You are three coffees into the day, countless assignments are due this week and you are late to sports practice. Oh, and now your boss has just texted asking you to cover tonight’s shift.
There are times when everyone can feel overwhelmed and sometimes that is unavoidable. However, if this becomes a regular occurrence, it is important to consider if you are taking on too much. Whilst some signs may feel more obvious – such as feeling stressed or overwhelmed – other signs are less so.
Without further ado, these are 9 signs that you’re taking too much on and what to do about it.
1) You are out of the loop with your friends
Sure, information can get lost in group chats when you aren’t online for a few hours. However, if you are finding out about breakups a week after the event, it is a sign you are too absent from your social circle.
Prioritize some time to catch up with friends and socialize every week. Humans are social creatures (typically) and meeting up with friends is a great way to relax or let off steam. If you have to, timetable in time to dedicate to your friends in your weekly schedule – even for a weekly girl’s night.
2) You are performing poorly
There is a saying about “spreading yourself too thin” and if your performance is deteriorating this is probably the case. Taking on too many tasks can actually have a detrimental effect on how you perform – be it in sports, exams or class. It is great to be ambitious and have a good work ethic, but there comes a time when you need to evaluate if you could be self-sabotaging by overworking yourself.
Focus on the quality not the quantity of the work you put in. That could look like: taking fewer shifts at work during the week, staggering revision sessions as opposed to cramming them into one day or cutting down on an extracurricular activity.
3) Your sleep pattern is disrupted
If you find yourself exhausted on a regular basis or tossing and turning for hours before finally falling asleep, chances are your busy schedule is impacting your valuable sleep. Bear in mind that both over and under-sleeping are signs of stress. The NHS states that 'One in 3 of us suffers from poor sleep, with stress, computers and taking work home often blamed'.
Make it a priority to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night – set an alarm to wake up and when you need to start getting ready for bed if you have to! Routines take time to cement but once you start getting solid hours of sleep in research suggests it can be hugely beneficial to your wellbeing. If you struggle to unwind at night, try to set aside 30 minutes relax before bed. This could be with a hot bath, book or episode on Netflix.
4) There is a fluctuating change in your weight or appetite
When you are consistently late for, rush or miss meals, it is a sign that you are perhaps not looking after your body as you should be.
Although stress can result in a loss of appetite, try to eat at set intervals regardless. Your body needs fuel and you don’t want to risk burning out. Plan for a proper breakfast, lunch break, and a sit-down dinner. Eating with others (family or friends) is a fantastic way to catch up and socialize too, making you more likely to relax and enjoy your meal.
5) You have a headache that you can't seem to get rid of
The NHS lists headaches as one of the top signs of stress. Chances are, you are feeling burnt out and overwhelmed. Physical symptoms such as headaches are your body’s way of asking for a break.
Listen to your body! Keep hydrated and carry a water bottle with you during the day. If you are at home, you could take a power nap or rest. For some, a walk and some fresh air can help alleviate the stress behind the headache. You can find information on basic mindfulness on the mental health charity Mind’s website too – a popular technique used to help reduce stress and regain self-control.
6) You are easily irritated
If you find yourself snapping at everyone and everything, it could signal that you have too much on your plate. Also a common sign of stress, irritability is a sure sign that you need to simplify your schedule.
Although long term it is important to allow more time for relaxation and downtime, you should find short term strategies too. Snapping at people can be damaging to your relationships and cause even more stress. Try to set yourself simple boundaries such as: waiting 5 minutes before responding emotionally to a text, or, taking a shower when you feel yourself getting irritable.
7) You have disregarded hobbies that you love
If your football or riding boots are sporting cobwebs, it is pretty clear that you are disregarding your hobbies and need to set some time aside. Don’t underestimate the importance of having a hobby that you love! If you are concentrating on studies and boosting your resume, don’t forget that a hobby can showcase your skillset too.
Step back and look at your weekly schedule. See if there are any areas where you could cut back to allow time to do the activities you enjoy. If you are really struggling, it may help to get a family member or close friend to try to do the same – some things are just easier seen from an outside perspective. Worse comes to worst, podcasts and audio recordings are a great way to study on the move if revision is the issue.
8) You are always late
Perhaps, like myself, you are late to everything no matter how hard you try. However, if this is out of character or seems to have escalated it might be time to look at your diary.
Sometimes you just have to not cram everything into one day. Reassess your responsibilities and commitments, enlisting the help of friends and family if needed. Try to spread out your days so that they are not a caffeine-fuelled battle – even if it seems logistically possible.
9) Your hair is greasy
Perhaps not literally, but if you have noticed a lapse in your usual standard of self-care then it could be a sign that you have taken on too much.
This looks different to everybody and you know your routines best – but don’t be afraid to pause and take the time to look after yourself. You are your own priority.
Overworking yourself can affect individuals in many different ways and so there is no ‘one size fits all’ when addressing the issue. Signs that you have taken on too much can be physical or emotional, so remember to focus on both your physical and mental health. A good place to start is simply writing up your weekly schedule.
Are you truly happy with it? Is it sustainable for 6 months or more? Be selfish with your time -- it's valuable.