When the economy plummeted in 2008, my husband and I did what so many other Americans did. First we panicked a little (maybe a lot), and then we rolled up our sleeves and really, really went to work.
We went into hyper-survival mode, and between the two of us we took on every extra job and opportunity that came our way, all while trying to raise a one-and-three-year-old. My anxiety was high during that time, and my self-care was low.
I distinctly remember uttering this phrase to my husband one evening, “It’s literally been like 6 weeks since we’ve had a day to sleep in.”
It was exhausting.
It’s funny, we began taking on all of these extra things in our lives to survive, but the end result was that we became immune to saying no—even when the economy balanced itself out again.
It’s like once you start saying yes to too much, you automatically keep doing it. It feels reckless, but you do it anyway—let’s not fall into that trap.
Signs You Are Too Busy
Let’s learn to recognize the signals before we get resistant to saying no to things that we simply don’t have enough time or energy for. Most likely things that aren’t even meaningful to our lives.
1. Your thoughts are in constant disarray.
It’s hard to concentrate on a single task, you jump from one thing to the next with no real plan, and become increasingly forgetful. It’s difficult to sleep. You wake in the middle of the night thinking about work, or sometimes nothing of real importance that needs to be done.
I know this one. It’s like all of the wires in my head are crossed. Our brains can only process so much.
2. The non-essentials take over.
When I consistently fail to plan dinner for my family, make sure everyone has clean clothes for the next day—until it’s midnight, or don’t really listen to my daughter on our car ride home from school. That’s when I know the non-essentials have taken over, and have left very little room for the essentials.
3. Everything feels important.
That little frilly detail for the church activity, the dozens of homemade cookies for the social event (because Costco won’t do!), or the need to impress company from out of town by running out and making new purchases. We can lose our ability to reason between what is essentially important and what is not, because it ALL feels important.
4. Your home or workspace is a mess.
The tell-tale sign for me: Multiple piled-high laundry baskets throughout the house. With a family of 6, this is the start of a steady decline in the state of our home, and it’s not worth it.
“Is that one clean or dirty?” (I’m ashamed to say, as I do a quick smell test on the t-shirts to decide if I fold, wash, or rewash if I’ve guessed wrong.)
5. You lose track of what’s happening in everyone’s life but your own.
“I was just with Stacy and forgot to ask her how her vacation was!”
“I forgot to mail Wyatt’s birthday card.”
This one stings.
How can we take a worthy interest in others when we’ve got too much happening with us?
6. You have feelings of resentment and bitterness.
Because it’s hard to draw that fine line in the sand, to reason about what we ought to do or not, we sometimes fail in our decision making. When we say yes to too much and bitterness and resentment set in, we kind of just know. Know that we shouldn’t have taken on that extra thing.
7. Self-care is low or nonexistent.
You forgo your regular exercise routine, trade healthy eating for the quicker option, don’t take any time to relax and just be, and make less and less time for doing things that you love.
8. Irritability creeps in and spills over to the ones you love.
We all know it. It’s hard to be calm and rational, even loving, when our priorities are not in check.
9. You’re spending too much time on social media.
Some may avoid social media altogether during overly-busy seasons, but for others (ahem–me!) social media might be a nice escape from the crazy reality we’ve gotten ourselves into, and the constant escape can become obsessive.
Can you tell how suggestive this one is of a life out of balance?
10. You lose your system for planning and keeping organized.
This one is so ironic. When you need to be the most organized to accomplish all you’ve gotten yourself into, you simply can not. Too much to process, not enough mental energy to do it. That’s it.
Like I said before, it can be incredibly difficult to stop yourself from going overboard when you’ve filled your plate too full. When you’ve taken on more than you can mentally and physically handle. But here’s the catch, the positive in the somewhat negative light I’ve shed:
If you can recognize the symptoms of an overscheduled life, something refreshing happens. A light bulb goes off. You recognize, then take a step back and smile. Smile because you’ve caught yourself. This time you’ve got this, so go ahead. Refine and refocus.
And remember that the road to a simpler life is a journey. You can do this.