Have you ever found yourself saying, “I can handle this” as your to-do list increases and your enthusiasm decreases? You reach those moments when your responsibilities mount on top of each other while your determined bursts of energy turn to frustration and depletion? You might tell yourself that you can push through the overwhelm, to grin and bear it, and a lot of days you probably can… but you know deep down, this isn’t sustainable.
Most of us can handle quite a bit, but life is not a contest of How much can I handle? and often if it gets to that point, much of the joy of life can end up being sucked out of the experience. When we lose the joy of life, every little task we do can feel harder and more energy consuming, even getting up and out of bed in the morning.
The more powerful question is: What am I able to accomplish and still feel well emotionally and physically? This might not be obvious right off the bat, but with practice it can become easier to discover where we lost our calm and wound up in a sea of turbulent frustration. Often, what’s needed isn’t something drastic, but rather a simple action to reset and more awareness to create habits that support our balance.
Here are a few ways you can start to tune into what you need and how to ask for it.
Ask yourself: When was the last time I said “Yes” when I wanted to say “No” It can be helpful to start to tune into the moments where you met the needs of others over your own. Sometimes in our professional and home environments this comes with the territory, but if we can start to trail back to when and how often this is happening it can provide valuable information. If you are continually saying yes, when you want to say no it will ultimately lead to depletion.
Practice saying “No” to invitations that don’t feel good or feel like they are “too much.” There are times when we say yes to make others happy and when we do it too much the sacrifice of our lost time and energy can be draining. It’s okay to say no. You can still do it politely and sometimes it can be as simple as, “Thank you so much for the invite. I’m unavailable then, but I wish you an amazing time.”
Start the habit of asking yourself: What do I need right now? This self-reflection is so helpful because without it, it’s easy to respond with knee jerk reactions and escalate a stressful feeling instead of bringing more calm to a situation. If you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s a very good practice to start asking what you need in the moment. I encourage you to be as specific as you can be. It might be a glass of water, it might be a five-minute walk around the block, or to tell someone how you feel so that you can be supported. Practice asking this question and see what comes up. For many of us, asking what we need can feel foreign, especially if our focus has been on the needs of others for most of our life.
Ask for help or delegate. If you feel like you are taking on too much – ask someone at home to help you fold the laundry or do it for you. Ask your partner to pick up the groceries so you don’t have to squeeze it in. Ask one of your co-workers if they can help you break down or complete a task that feels overwhelming.
If you are new to any of these practices – great. It might feel awkward to start using them, but they are so worth it. Every new practice takes time to feel like a habit and it’s all good. I find that these four practices are fundamental to me feeling good overall and when I forget them for too long I lose my joy and life feels quite heavy. I hope you find the same relief, calm, and movement towards balance in your life from giving them a try.