Have you ever reached a breaking point from doing too much?
A time when you just felt enough was enough and that was it?
You couldn’t take it anymore, do it anymore, or give anymore.
It’s an intense and often confusing and overwhelming experience.
So what did you do? How’d you handle it?
Breaking It Down
My approach has varied in the past. I’ve yelled and screamed, cried and prayed, and walked away (but only for so long). My body has also chosen for me by getting sick, likely because I couldn’t or didn’t want to choose. I’ve said I was finished and actually wasn’t. And I’ve put my foot down and slowly made changes.
To be totally transparent, it’s been a mix and it’s been a process.
Before I continue, I will congratulate those of you who have your boundaries straight and are all about taking care of yourselves. For those of you who have a history of giving and serving until you’re empty — the nurturers, the givers, the dreamers and caregivers, the moms — this is dedicated to you, from me, with love.
Let me start by telling you how much I feel for you. The stress is brutal. We suffer, truly, from doing too much. We get heartsick and body-sick. We lose ourselves and become resentful. It can be devastating.
I know a thing or two about burn out and breaking points. I was a caregiver for my mom while pregnant with both my children. My Mom had Alzheimer’s and I cared for her in my home for nearly 5 years while focusing on the formative years of my children. It was what I saw as a perfect of example of “no choice” for me and I know that doing so came from a wonderful place in my heart, but the impact of it was brutal. Worse yet, the reality is, I could’ve done it differently.
I talk more about my story a bit more here and here. It’s the reason why I started Positively Productive Systems and why I’m here talking to you now. I want you to know you have a choice about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it and for you to know that you can be productive and purposeful without the burnout.
The toughest part of my own experience wasn’t the sleep deprivation or demands. It wasn’t the breakdowns. It was realizing I was responsible for it.
Did I write that wrong? Sadly, no. I wish I did, but the truth is, any time we – as responsible, independent adults – have been in the “too much” zone, we’ve allowed it, at least in some way.
I imagine it hasn’t felt that way. When you’re in the trenches and you’re suffering, the last thing you’re thinking is “I put myself here”. I can tell you’re thinking of a few examples right now where you can argue that you had NO say. Perhaps. I am not denying there are times in life where we are pressured by obligation or our moral compass to do more than our share. Just like I did when I cared for my Mom. It was too much, but I made a promise to her and I took on a role that extended beyond regular demands and beyond my capabilities. There are events in life far beyond our control or which we simply feel we must do. I get that. But it’s rare that you don’t have some choice, even if limited.
Now I’m going to take this idea a bit further.
Not only have there have been many instances where you’ve felt you must give, there are many where you’ve wanted it…wanted to be the one to serve, the one to be needed, wanted to have control and refused to delegate. Does that sound familiar?
You’re trying to leave for an appointment and the kids are freaking out because you’re leaving. Someone can’t find their shoes or needs help with homework. Another can’t bear the thought of you being gone, so you change your plans. You’re caring for Dad and he’s made a request that requires you take your only day off to see him and get him what he needs. You have a friend that can only count on you, so you drop what you wanted to do to be there. Your family only wants the food you cook. These are all admirable, beautiful, giving moments. But they are by choice, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.
The worst culprit? The ever-infamous mindset: if you want something done right, do it yourself. Have you said that before? I have, but I’m recovering well from it and you can too.
Why We Do It (All)
We want the best for those we love. We want others to like us. We want our family to thrive. We want to feel needed. There are so many reasons we “do it all” and sometimes we are unwitting enablers pulled in the undertow of societal expectations.
Society just loves us to believe “busy” is the way to be. It’s socially acceptable to be burnt out. Why is that even a thing?? I don’t know, but it is. And I’m OVER it and I want you to be too.
You are made to believe that if you aren’t doing all the activities you aren’t supporting your children enough. If you don’t do it all, you’re missing some aspect of being the Wonder Woman you want to be.
I call hogwash! (Yeah, I’m keeping this post G-rated, but for those of you who enjoy spicier language, feel free to insert other bovine and bomb-related options).
So why am I putting this back on you? Because you don’t have to accept it. And more importantly, the only way you can stop it is by not accepting it. I wish you could rely on others to stop it for you, but when you are giving and others are receiving, it’s rare that they will stop you. That’s human nature. So it comes back to you.
(Understand You Need to) Just Say No
There are many approaches you can take, but the first step is realizing “it” is NOT ALL UP TO YOU. It? Life. The house. The plans. The schedule. Everything. Sure, it needs to get done. (Not necessarily all of it, but that’s its own topic.) However, YOU do not always need to be the one to do it.
Say Yes (to YOU)
Easier said than done, right? The trouble with serving others for so long is that they are basically trained to expect it and now you have the task of retraining them. It’s very likely you’ll experience a backlash and will second guess yourself. It will also feel strange. You may feel confused and guilty.
As I said, this is a process. But the good news is, these steps will help:
IDENTIFY & DECIDE
This is the first step and this is key. If you are uncertain about making changes, you’ll fall into old habits. Any change you create without that certainty will likely be temporary. If it sounds like I know from experience, it’s because I do. Just like any life transformation, you must first identify that you want to change and why. Then you can begin.
It’s not enough to identify that something isn’t working for you. You need to understand your patterns, at least in a most basic way, so that you can be aware of them when they show up. Depending on your situation, therapy is can be an option. Some find coaches can be a huge help as well. For those set on DIY, there are many books and videos that can be a great resource too. (Message me if you’d like some suggestions.)
Make a promise to yourself, not only to have a goal, but to keep trying. Commit to the time it will take. This is an ongoing process that isn’t intended to be simple or seamless. The more committed you are to yourself, the more successful you’ll be.
In addition to these, I highly recommend you seek support through friends or groups. The options are endless with online groups and social media support. Let people know what you’re doing and why. That includes me. I would love to hear from you and cheer you on as you make changes and put yourself first. I welcome your comments and messages. Now go build some boundaries and banish unnecessary demands!