Pursue What Matters
Episode 159: Are You Doing Too Much?
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Are you on the path to burnout? Next question, is it possible that you are putting yourself on the path to burnout? It’s time to take a look?
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:11
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So of course, after the past two years we’ve been through, there may be several reasons you feel burned out. So there are probably been many forces outside of you pushing on you, demanding a lot of you burnout is definitely a thing. But today, I want to talk about the ways that you may be pushing yourself to the brink so that you can pull yourself back to safe ground. So the question I have for you today is are you doing too much are your choices leading you toward burnout. So do you sometimes feel like you’re on a runaway train, you know that this is not going to end well, and yet you don’t feel a sense of control over your situation, that is not a good feeling. And today, I want to help you better understand if this might be happening for you. And then of course, we’ll focus on what you can do to help yourself bring that train to a safe stop.
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:35
Because life is hard enough without pushing ourselves unnecessarily. So it’s good to push towards growth, but we don’t want to push ourselves off of a cliff. So of course, every week with the podcast, my goal is to help you pursue what matters by strengthening your confidence to lead, we do that in one of three areas. So leading with clarity, which is all about connection to purpose, leading with curiosity, which is all about building self awareness. So you can lead yourself well. And then of course, leading and building a community. And so today, primarily with a podcast, we’re really helping you with self awareness and self leadership. So we’re taking a look at curiosity, helping you to be curious about your own patterns, your own choices, your own behavior, so that as you can understand yourself a little bit better, you can make choices that support your well being. And so that’s really what we want to pay attention to today. So my first question for you is, how do you know if you’re doing too much, right? It’s so easy. It’s almost like the plague of our of our society that everyone’s too busy. Everyone’s doing too much all the time. I’ve talked about the badge of busyness before and, you know, if, if most of us were asked this question of are you doing too much? We’d say yes, absolutely, we are. So my question is, how do you know if you’re doing too much.
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:03
So one of the biggest signs that we want to pay attention to is you might be experiencing burnout. So let’s define burnout. So it is a state of emotional physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Okay, so this happens over time, burnout isn’t something that just suddenly happens one day, it’s not like catching a cold. It is a state that evolves over time. And it’s really important to pay attention to these three components of exhaustion, emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion, you are spent on every level. And so it occurs when you feel overwhelmed when you feel emotionally drained, when you feel unable to meet constant demands. And you know, this is a this is an accumulative process. So as the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place. So we really see a big hit to motivation. And then we also see this phenomenon of depersonalization, where we just don’t care very much. It’s easy to objectify people in those situations. And, you know, for most of us that is in opposition to our values, but it is one of those signs of that emotional, physical and mental exhaustion. So now let’s talk a little bit about the impact of burnout, the impact of doing too much. So, you know, some of the impacts include reduced productivity, it absolutely saps your energy. It leaves you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Right? And none of those are good states to be in. Over time, you may feel like you have nothing more to give. So you just feel spent. When I think about burnout, I think about this feeling of just being spent feeling empty. So When it comes to burnout, the negative effects of burnout really do spill over into every area of your life. So whether that’s home, whether that’s work, whether that’s social life, so think about that, if you feel spent, you have nothing more to give it right, that’s going to show up a home, that’s gonna show up at work that’s going to show up with your social life, right? Like, where maybe you use to socialize, like to go out to dinner with friends, or whatever, you just find yourself not having the energy. To do that it feels like too much effort. The thing to pay attention to with burnout.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:35
Of course, there are lots of problems that can also cause long term changes to your body that make you vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flu. So I’ve talked a lot about stress on the podcast. And I often say stress is not the problem. But unmanaged stress. So stress that we’re not consistently coping with can become a real problem. And of course, one of the big impacts of chronic unmanaged stress is the hit that it takes to your body. So we’ll talk about some of these physical symptoms in a minute. But it is important to pay attention to the fact that, that while burnout as a state is reversible, right, we can help ourselves, we can back away from that cliff, some of the impacts of burnout may not be reversible, right? So we think about that, particularly, as it relates to the physical impact of burnout. And so now let’s, let’s take a look at the second issue, which are signs that you may be doing too much. So how do you know if this is showing up for you? So these symptoms of doing too much usually show up in three different areas. So the different areas are behavioral symptoms, right? So what’s what’s happening with your behaviors, your actions? The second category is emotional symptoms. So how’s your mood? How are you feeling about life? How are you feeling about yourself. And then the third area is physical symptoms, right, which I just kind of gave you a little heads up on. So let’s take a look first at behavioral symptoms.
Dr. Melissa Smith 7:14
So again, remember, these are signs, you may be doing too much signs, you might be on the path to burnout. So some of the behavioral symptoms include withdrawing, so maybe you’re pretty social and you find yourself withdrawing from friends not getting together. With folks who used to really enjoy spending time with, maybe you’re falling behind in your work, maybe you feel like you can’t ever catch up. So maybe you know, in the past, you’ve been really good at staying on top of, say, your email. And now you’re at a point where you just you can’t keep up with it, it just feels too overwhelming. So isolating, right? So we just at the end of a long week, we’d rather just be home alone, than with other people, procrastinating. That’s a big one. When you feel overwhelmed when you feel chronically overwhelmed and stressed. Everything feels like it’s too much. And so it’s very easy to fall into a trap of procrastination, where you’re putting things off. And of course, this only exacerbates that experience of burnout, because then we’ve got more that we’re behind on. Another behavioral symptom includes ineffective coping.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:28
So maybe in order to help yourself with the stress, you start eating a lot of carbs out. That’s that is definitely stress coping behavior. It’s not a very effective one. But maybe you’re you’re eating a lot of food, or you’re eating different foods. If you’re eating mindlessly, we also think about your use of alcohol or drugs, do you find that you’re, you’re relying on your drink at the end of the night, and then one drink turns into two drinks turns into three drinks. We also think about numbing behaviors, right? So all of these that I’ve mentioned are not mean behaviors, but think about other forms of numbing that don’t necessarily include a substance, right? So we’re not talking necessarily about food, or alcohol, but we’re just we’re checking out through, you know, a Netflix binge or something like that. Another behavioral symptom, it includes blaming others. So instead of being able to take responsibility for our part or our choices, it we fall into a trap of blaming others. That feeling picked on. Another behavioral symptom includes issues at work. So missing work coming in late, leaving early, you know, you’ve got a lot to do, but you just you can’t stay any longer. And so those are some of the behavioral symptoms that you might be doing too much. And so if any of those sound familiar, keep listening. We’re going to do and talk about some ways that we can start slowing down that train keep you away from that cliff. So we’re mixing some metaphors there. So now let’s talk about some of the emotional symptoms of doing too much. So, you know, in a word, you’re overwhelmed, you’ve just got too much going on. You hate what you once loved. So think about your work, maybe it’s work that you’ve been really passionate about, you feel a great sense of meaning, but you don’t like it anymore. Or you, you know, you’re feeling cynical and resentful about it. That is a sure sign that you need a break that you’re doing too much that you may be on that path to burnout, you’re not happy.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:42
So it’s harder for you to connect to happiness, and to feel joy in your life. So maybe you’re also feeling anxious or depressed. So things that you used to take on at work are now leaving you really fearful or anxiety ridden, or you just don’t care anymore, right? That’s that can be one of the ways that depression shows up is you just have a loss of interest in things that you used to care about. So some of the other emotional symptoms include negative self talk, and self doubt. So are you beating up on yourself? Are you judging yourself? Are you really self critical, we really want to pay attention to that that can set in when we’re doing too much, because we’re overwhelmed. We don’t know how to help ourselves. And so it’s very easy to conclude that we are the problem. And that really just sets up that cycle of negative self talk. So some of the other emotional symptoms include loss of confidence, things that you used to be able to do you just you feel scared about, or you don’t want to do them. And so you start to question yourself more, which I think is one of the most challenging symptoms, because it just erodes your sense of self. rumination. So rumination is similar to negative self talk. But when we think about rumination, it’s getting caught on a track of of negative self talk. So maybe, you know, you say, Oh, I’m such an idiot. And then that plays like a record, like a broken record in your mind. And you just you ruminate about these negative feelings. And it’s so easy to get trapped in that and to really feel hopeless pretty quickly. And that is another emotional symptom, you feel trapped, you feel hopeless, you keep looking for escape hatches, right, it’s all just too much. I just want to quit it all, I just want to burn it all down. I have definitely felt that way, at times. And it’s like when I can stop and take a take a step back. And remember, hey, like, I have a lot of sense of meaning and purpose, then we can like call off the fire brigade. And you know, we don’t want to burn it all down.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:51
But it’s easy to get into that trap state if we’re not careful if we’re doing too much. And then the last emotional symptom that I want to talk about today is loss of motivation. You just don’t care. So I mentioned that. But things that you used to have a lot of motivation for. You just you can’t harness motivation for those things anymore. And that can also be a really troubling sign for people because they start to ask what’s wrong with me. And what I would say is, there’s nothing wrong with you, but you might be doing too much. So we really want to look at how can we help you restructure your days, and your work schedule so that you can reconnect with your sense of purpose and meaning, and recognizing that motivation and confidence will come as you as you engage practices that are designed to support your well being. So now let’s talk about the physical symptoms. So we’ve talked about behavioral symptoms and emotional symptoms. And when it comes to physical symptoms, we have exhaustion, so we just have this deep, I always think about as bone deep fatigue, or exhaustion, that it’s just really hard to overcome. And some of that might be due to difficulty sleeping, that’s another symptom. But sometimes you can be getting adequate sleep, but you are still exhausted, you’re still fatigued. And you know, sometimes that’s because your immune system is a bit compromised because of this chronic state of doing too much. And also we think about the the energy required around some of these symptoms, right, the emotional symptoms, the cognitive and behavioral symptoms, they drain us of energy.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:36
So in addition to the exhaustion, difficulty sleeping, you might also experience psychomotor agitation so there’s some nice psychobabble For you what does that mean? That means restlessness, this agitation within your body? So we think about tapping toes we think about I can’t sit still my mind is racing. i My heart rate is racing and you might not even know why right, you might just be this pit in your stomach, that psychomotor agitation is one of the physical manifestations of anxiety. And that can be quite troubling because you might even be in a state where you’re not feeling anxious specifically about something right, like you can’t pin it down. But you’ve got this agitation. And so it’s like your body is running on on high. And it’s having a hard time cycling down gearing down. Frequent illnesses are another physical symptom. So this is one of the ways that doing too much can lead to irreversible effects. So you have compromised immunity, right, because of all the energy it takes to manage this chronic stress. And so you open the door to more illnesses, I’ve had folks that I have worked with where we can predict really well, how they are doing based on how many colds they’ve had in the last six months. And so it absolutely is a thing is something to really pay attention to, maybe you have a harder time fighting off, illnesses or illnesses get entrenched, and they stick around for quite a long time. And so, you know, of course, if that continues, sometimes that can open the door to these autoimmune illnesses where your body is just on chronic heightened alert. And obviously, we want to avoid that as much as possible. And of course, not all autoimmune illnesses are due to doing too much, I just want to make that clear. But we do want to pay attention to these physical symptoms. So another one could be headaches, you are getting chronic headaches or an increase in headaches. We’ve already talked about an increase in health concerns, you might also be experiencing muscle aches, joint aches, right, so this body is just running on high. And then another physical symptom is brain fog.
Dr. Melissa Smith 17:02
So this is I kind of think about this as cognitive exhaustion, right, like your mind is fatigued. And so when we have brain fog, it we have difficulty thinking we have difficulty processing. And I know for myself, when I you know, in the middle of fatigue or exhaustion, I can I get to a point in the day where it’s like, I can’t think anymore, it’s time to lay down, reset, and let that brain fog lift. And so one of the best ways to do that is to get some rest. And so now we have talked about this question of how do you know if you’re doing too much, we’ve defined burnout, we’ve talked about the impact of burnout, and then we’ve talked about the signs, you may be doing too much. We’ve talked about this in three different areas behavioral emotional, and physical symptoms. And so I just want to wrap up with just one thing, right? So I just want you to identify one way, you can help yourself by doing less. So doesn’t that sound nice to help yourself by doing this, right. So if one of the problems a core problem here is you’re doing too much, we’ve got to find a way to help you do less. So I’m going to just throw out some ideas. And the idea here is let’s keep it simple. Let’s make it be something that you could reasonably do in the next couple of days.
Dr. Melissa Smith 18:32
Okay, so when it comes to behavioral change for many of us, it’s not a lack of knowledge or lack of awareness. Most of us know we need to make some changes. What where we get caught is that we overthink change, or we see change as this big mountain. It’s like, Oh, that feels impossible. Like there’s so many things that need to be fixed. And so we don’t start, right, we don’t, we don’t get off of Go. And so when we think about just doing one thing, we want to break down behavioral change, recognizing that it’s really like a snowball rolling downhill as you can make one small change, you start to build some momentum, you start to build some confidence, you start to build some motivation. And so we want to keep it simple. And so I’m just going to throw out some ideas of one way, you can help yourself by doing less and this is something that you could do either today, or in the next day or two.
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:33
Okay, so first one, say no to something this week. It could be big, it could be small, but say no, you don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to say yes. Don’t answer your phone. Don’t worry, don’t reply to texts. I like that one. I used to be a slave to my phone. And I’m just I’m not anymore. The the phone is a tool for me, but it works at my leisure And so I don’t feel any obligation to return phone calls. Of course, if it’s someone on my team, someone I work closely with, I’m diligent about returning those phone calls. But even still, if someone calls you, you don’t need to answer the phone. Right? Right. In that minute, you can call them back voicemails that thing for a reason. So take something off your schedule. If you look at your schedule over the next week, is there something you can eliminate? Is there some, some shift you can make to make it a little more efficient? You know, as I took a look at my schedule this week, there were some some funky little things in there, right. And I am not totally in charge of my schedule, right? Like I have folks that help to create my schedule. And as I looked at that schedule, I’m like, okay, like, it could work. But it’s not very efficient. And it’s not very effective. And in fact, the schedule made me less effective, because I was having to move in between tasks and projects, which is not helpful for me when I think about how I do my best work. And so we made some shifts to that schedule for the week, and now it’s much cleaner, it’s more efficient, it’s more effective. And so if you can’t take something off of your schedule, can you make a shift? Can you make it more efficient, a little more effective.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:24
Okay, another way you can help yourself by doing less is can you commit to getting eight hours of sleep in the next couple of nights. So one night, eight hours of sleep, let’s work on that. Or if you’re if you’re rounding out around five or six hours, first of all, no wonder you’re on the path to burnout. But second, can you just inch up your sleep time by even a half an hour, let’s just start getting that snowball rolling. Another way you can help yourself by doing less is to eat without distractions. And I would expand that right like to do something without distractions. One of the things that can be so exhausting to us is, we are doing one thing behaviorally, but our mind is somewhere else. And that is a recipe for stress overload. And so do something, whatever it is, whether it’s eating, whether it’s going on a walk, that do it without distractions, right, don’t take care of business calls while you’re on your walk, because that is going to make the benefit of the walk null and void if you’re not careful. And then another way that you can help yourself by doing less, remind yourself that you are doing okay.
Dr. Melissa Smith 22:31
So you might have very high standards for yourself, you might feel overwhelmed, you might feel like you’re barely keeping your head above water. But remind yourself that you’re doing okay, have some self compassion, it makes a big difference. And then my last recommendation is actually to do one thing that you’ve been putting off. So I know this list is all about helping yourself by doing less. But I want to make the case for taking care of one thing that you’ve been putting off, maybe you’ve been procrastinating it. It’s something that’s been on your to do list and you just keep moving it down the line, make it small. But the reason I want you to do this is because it will help you to get traction when we have tasks on our list that just continue to accumulate week after week. Yep, I still didn’t do that. Yep, I still gonna do that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 23:19
First of all, do you really need to do it, because maybe you don’t. But if you do need to do it, getting it off the list will free up so much energy. And that will really help you to increase your motivation. And just a belief in yourself that you know what, when I decide to do something, I can do it. So that’s the last exception to this list. It’s it’s having you do one thing, but make it small, make it manageable. So I hope that this is helpful for you, right, we’re thinking about one way, you can help yourself by doing less. And then I hope you will join me in an upcoming episode, where we’re going to learn about the different causes of doing too much. So we’re really going to help you problem solve this and really look at where can you most effectively help yourself like where are you going to get the most bang for your buck. And so we’re going to look at these causes of doing too much so that you can target your efforts. So watch for that. That’s coming up in a couple of weeks.
Dr. Melissa Smith 24:21
And in the meantime, head on over to my website to check out the show notes. With the resources for this episode. You can find those at www.drmelissasmith.com/159-doingtoomuch. So one more time. That’s www.drmelissasmith.com/159-doingtoomuch. And please consider joining me on Instagram @dr.melissasmith. I would love to connect with you there. I’m always talking about these issues in a little more detail. I’ll giving you some resources. And so I hope to see you there. And if you don’t mind leaving a review of the podcast as always helpful. I love getting your feedback and I want to know what you want to hear about. So in the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
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