I’ve been thinking lately about how there are external signs for me personally when I’m overwhelmed and need to get really clear on what I need next. I talked on Friday about how to reduce burnout, but how do you recognize that it’s happening before it gets to that point?
I’m in one of those stages right now which makes this top of mind. When I’m overwhelmed, I start to feel like I need to make mental space for what is going on. Unconsciously, I start to do several things. My email inbox at work gets cluttered. There are more unread emails and more emails piling up in my inbox that I don’t file away to their appropriate folders. When the number of messages in my inbox starts rapidly climbing, I know I’m in a tough spot. It could be that it’s a crunch time for something and I’m just busy. Or, it could be that something is bothering me at work and I’m having a hard time being engaged enough to make the effort to clean up my inbox.
My self care also goes out the window. I stop exercising. I may plan meals for the week, but the healthy meals I’ve planned don’t get made. I start ordering pizza instead of making the effort to prepare those meals. I also get behind on things outside of work. Blog posts are written just before they are posted and to do lists get longer and longer without checking much off.
Why do these signs matter?
Well, I used to not recognize these signs for what they are. They are signs that I need to pause and look at what’s going on. Am I taking on too much right now and need to prioritize? Is it something that is bothering me and taking up all my mental energy? If it’s the latter, do I need to talk to someone about it to get help (spouse, friend, family, work colleague, coach, therapist, etc.)?
When you start seeing the signs, you can jump to the reflection part much sooner before it all piles up and you feel overwhelmed. I’m still learning, but now I know the signs. Instead of feeling guilty that I can’t do it all, I know that it’s probably something else that’s going on.
Do you know your personal signs of overwhelm? Are they like mine or something different?