Do You Have Too Much To Do?
By Linda Sapadin, Ph.D
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Our speedy, success-oriented culture pressures us to work faster, harder, better. This is troublesome for many, but it’s particularly tough for those who are pleasers. Why? Because pleasers are inclined to say “yes” to so much. Add on the cultural command to do, do, do, and life can easily spin out of control. Though others may think of you as a workaholic, the dizzying array of tasks you take on may not be because you can’t stop working but because it’s tough for you to say “no” to others.
Though many media stories try to convince you that you can have it all and do it all, you can’t! Attempt to do too much and soon you’ll be operating on overload. To understand what that means, think about what occurs when an electrical circuit is overloaded
You’re working hard trying to get a report done. Suddenly, you’re in total darkness; the circuit breaker has popped. No lights, no charger, no desktop, no printer, no microwave, no A/C, no TV, no nothing. What do you do? You search for the popped breaker on the electric panel. You flip the breaker back on and then return to doing your stuff. You’ve just settled in when pop, you’re in total darkness again. Damn! You realize you forgot to turn off a few devices before returning to work.
Frustrated, you think, what a pain this circuit breaker is. But then you remember what it’s designed to do. It’s a safety device, protecting you from fire that would have occurred if you continued to operate on overload. Suddenly it becomes obvious that you too need to make a change. Your harried, pressured, stressed life means you’re operating on overload. If you didn’t have so much to do, you wouldn’t be so stressed about getting the report finished. If you weren’t so stressed about getting the report finished, you wouldn’t be so nervous about company coming. If you weren’t so nervous about company coming, you wouldn’t be so upset with your spouse’s reprimand. If you weren’t so upset with your spouse’s reprimand, you wouldn’t have this pounding headache! Get the picture?
Too bad circuit breakers aren’t built into your system to alert you of an impending overload. Or, are they?
- Isn’t chronic stress a way your body is telling you, “Stop! You’re damaging me. Treat me better or I won’t function well!”
- Isn’t chronic worrying a way your mind is telling you, “Stop! You can't continue to live this way; I need a break!"
- Isn’t chronic pressure a way your relationships are telling you, “Stop! You’re trying too hard to please everybody. Just relax and be yourself!”
Warning signals, like circuit breakers, are designed to protect you from harm. If you don’t ease up on yourself, you can do serious damage to your mind, body and relationships. I hope you’re wise enough not to let that happen.
But how do you ease up on yourself when you’ve got so much to do? Here are a few ideas:
- Eliminate: Yes, you can eliminate some stuff from your to-do list. Truly you can.
- Delegate: Delegate and/or share the work.
- Consolidate: Put time into planning how to combine several tasks into one.
- Know when to say “no.” Saying “no” can reap unexpected benefits. Not only will you have less to do but others will be more appreciative when you do say “yes.”
If you frequently feel frazzled and frenzied, chill out before you burn out!
Linda Sapadin is a psychologist and personal coach in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. For more information about her work, contact her by email or visit her website at PsychWisdom.