Stop pushing yourself so hard

Do you ever feel like you’re racing around so much that your life is a blur?

The other day, I was talking to a good friend of mine who is also a business owner. She was telling me that she has been terribly exhausted, to the point of having to go to bed by 6:30 pm on some nights. She continued to say that something “felt fundamentally off” within her body. This was very concerning. I wanted to exclaim: “Stop pushing yourself so hard!”

We were confirming a meeting for the following day so that I could help with setting up her blog. I suggested that we postpone it until she felt more rested and nourished instead of cramming one more thing into her Friday afternoon. Her response was, “Oh, I will be totally fine by tomorrow.”

Why do we do this to ourselves?

I see this tendency, especially with women, to push ourselves…even past the point of exhaustion. Is it because of an ancestral influence? A drive for perfectionism? A deep desire to please? Or maybe it has an ego-driven root with thoughts like “If I don’t do it, who will?” or “I better do it because then I’ll know it will be done right.”

In any event, the negative impact that “pushing” can have on our health and emotions can range from mild to severe. When it gets passed the warning signs, it can take years to recover.

Pic credit: Drew Hays

When you’re racing around 24/7, it’s hard to have anything in focus.

As a female entrepreneur, I am very attuned to this because for years I suffered from adrenal fatigue. At first, I didn’t really know that what I was experiencing had a name. I honestly thought being exhausted was just a sign of working to my fullest potential. I was brought up with a father who praised hard work, long hours, and “something to show” at the end of the day. This was my culture and a belief that stayed with me for many, many years. Can you relate?

Even after being handed the diagnosis of adrenal fatigue back in 2008 (determined by live blood cell analysis), I still had a mental block and a way of thinking that made me proud of it. I thought that now there was proof that I was “giving it my all.” I didn’t really take any action at that time, and I continued to move along in the same ways as before. In fact, I remember if my calendar had too much “white space” on it, I’d panic and immediately fill it with something.

Do you have internal wrestles when it comes to taking breaks, scheduling in downtime, or shutting down the “monkey mind?”

When we are in the whirlwind of our own life, it can be very challenging to create the stillness needed to ponder the cause and effect of our symptoms.

So what can we do about this?

1. Recognize Your Pattern

How we are in life, is usually how we are in business as well. Do you multi-task like a pro? I remember times when I had multiple streams going on simultaneously. I’d be watching an instructional YouTube video, replying to an email, monitoring facebook alerts, and still thinking that something was missing — like Pandora!

Be aware of the static, the mental ping pong of thoughts, of jumping to the next project before you have completed the previous one, and so on.

2. Prioritize Your “To-do” List

Writing down your tasks (in order of importance) and getting it out of your head is helpful. Some people find it most effective to do this the night before. I actually prefer to do it first thing in the morning, so it is not hanging over my head at the end of the day. Just stick with whatever works for you.

3. Do One Thing At A Time

Put your full mental focus on the thing that you are doing, whether it is putting a presentation together or making dinner. Minimize the number of tabs that you have open (literally and figuratively), and focus on the task at hand.

One-pointed presence will make a huge difference in your stress levels.

4. Ask If It’s Necessary

This question is very powerful, whether it‘s related to an errand or even music. “Busy” doesn’t mean productive or needed.

Regarding tunes, use music to move emotions when needed (relax, energize, etc.) vs. a continuous distraction.

5. Don’t Over Commit

Thinking that you can schedule a conference call in the car on the way to an appointment, where after you‘ll also pick up a few groceries, and catch the kids open house Doesn’t…Serve…Anyone. You may be able to accomplish it all but at what expense?

Space out your schedule and respect that you’re not a robot punching through the day. You‘ll be surprised at the outcome!

Many health issues happen gradually over time. Let’s try to be less professional “DO-ers” and more compassionate “BE-ings” — Our overall well-being will thank us for it!

I‘d love to know how you prevent burnout. Share with me in the comments below.