When Life Feels Like it’s Too Much

When life becomes all hustle and no rest: it just feels like too much

Our culture is plagued by “busy sickness.”

“Too many things” on our plates has us feeling over-stretched and overwhelmed. Too many things on our “to-do” list, too many responsibilities, too many irons in the fire, too many expenses, too many expectations placed on us…too many, too many, too many. It’s quite frankly, all too much.

We live in a paradox of “too many, yet never enough.” Too many activities, responsibilities, and demands on our resources. Yet never enough time, energy, money, or room to breathe (let alone, relax and replenish).

Let me take a swing at a guess at how you typically respond to overwhelm. When life gets to be too much, your typical response probably goes a little like this:

You calmly take a step back to assess your current load. You realize it’s too much, and admit adjustments are necessary. So, you evaluate which of your tasks are actually urgent and top priority, and then put all “non-urgent” items aside for another day.

You unload any responsibilities that weren’t yours to carry in the first place. You also consider which items require some assistance, and then ask others to help you carry the excessive weight.

If at the end of this exercise you still feel overwhelmed with the amount of “to-do’s”?

You seek out alternatives for additional support and revisit the responsibilities that are currently on your plate. You recognize the need for less hustle (and more peace) in your life. You consider whether a “life shift” may be necessary to account for that.

And then you commit to simplifying your schedule.

Am I right?

Oh wait…no? This isn’t your “more often than not” normal operating procedure?

Huh, me neither.

Uhhh, nope.

* * * * *

A common response to “too much” = more hustle

Why is it we fail to see overwhelm as a “red flag” telling us, “you’ve taken on too much, slow down!”? Many times we don’t pause to reassess our current situation, unload certain responsibilities, and simplify our lives. Rather, we often opt to just keep hustling.

Sometimes we treat life as a marathon. We can be tempted to view the emotional resistance as a barrier that just needs to be pushed through. When overwhelm begs us to slow down (or perhaps even tap out of the race for a bit), we often ignore it: like a runner unwilling to slow down to a walking pace, we just keep running. We believe what we need is not to slow down; but rather, to muster up the strength to just keep plowing ahead.

Culture has us trained to believe more hustle will help us build more endurance to allow us to finish the race strong and come away with the prize. Slowing down will only cause us to “fall behind” our peers. And man, we can’t have that. Because we’ve been trained to win.

* * * * *

Why do we do it? Why do we keep hustling?

There are so many things that contributes to our hustle response and overwhelming busyness. Below I’ve merely listed out four reasons that resonate with me; but there are many, many more factors that play into the “hustle.”

#1: We think we can do it all.

We think we need to do it all. Sometimes, we want to do it all.

We “need” to be the best mom, the best dad…while also killing it at a career outside of the home. We “need” to work hard to “build a name for ourselves”…while also somehow having enough time and energy to make time for family and friends. We “need” to be the “hostess with the mostest” (decorating everything “just right” and serving homemade delicacies to show off our culinary excellence). We need our kids to be in all of the activities and best educational programs; and be at every event cheering them on.

You get the idea. We can sometimes fall into the trap of believing we need to do it all and be everything to everyone.

If we can, we should…right?

Or, maybe not.

What we can fail to see when we’re operating from this “gotta do it all” mindset? The fact doing more does not make us more worthy. We cannot earn or prove our worthiness: it is an inherent right. It just is.

Yes, more “doing” may lead to more success in the world’s eyes. But success does not necessarily lead to more happiness or lasting peace. Just take one look at Hollywood: it’s saturated with “success stories.” Yet, I don’t see lasting happiness attained. Do you?

In “doing all the doing” to meet the ever-rising bar of success, our lives can become all “doing” and we can miss out on actually “living.” If our focus is constantly set on the “better life” we wish to attain, we are likely to miss out on the present one we’ve been blessed with. And the present is the only place we can truly experience love, gratitude, and God’s peace.

In all our “doing,” we can also lose sight of what’s truly important and neglect those who matter most to us. When we’re so focused on what we’re doing (and need to be doing), we can neglect the more important factors: the how and the why. How am I showing up in this world? How am I using my God-given gifts to make a positive impact in this world? How does my life reflect the love of Christ? Why am I doing what I’m doing?

If we focus on the “what” and forget about the how and the why, we can lose touch with who we’re becoming and stray off the path God intends for us.

The truth of the matter is: we just can’t be it all. It’s all just a lie. We need to be good stewards of our time: which means keeping the why and how at the forefront. And allowing the Who (God) direct where our time and energy is spent.

#2: We think we’ll be seen as weak if we don’t do it all.

There have been times in my life where I felt suffocated by all the things on my plate. And yet, I still refused to ask for help.

Have you ever fallen into this trap?

Why didn’t I just ask for help and admit “this is too much for me to handle on my own”?

Because I thought I’d be viewed as incompetent or a failure. I believed I had to prove I could be the best employee, best wife, best hostess, best friend, best (fill in the blank). I had to be the best at all of the areas in my life. If not prove it to others, at least to myself.

If I could do it all and be it all: I would be worthy, loved, and respected. If I couldn’t do it all, I felt I’d be seen as weak and “less than.”

For so long, my identity and my worth was tied to “success” and achievement. In fact, it’s still something I struggle with to this day: an area God continues to help me keep in check.

Can you relate?

The fact of the matter is, we’re all human, and we all have our limits. It doesn’t mean we’re “weak” when we admit we can’t do it all: it means we’re wise.

It’s impossible to “kill it” in all areas in life. One (or more) areas will take the brunt of your hustle: perhaps even one of the areas you care most deeply about, such as your family life or time with other loved ones.

So it’s wise to prioritize the areas wherein we exert our greatest efforts. It’s good stewardship of our time when we focus on the things that matter most. It’s vital to be selective with our “yes’s”. It’s important to say “no” to things that aren’t in line with our bigger picture goals. To also say “no” things (even “good” things) that will leave us feeling over-stretched.

#3: We think our emotions are merely barriers holding us back from meeting our “true potential.”

If you’re an over-achiever or goal-oriented person like me, your response to overwhelm and stress is most likely not, “Oh sweetie, what’s wrong? What do you need?”

Instead, it probably sounds more like, “Mmmm, no thanks, I don’t have time for you, Stress and Overwhelm. So shut up!”

Many of us have trained ourselves to think we don’t have time to deal with our emotions. We don’t want to deal with feelings (or at least, the ones that make us feel bad): we just want to make them stop.

Unfortunately, we fail to see our emotions as helpful indicators to show us when “something’s just not right.” They provide us with helpful information to help us stay in check with our needs and keep life balanced. It’s important to stop and listen to what they have to say to us.

#4: We’d rather distract or numb ourselves from uncomfortable feelings, rather than feel them.

We instinctually believe confronting the anxiety or other uncomfortable feelings left in the wake of overwhelm will only add more stress.

And more stress? No thanks, we’ve got plenty.

Rather than face our emotions, what do we often opt to do instead? Run for the hills. Numb. Distract. Avoid.

Raise your hand if you have ever found yourself wandering over to Amazon to replenish the dwindling household essentials when the stress of life becomes too much to handle?

Preach!!! Both of my hands are up in the air!  I personally have been there…many times!

Why do we do this? Why do we numb or distract?

Because it offers us temporary relief from our problems. The issue is, avoidance merely prevents us from dealing with the real issues underlying the feelings.

Our feelings are not the issue: in fact, they are helpful warning signs directing us toward the real issues that need to be addressed (like taking some things off our plates).

* * * * *

If not hustle? Then what?

Perhaps you can’t relate to the four reasons I’ve listed out above. If not, I’m still willing to bet you’ve been a victim of hustle at some point. That you’ve felt pressured to keep pressing onward, even when it felt like “too much” for you to handle.

So if hustle is ultimately not the solution to dealing with overwhelm…what then? What do we do when life becomes too much?

Well, personally, when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the things on my plate and hustle becomes my mode of operating, there are two things I have found extremely helpful: 1) slow down and 2) simplify.

In another post, I expand upon why giving up the “hustle” can feel so daunting. And perhaps even…a little bit like shooting yourself in the foot if your aim is to be successful in life. In this post, I expand upon how we often feel limited to two options: 1) hustling to achieve more success and happiness or 2) opting out of hustle and forfeit living up to our true potential and the success and happiness that brings.

I proposed a third option. Read more about this proposed alternative third way for approaching life (with less hustle) in my next post.

In an upcoming post, I’ll also be sharing some tangible actions you can take to slow down and simplify.

Until then, I encourage you to take an assessment of your current situation in life. Check in with yourself and ask yourself how you’re doing. Assess your current load and identify areas that may need to be scaled back.

Remember, we have limited time and resources in this life. So it’s incredibly important for us to simplify and exert the majority of our efforts and energy toward to the things that matter most to us.

* * * * *

Are you in?

Ready to begin looking for ways you can slow down and simplify in life?

Share with me in the comments below the areas where you could use some more simplification and less hustle. I’ve love to hear from you!

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