Anyone who has an overly-busy life has experienced the signs of impending burnout, whether or not we call it that.
What can we do? First, we need to take a look at how we are spending our time and how our current pace truly feels. There are seven main symptoms that tell us our lives are spinning out of control:
1. Constant low level anxiety about getting everything done. Feeling overwhelmed and distracted.
2. Usually running late, because of too much on one’s plate.
3. Mixing up priorities, thus wasting a lot of energy. We react to the latest squeaky wheel rather than doing each thing in its order of importance.
4. Restlessness, a churning mind, even to the point of sleeplessness. An endless thought loop goes around and around in our heads, creating massive confusion.
5. Making messes. We “don’t have time” to tidy up, put our tools away or keep up with the dishes or the raking.
6. We neglect relationships – sacrifice having a cuppa with friends and leisurely talks with our spouses or children. We put off answering personal emails, even from our nearest and dearest. We certainly don’t have time for reflection or meaningful prayer.
7. We “grab” meals, consume too much sugar and stimulants to give us an energy boost, only to drop into exhaustion shortly after the high. Our nutrition and that of our family suffers.
In the grip of overdoing, we’re not really present to what we’re doing, so we often have to redo it, thereby losing more precious time.
A friend revealed to me that she had so much going on, she was constantly preoccupied, and mentally absent from a job she was doing in her son’s house, and lost his keys. She sorted madly through her enormous purse, but couldn’t find them.
After a couple of hours of fruitless search elsewhere, she once again rummaged in her bag, only to find them safely tucked away. This sense of whirling out of control is costly. It costs us time, efficiency, and peace of mind.
Once we are truthful about how stressed we are, we need to discern how to go from what stresses us to a lifestyle that blesses us.
First, recognize that you are actually the one controlling your life. Practice the “Five Ds:” Discern, Do, Delegate, Defer or Drop.
First, discern your yeses wisely, and take some things off your plate. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. Sufi poet Rumi says, “Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
Second, do things mindfully, fully present, gently aware of your breathing. When you wash the dishes, wash the dishes, as the Buddhists say. Third, learn to delegate. Ask others to help you with things that don’t require your special attention. Another choice is to defer it: put it off for another time. Finally, drop it. Ask if this really belongs to you or someone else. If it’s not right for you, in this season, bless it and let it go. When you do choose to do something, give it your best. “Whatsover ye do, do it heartily.” Colossians 3:23
Decide to create balance in your life and your time. Put love first. Love your family and friends. Love yourself by feeding both body and soul the nutrients they need. Take time for service, joy, play, exercise, rest, and daily reverence. You can have it all, but you don’t have to have it all at once! Only you can choose a life that is too blessed to be stressed.