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Overextending Ourselves

Overextending Ourselves
Can you think of a day that has passed where you haven’t thought to yourself, or uttered the words “I feel so tired!” at least once?
Many women can’t help but feel frustrated and report that they need more energy to get everything accomplished on any given day. Experts equate a large part of this problem to unrealistic expecations of how much can actually be fit into a twenty-four hour period. The pressure that many women place on themselves to squeeze in one more thing on their to-do list is overwhelming, and can actually drain a large amount of energy.
I advise my clients that when they find themselves in an “action mode” mindset, they need to be cautious about overextending themselves and/or getting out of balance. Many women spend a great deal of time trying to accomplish as much as possible to ensure that they can reach their goals and not miss out on any important opportunites or experiences along the way. For many of us, taking on too many tasks feels familiar and normal.
Doing a lot is not always a negative thing…but it can lead to feelings of stress, confusion and burn-out. Women seem to suffer greatly in this area, as they are more likely than men to be people-pleasers and can easily ignore their own needs. Many of my female clients feel that they are trapped in a cycle of despair in which they try to accomplish everything and do their best, without realizing the toll it is taking on them both mentally and physically.
I work with my clients to identify warning signs and make fundamental changes to their lifestyle. For many, the downward spiral begins when they believe that they have to be in a stress-filled mode in order to get everything accomplished. With all of this negative stress, women can feel overwhelmed and have difficulty functioning effectively. Productivity levels rise with stress, but at a certain level they plateau and returns diminish. Many women report that they are working harder, but seem to be getting less quality work done.
For women who are mothers, trying to do it all can indeed take a toll. In our current economic climate, many women find that their career is no longer a matter of choice, but is instead essential in keeping a family financially secure. Many of my clients explain that when they are at work, they can’t share any of these feelings of stress, of feeling overwhelmed and overextended. Issues arise when they walk in the front door at home, and find themselves taking out their anger and stressful emotions on their husband or other family members. This can in turn lead to difficulties in relationships and the family system. With fewer social support networks and husbands unable to pitch in because of their long hours on the job, the task of having a career and bringing up children can be extremely difficult to navigate.
It’s important for women to take a step back and identify which tasks and to-do list items can be eliminated. In addition, I work with many of my clients to create a virtual personal barometer in their minds, with one end marking a point where they feel good, like things are under control, and the other extreme end is characterized by feelings of negative stress and burn-out. I ask my clients to consistently make a mental note of where they fall on this virtual barometer on any given day. If things start to escalate on this virtual mental barometer, it’s time to take a step back and identify what can be done to ease stress levels before things escalate. Perhaps it can be something as simple as taking some time for self-care, or meeting a close friend for coffee. Having a social support network where women feel they can vent and confide in others can be extremely helpful.
A great deal of my work with clients centers around mindfulness. Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges from paying attention with purpose, in the present moment, and accepting things as they are from a non-judgmental viewpoint.  It is about focusing on aspects of life that we may take for granted or ignore in the hustle/bustle that is daily living. Studies show that mindfulness can be helpful in stopping ruminations over things that cause stress and it helps individuals from dwelling on negative thoughts.  Mindfulness can also be used to decrease anxiety over the future.  It can provide a break from stressful thoughts and allow you to take a mental break and gain perspective. In my next post, I will provide some easy mindfulness exercises which can benefit emotional and physical health, as well as the relationships in your life.
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