The concept that life can be messy is nothing new. Only problem is, sometimes that messiness can creep up on a person. Maybe you're in the car one day, scrambling desperately to get all your errands done before you need to go to your doctor's appointment and then race home in time to meet the school bus, when all of a sudden you start to think: How did I wind up with so much on my plate? And that's when it hits you -- little things continuously and innocuously piled up, and what used to be a manageable load is now a teensy bit more than you can reasonably handle.
If that moment of epiphany hasn't happened, yet you still feel like maybe your current schedule is more than you can take on, evaluate it based the following 10 signs.
First thing to look for: Did you used to be diligent about exercising, but now there's no time for it? When a person is strapped for scheduling space, one common way to free up a few much-needed minutes is to slack off on exercising. Having other obligations can make it seem advantageous to skip a trip to the gym, and it's easy to quickly fall out of the habit, but that's not good.
Exercise is great for everybody -- its benefits include increased strength, endurance, muscle tone, weight loss and mental alertness, plus lower blood pressure and lower risk for diseases like diabetes and cancer. But exercise is especially great for super-busy people because it both energizes and relaxes. So if you've been skipping sessions on the treadmill, try to make an effort to squeeze them in, even if it's just a few minutes here and there. Sure, you're busy, but without exercise, are you really getting as much done as you could be?
After a long day at work, with a laundry list of pressing chores lined up for the evening, it can be pretty tempting to just give in and order some food for dinner instead of cooking yourself. But before you dial up the delivery guy or sail through the drive-thru, consider what you're doing. Not only is purchasing already prepped meals probably going to be quite a bit more expensive, chances are good it's going to be a whole lot less healthy, too. And if you've already ditched your exercise routine, why exacerbate the issue with a dinner that's less-than-wholesome? If you think back on what you've been eating lately, and you've been taking out more than you'd prefer, it could definitely be a sign you've got too much on your plate.
Unless the hobbies you're passionate about include activities such as doing laundry, idling in traffic or cleaning up spilled juice, chances are excellent that you're doing too much if you never find time for your favorite hobbies.
Most people prioritize critical tasks like paying bills and cleaning litter boxes before they decide to pull out the craft box or hit the links -- and that's fine -- but it's important to remember that if you've budgeted all your time to mundane chores, you could end up letting your life fly by without ever taking the time to enjoy it. And that's not fine.
Humans didn't always stick to measures of time so ardently. But with the advent of the pocket watch and later the wristwatch, all that changed. Now our culture calls for us to run (or attempt to run) a much tighter ship time-wise. So while everyone has days here and there where they find themselves running a bit late, if the issue has become chronic for you, that's a serious sign that you're overworking yourself. And it can have repercussions beyond simply missing opportunities and experiences -- it can affect how people view you. If you're constantly late, people will likely start to think of you as unreliable and inconvenient, and that could mean missing out on even more.
It's easy to get frustrated in the car. We all do. Maybe a guy in front of you is continually tapping his brakes, worsening stop-and-go traffic. Or perhaps it's a lady yapping on her phone, not bothering to check the mirrors before she changes lanes. Under normal circumstances, if no harm comes of it, it's not terribly hard to let these things pass. But if you've got a million errands to run and a crying baby in the backseat, you can hit the boiling point pretty quickly -- and that can lead to serious consequences. If you've been acting more aggressively on the road lately, it might be a sign to cut back your to-do list.
During tranquil times, it's not tough to stay flexible when factors out of your control throw a monkey wrench into your plans. But if you're doing too much, you might find yourself micromanaging at every turn and freaking out at the slightest glitch and hiccup. If something unexpected occurs and you start to feel a rise of panic, thinking your whole plan is shot and everything is ruined (instead of just reprioritizing a few things and enlisting some help), then you're probably living a more stress-ridden life than you ought to be.
Fights between couples, among family members and involving friends are bound to happen from time to time, and most decent people are willing to cut a loved one some slack if he or she is having a particularly bad day. But if you start to sense that you're the main common denominator when it comes to all the arguments going on around you, then that's a big sign right there that you're doing too much. Being overly busy can cause a serious spike in short tempers, and if your schedule is so hectic that every day seems to end up a bad day, you can quickly start wearing on the patience of those around you. If tempers flare, consider taking five or even 20 minutes to calm down so you can spare the people you love your irritated (and probably undeservingly aimed) wrath.
If you feel like your life could be considered out of control, and you can't remember the last time you said "no" to someone, that's a strong hint you're doing more than you can realistically handle.
Look at it this way: The world is full of people who want tasks to get done, but who don't necessarily want to be the ones responsible for actually doing them.
So don't be afraid to politely yet firmly say no when a request isn't something you feel like taking on.
It's one thing if your spouse acknowledges how busy you've been by giving you a back massage while you sit down for a few minutes to update your to-do list -- after all, he or she has likely witnessed some of your hard work firsthand.
But if you find complete strangers looking at you worriedly and asking if maybe you should slow down and relax, it could be a sign that your activity level is over-the-top insane.
Busyness is typically not something that should be wildly apparent, so if it is blatantly obvious to random people on a regular basis, then it could mean you need to take it easy.
Stress from an overloaded schedule might make you want to scream sometimes, but it's affecting you in lots of ways beyond turning you into a human teakettle. For example, stress can cause you to experience headaches, backaches, chest pains, stomach complaints, sleep problems, heart palpitations, weight gain and hair loss. Plus, apart from irritability and anger, if you're stressed, you're more likely to feel anxious, depressed, worried and restless. You might lose focus and become forgetful -- which of course doesn't help when you're trying to strike things off your to-do list.
So if enough of these symptoms sound familiar, you should make an effort to return to the regular load you managed like a champ and enjoy a little relaxation on customary basis.
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- "Stress symptoms: Effects on your body, feelings and behavior." Mayo Clinic. (Nov. 16, 2010) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-symptoms/SR00008_D