Have you noticed those signs on old roads or bridges that warn about the maximum load the road can tolerate? Probably not because “maximum load” is one of those signs we don’t read.
By “maximum load” I mean doing all that we can tolerate...and no more. Bridges aren’t designed to handle the maximum load continuously – only for short periods of time. The same applies to the human body and spirit. We can take on a lot, but then need to back off from the maximum load to relieve the stress.
There are signs in my life that indicate that I’ve reached or exceeded my maximum load and it’s time to back off. They are:
- I haven’t had a manicure in weeks...or months.
- The top of my desk looks like a paper recycling center.
- I can’t remember the last time I had a date night with my husband. When it’s really bad, I forget that I have a husband.
- My daily “to do” list would be impossible to complete in a week.
- I’ve lost my enthusiasm for exercise.
- I’ve spent more time in the drive through lane than the kitchen.
- The people whom I normally love in my life have become annoying, grumpy and hard to get along with. (Surely it could not be ME???)
A number of years ago I hit the maximum load, missed all the signs and kept going. A series of unrelated, coincidental events hit all in the space of a few months - new job, deaths of two friends, serious illness of another, life threatening experience of my husband, market crash, hurricane, family events. Most of these were not within my control. Sometimes life just hands us a maximum load. There were also other events that people looked to me for help and I kept taking on more.
Finally I hit the wall. I walked into my office one day and stared at the wall. I said to myself "Susan, turn around and
look at your computer. Go to work.” But I couldn't move. I was just too tired, burned out, exhausted. If one more person asked me to do one more thing for them, solve one more problem, take on one more responsibility, I was going to scream....literally.
Instead I turned around and started writing down what I needed to do to get out of this pattern. This is what I wrote:
- Exercise beginning today and three to four times a week.
- Schedule time in the morning to pray, mediate and journal.
- What in my schedule can I resign from/ stop doing?
- What responsibilities can I delegate either temporarily or long term?
- What is coming up that I can say “no” to, even if it’s a “good thing”?
- Schedule a vacation or a break to look forward to.
- Spend time doing something out of my ordinary routine...best if it’s something that stimulates the senses in a different way. (Examples for me are outdoors activities, art exhibits, symphony.)
- Who in my support network do I need to spend more time with?
This plan always works for me – immediately my stress is relieved when I start taking the steps above. Of course, the preventive measure is to read the signs early.
What are the signs that indicate you are approaching “maximum load”?