Do you feel in control of your daily schedule? Are you clear about what you can achieve in a day, and do you set limits on what others demand of you? Or do you dash through life, from task to task, struggling with the overwhelming pressure of keeping obligations? We can all use tools to prevent over-extending ourselves.
Kim Forrester, award-winning author, educator and holistic wellbeing consultant, can relate. As a mother-of-two and recovering people pleaser, she understands all too well the pressures that women face to be it all, do it all and keep it all together – for themselves, and for others around them.
“If you are like me, the people in your life probably describe you as kind, generous, and reliable. You are the person everyone turns to when they require someone’s help, advice, time or energy. And, if you are like me, you oblige every single time,” Forrester said.
Forrester combines cutting-edge science with traditional spiritual teachings to inspire soulful living. She believes troubles arise when our commitment to others is so overwhelming that, in private times, we feel drained, exhausted and resentful.
“Many of us, particularly women, have been raised to believe that ‘being of service’ is the greatest form of humility”, Forrester said. “But this can sometimes compel us to give well beyond our means — until it makes us mentally, emotionally and (sometimes) physically ill.”
“It’s vital to understand that over-commitment and overwhelm are not helping you, and ultimately they’re not helping anyone around you. Your children are learning that giving too much of yourself is okay; your friends and colleagues are dealing with a distracted or exhausted version of you; and you are not giving yourself the space to think clearly and rest deeply,” she added.
Kim offers four tools she has personally used to reduce overwhelm and discover a more peaceful, powerful tempo to life.
Stop “shoulding” on yourself: “If you truly want to help – or give your time, or support – then deep inside you will actually have all of the resources needed to complete the task; your generosity or selflessness will be coming from a place of authenticity and inspired empathy, and will only serve to lift your spirits further. However, if you are only doing something because you should, then you are probably lacking in some of your own needs – it’s time to put yourself first – or your input is not truly required at this time.”
Release the need to rescue: “It’s vital to remember that life is all about experience, and there will be times when our help or generosity actually hinders the emotional and spiritual growth of another person. By giving them continual financial help, they may never learn the value of money. By providing constant emotional support, they may never learn to tap into their own inner strength. By continually ignoring or excusing others’ behavior, they may never understand the need to embrace their innate love and compassion.”
Live by the 80% Full Rule: “When we allow our schedules, our commitments and our emotional investments to fill up completely, we don’t allow space for the inevitable twists and surprises that life is going to bring. If our lives and our time are 100 percent, or even 90 percent full, all it takes is an emergency, or a sick pet, or drama in a friend’s life and, all of a sudden, we’re over-committed. Change the way you view your life, and live by the creed that you will only commit 80 percent of your time, energy and emotional reserves. After 80 percent, you’re full. At this point, reply to requests with ‘I’d love to help but I just don’t have the capacity at the moment’, I this way you will always have the ability to rest, or deal with surprising developments without stretching yourself.
Gift yourself a year of “no”: “Some people decide to have a year of yes, and have amazing experiences because of it. But, for many of us, saying ‘yes’ isn’t the problem – it’s what gets us into trouble in the first place! So, gift yourself a year, month or even week of “no.” Tell your friends and family that you’re doing so, and then decline every offer, every request that comes to you in that time. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you will find gaps in your usually-busy schedule.”
Forrester warns against filling space that becomes available in your life. “We can become addicted to ‘the busy.’ I know, I have been there. When you slow down, you’re going to feel the adrenaline – the angst – that you have been living with. But don’t distract yourself with more tasks. Sit with those feelings, be quiet or creative, and you will eventually acclimatize to the new pace of life,” Forrester said.