You’re not that strong, sis: 3 ways to avoid being overwhelmed & overworked
Article By Mabel Sanders // EEW Magazine // Lifestyle
I found myself boo-hooing because I was too overwhelmed. I had taken on everyone else’s projects and problems, and left no room for myself. I was the counselor; the ATM; the babysitter; the Uber; the eager ministry volunteer; and the one everyone would call for their miscellaneous needs.
How had this happened?
I used to think I was strong enough to handle it all and I thought that by overworking and overwhelming myself, I was being a good friend, employee, sister, and Christian. But the day I had a full-on meltdown in the bathroom at work, I knew it was time to draw the line.
I was over-committed and overworked. My schedule was oversaturated. And I was under-nourished. I needed some me-time, some self-care and some boundaries. I was forced that fateful day at work, to accept that I was not a superhero and I had to have more discipline in the area of saying no. It was time to find some semblance of balance.
I was not that strong.
This realization came, not through my own self-discovery, but through a relative stranger at work. The afternoon I broke down, I came out of the bathroom stall startled to see one of my supervisors grooming herself in the mirror. We didn’t know each other and had never spoken beyond saying hello or goodbye in passing.
“I heard you crying. Are you alright?” said the grey-haired, dignified black woman with a concerned look. Her navy blue suit looked like it had been tailored to perfection for her body. That sister had it together. I had always admired her from afar.
“Oh, I’m okay,” I said, trying to play it off and hide my embarrassment. No one wants to be caught breaking down and showing weakness in front of a boss. Well, I can’t speak for everyone. I know I don’t like that. I had long prided myself on appearing to be unfazed and unbothered by anything. I liked to be perceived as being well put together. But that day, I was coming unglued and there was no denying it.
“You’re not okay. You were crying. Would you like to talk about it?” she asked, looking me right in the eyes.
Then I felt the rims of my eyelids get hot. Uh-oh. I knew what that meant. More tears were coming. Why couldn’t I stop them? Before I knew it, my body was trembling and I was a blubbering mess. In between a million apologies, I confessed that I was exhausted and overextended, not from work, but from life. What was I saying? Shut up Mabel is what I was thinking!
As my hands, which had become trembling windshield wipers for my tears, shook, and my voice quivered, I expected to be judged and told to pull it together. Instead, this woman said to me, “You’re not that strong, sis. None of is that strong. If you put too much on your plate consistently, you will be overweight—physically, emotionally and mentally.”
That’s when she offered words of wisdom and pointed the problem out to me: it was me. I was the problem. My inability to say no was the issue. My need to be superwoman led to me falling apart and it was time to stop the vicious cycle.
Mind you, my unofficial counselor was important and busy, and was at a much higher paygrade than me. I knew she needed to be somewhere else. But when her Blackberry rang, all she said was, “Cancel that.”
She was making time for me and I was grateful beyond words. God was all in it. I needed that and it helped me change. Even though we never really spoke that in depth again, one conversation was all I needed. She jumpstarted my transition from being overworked and overwhelmed to being overjoyed with my new life.
There are three things I did differently. You can use this trio of strategies to avoid being overwhelmed and overworked in your life, too.
1. I consulted God before saying yes. I started living out Proverbs 3:6 that tells us to “Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Before going down a particular path, I asked, Lord, what would You have me do? Is this something I should pursue? This stopped me from saying yes so quickly and helped me to say no when I didn’t have peace about something. Prayer comes first. Action comes later and only if God says go.
2. I woke up earlier. I began and ended my day earlier. In the morning, I got more quiet time in with God. I was able to accomplish a greater number of things without interruption. In the evening, I was aware that I needed ample rest so I could rise on time. This made me more discriminating about evening activities and caused me to prioritize better. Before, I didn’t set boundaries for myself or anyone else. That changed and it was the biggest help to me.
3. I made a schedule and honored it. I am like a lot of people; I don’t like schedules. But seeing all I had to do on paper made it real. It’s just like making a budget. If you write down your financial income and expenses, you can keep an accurate record and know how much you can and can’t afford to spend. This good habit keeps you out of debt. Similarly, if you make a schedule, you will prioritize where and how you spend your energy, which will keep you from wasting it. Being realistic about my time (and other resources) was a big help in saying no.
While there are others things I did to improve, these are the basics. If you, like me, have felt spread too thin and unable to keep up with life, it’s time to respect your humanity. Honor your need for space, rest and boundaries.
You’re not that strong, sis. Only God is all-powerful. Lean on Him and remember that you don’t have the capacity for everyone to lean on you. Don’t make yourself their God.
Take care of you.