Do you wish there were more hours in the day to get through your to-do list? Have you had a friend ask, “Are you okay?”
If so, were you surprised because you hadn’t even noticed what you were feeling lately? Career, home, and other activities can get overwhelming. When it’s time to take something off your plate, how do you handle it?
- Recognize your body signals. The time comes when our stressed-out brain can’t take it anymore and our body begins to suffer the consequences. Our neck and back begin to ache. Our sleeping becomes disturbed and our appetite changes. We often get sick and begin to experience pains we didn’t know were possible.
Are you able to recognize your body signals when your plate is getting stacked up too high?
- Notice your feelings. Are you irritable all the time? Sad, frustrated, angry, overly sensitive and lacking in confidence? Take a look at your feelings and notice if the “present” you is the “normal” you. If the answer is no, it’s time to make adjustments.
- What are your thoughts saying? Individuals with perfectionism tend to have overcrowded plates. Their thinking often includes a set of negative beliefs. These beliefs can distort the way they look at themselves and others. They may think, “If I don’t say yes, they’ll probably think I don’t care about them, or they’ll hate me.” This is an all-or-nothing type of thinking.
Is your vocabulary full of should and ought-to statements? You may jump to conclusions when you think others are judging you because you are not doing enough or fulfilling others’ expectations.
Have you noticed your thinking patterns? Before changing your negative thoughts, you need to become aware of them.
- Give something up. As difficult as this may be, at one time or another we may need to reconsider what we keep on our plate. I had an acquaintance who often would complain about her plate being too full. I asked her if there was something she could do without. She’d proceed to enumerate all that occupied her and say they were all important for one reason or another. She was not willing to take anything off, but was willing to be a victim of her own choosing. Sadly, she made those around her miserable because she didn’t want to make adjustments. The truth is, we have a choice!
- Worries. Once there was a psychologist who taught a valuable lesson regarding stress management to her audience. She raised a glass of water that was half full. Everyone expected to hear the lesson about the “half empty or half full” glass metaphor. To their surprise, the lesson had nothing to do with that. Her object lesson was about holding the glass up and its effect on the person’s arm. The longer it was held, the heavier it became.
She then compared holding that glass with the stresses we endure. She reminded her audience that the longer they hold onto their worries the more burdensome they become. Holding them for a very long period of time can paralyze us.
- Say no. How did you respond the last time a friend asked you for a favor and you couldn’t say no? Were you concerned about your relationship? What if it’s your boss, professor, employee, or neighbor asking? Is the answer always yes?
You really can choose what you take on. Sometimes individuals believe they can do it all if they’d just organize themselves better. I know some people who are great at keeping and completing their to-do list. They are efficient organizers, yet they exhaust themselves finishing that list. Unfortunately, their fear — offending someone — ends up happening because they overextend themselves.
Assertiveness training may be in order if you have a difficult time saying no. Work on your need to please everyone. Remember it’s impossible to please everyone, and you end up losing when you try.
- Prioritize. Your values and standards come into play here. At the end of the day, what is it that you care about the most? There may be days when you are overscheduled. What will you choose? Someone once said, you are what you do the most. Decide what’s important, count your losses and move on.
- Find a balance. Nutritionists tell us we need certain amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables each day. What are you putting on your life plate? Orison Swett Marden once said, “Work, love, and play are the great balance wheels of man’s being.” Are you including play and love activities?
- Love thyself. Before we can attend to others, we first need to strengthen ourselves and take care of our emotional, physical and mental well-being. Taking 30 to 60 minutes each day to keep ourselves spiritually, emotionally, and physically fit is not unreasonable. In the long run, taking care of ourselves will make us stronger so we can be there for our loved ones.
- Enjoy yourself. It’s time to make that stacked-up plate lighter and go play with your children, friends, and loved ones. When worrisome thoughts come in, put them on pause until later. Taking a break is healthy and in the long run will help you maintain the balance you need in life. You know yourself — so do what brings you true joy. Only keep on your plate what “really” needs to be there!
Hagen, A. (2013). What’s on Your Plate? Stress Management Strategies. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/whats-on-your-plate-stress-management-strategies/00015680
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Mar 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.