Overwhelmed? Add a Time Out to Your Schedule

Overwhelmed people

Source: Adobe Stock

You’re overwhelmed and I’m suggesting that you add one more thing to the list? Why?! Because if you don’t schedule a timeout, my guess is that you will never take one. And your health — physical and mental — is likely to suffer. Even more than it probably already is.

Does this sound like you?

  • Try to juggle too many things at once
  • Put yourself last on the to-do list or not on the list at all
  • Often say yes when you really want to say no

Why do women, in particular, often go straight to yes?

  • Think they can do it all
  • Feel guilty
  • Feel selfish
  • Worry about being judged
  • Just do

Ever hear of the term helium hand? It describes how your hand automatically goes up even when you don’t want it to. Your brain may be screaming no, no, no, but that hand just goes up and with a smile, you say, “I’ll be happy to do it.”

Deb Bergeron told me about helium hand. She’s a personal and professional life coach who runs a business called Ocean of Possibilities. “What I hear every day from clients,” she said, “is that they’re overwhelmed and overcommitted and just have too much on their plates.”

She can’t make the stress and chaos disappear, but what she tries to do is help people manage it better. She teaches them how to say no. It usually involves taking baby steps, she said, “But every time you say no, you get closer to the yes you really want.”

Baby steps to saying no

  • Notice how you’re feeling and give it a name. Exhausted? Irritable? Overwhelmed?
  • Listen to warning signals your body might be giving you. Backache? Headache?
  • Once you’ve identified how you feel, have some compassion for yourself. Don’t tell yourself to “tough it up.” Admit how you’re feeling and give yourself the empathy that you usually reserve for everybody else but you.
  • Pay attention to what energizes you and makes you happy.
  • Pay attention to what drains you and makes you feel resentful.
  • Schedule a timeout — 10 to 15 minutes every day — to be alone and quiet. Block out the past and the future. Focus on the present and what you need at that particular moment.

Adding the time out to your schedule and making it a ritual is critical. “I think it takes a lot of practice and a conscious choice to make time to recharge our batteries,” Deb explained. “Putting rituals into place so that we actually take quiet time and listen to ourselves helps us get off the hamster wheel and reevaluate our priorities.”

If learning to say no is harder than you expected, Deb says it’s probably time to channel your “inner mean girl (or boy).  Yup, she or he is in there somewhere!

Your inner mean person

  • Is not a superhero
  • Runs her/his own show
  • Is in the driver’s seat
  • Plays the leading role in her/his own personal story
  • Makes her/his own decisions
  • Nurtures her/himself
  • Doesn’t say yes unless she/he really means it

Stress and heart disease

Our bodies are hardwired to respond to dangerous situations. It’s called fight or flight. You’re exposed to danger and your brain tells your body to release some adrenaline and cortisol ad your heart rate and blood pressure go up. As soon as the danger subsides, you calm down and your body is back to normal.

But when if you are always feeling stressed about something or as if you’re frequently in what I call high gear, it can lead to all sorts of health problems. Here’s what a constant overload of stress hormones can cause:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive issues
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • Insomnia
  • Weight gain
  • Memory impairment

Are you willing to continue paying the cost of never saying no? If not, take Deb’s advice. Schedule that time out for yourself right now and feel good about it!

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