As a military spouse, our lives can easily be defined by being a conduit of support and strength. But quite frankly, sometimes we do too much. Our call to duty is to be there and show up to meet the need that is present. And when we are good at it, we often ignore the signs that we should slow down and remove some things from our daily responsibilities. People acknowledge our worth and saying no becomes difficult and almost insulting.
Many of us are blindsided by how implosive the results of doing too much of can be.
At the time, I couldn’t put my finger on it. So much had happened within a few months that my life felt like a big mush of stuff that I was doing and now I questioned why. I just needed a minute and I wanted time to freeze so I could take a full, unencumbered breath. In hindsight, I was obligated to too many things and also dealing with our family’s military transition.
I was trying to maintain for everyone. I was running a business, networking in our new location, trying to make our new living arrangements comfortable, volunteering, trying to find a functioning moms group that fit, create a routine for our children, find local creative activities for them, while also trying to anticipate my husbands emotional needs due to his transition.
Somewhere in all of that I became lost.
And I’m not alone. Seventy-four percent of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope, according to a 2018 study by the Mental Health Foundation.
My current feeling of anxiety was a type of short circuiting. I had no choice but to stop moving and reevaluate everything. A byproduct of this decision was also that I had to deny myself the satisfaction of being there for others. I could no longer commit to so many things and I had to truly realize that if I didn’t have the energy or self-awareness to see that I needed to slow down, then I would constantly be moving on fumes and eventually breakdown.
Looking back, I recognize these signs as evidence that I was close to a breaking point:
Waking up tired
Unable to enjoy downtime because of stressful thoughts
Always feeling pressured
Very easily irritated
Anxious over even the smallest things
Everything needed to be perfect
The toughest part was admitting being busy made me feel like I mattered.
If I had to stop doing so much then my value would decrease … or so I thought. Here’s what really happened.
I had a raw, transparent conversation with my husband. My emotional dam, made of strength I’d forced myself to have, broke and I sobbed uncontrollably while he held me. After fully soaking my shirt, I shared my plan – which was the opposite of taking action – and he surprised me.
“I think it’s a good idea, you should,” he said.
He didn’t hesitate to support my decision to do less. I thought he would think I was quitting. I did. I thought he would inwardly question my strength while pretending to support, but his affirmations were as genuine as ever. He didn’t challenge me with questions. There was only acceptance and understanding.
Knowing I had his support gave me a safe place to make some hard decisions.
Here are the five steps I took to put more value on what I did rather than how much.
Admit the reason.
Learn why it is you take on so much. Not the fact that you keep saying yes, but why. Is it to prove your value, to impress others, are you a workaholic, or do you think it is expected of you? Sit in front of that mirror and dig deep.
Make a list of priorities.
Priorities will reflect where you are in life and you shouldn’t compromise them. If your family needs you more right now, then other things take a back seat. If you have to focus on your career/goals, then don’t allow others to put demands on your time.
Create your version of productivity and don’t compare it with others.
Try not to get caught up in what you see other people doing. When you feel the impulse to react based on what someone else’s life looks like, unplug and refocus.
Use “me time” wisely. Remove yourself from things that look, smell, or feel like obligations (whatever that is for you). Just be and breathe in the moment.
Resist the urge to relapse.
When you are good at a lot of things and see needs that you can meet, it’s hard not to throw on your cape and come to the rescue. Don’t. Measure your time and always ask how it fits on your plate. If you don’t have the space for it then don’t take it on. Say “NO.”