The responsibilities, the commitments, the chores, the activities…it’s often more than you can handle. So how do you cope when you’re overwhelmed and drowning in responsibility?
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Stop! Take a minute to pause and catch your breath.
It’s nearly impossible to think clearly and rationally when you’re meeting yourself coming and going. When you’re in this stage, you’re operating on autopilot…going through motions because you don’t have time or energy to do anything else. The sad part is that this seems normal because it’s become a way of life.
It doesn’t have to be!
In fact, it shouldn’t be. You aren’t meant to live your life on autopilot, running frantically from one crazed activity to another. You’re not supposed to dread your days because they’re just one dreaded chore after another.
When life feels like this, you have to take steps to regain control.
Ask yourself some questions to help you evaluate the situation
- What am I doing?
- What are the absolute, no-choice, things I must do to survive?
- What am I doing that doesn’t HAVE to be done for my family to survive? (This means a seriously hard look and determining NEEDS from WANTS.)
- Which of the “want to do” activities can I let go or delegate? (And delegate completely to someone else. That doesn’t mean that you delegate the activity or responsibility in name only while you’re really still on the hook for getting it done).
Things you may need to let go of in order to regain control of your life (and your sanity!)
- Volunteer activities: I know…they’re nice things to do, they make you feel needed and competent, and someone really does need to do them. HOWEVER, that someone does not have to be you!
- Children’s activities: I’m not saying get rid of all of their activities, but it may be time to reassess the schedule and decide what needs to be let go. I know what you’re thinking here too…”My kids will be heartbroken if they don’t get to take bagpipe lessons!” To that I’d say that if your child really-and-truly, honestly loves taking bagpipe lessons, then this is an activity that needs to stay. But if we’re really honest with ourselves – and encourage our kids to be honest as well – not all activities are equally loved. The activity that is loved or enjoyed the least is what needs to go.
- Extra work responsibilities: Of course your work is important to you. It not only helps support your family, but it is probably a source of personal accomplishment and pride. BUT…sometimes we take on extra projects or responsibilities because it makes us feel important…or competent…or indispensable…or secure. In other words, there are tons of reasons why we may say “yes” to something at work when we should say “no”. Unless your job is truly on the line (and I mean that you’ll lose it if you say “no”) then you need to resist the urge to take on every challenge and project that comes your way.
- Bow out of some social activities: This doesn’t mean you have to become a total hermit – but you don’t have to attend every event you’re invited to. And isn’t it possible that at least some of those social activities have become more of a burden than a fun time anyway?
- Limit extended family obligations: I can hear you now…”I can’t let those go! My aunt expects us all to show up for…..” Well, it may be true that some family members expect you to continue doing what you’ve always done. But here’s the deal – you cannot please everyone else and still take care of your own needs. When you’re drowning and are over-extended to the breaking point, something has to give. Your only question is what it’s going to be…your health and sanity, or someone else’s expectations. Besides, those other people are adults – they’ll adjust (especially if you explain nicely that this isn’t permanent but that you need a break in order to take care of yourself. If they can’t understand that then you’ve got problems that are the topic for another discussion!).
In all of these scenarios, someone else will have to step up to the plate and either help you out or take over something you need to let go of. Sometimes it’s the feeling that we can’t “impose” on anyone else that keeps us drowning in responsibility.
But you know what? The world won’t end if other people have to pitch in and help! The world won’t end if you don’t attend every family or social gathering. The world won’t end if you don’t take on every project at work. The world won’t end if your child doesn’t get to take bagpipe lessons.
The world will not end when you realize that you have to take care of yourself so that you can fulfill your responsibilities and help take care of others.
Let me put it to you this way…if you were caught in a riptide and knew you were going to drown if you didn’t do something, wouldn’t you start swimming another direction?
Now I’m not minimizing the weight of the demands of work, home, and family because they’re a lot to juggle (boy, do I know!). At times they feel (and are) truly overwhelming. So you must make a conscious decision to let some of the non-essentials go.
Because here’s what will happen if you don’t:
- You’ll be angry, bitter, depressed and resentful.
- Your important relationships will suffer because of these negative emotions.
- You’ll find yourself withdrawing from people and activities because you don’t have the energy reserves to cope with them.
- Your work performance will begin to slip (and you may get to the point where you don’t even care).
- Your health will eventually suffer.
When you look at it this way it’s pretty obvious that this is NOT where you want to end up. And you don’t have to – but you do have to start taking steps to deal with the responsibilities and obligations that are weighing you down. None of us needs to feel like we’re drowning when there’s a lifeboat available and close by.
So how do you cope when you feel overwhelmed?