Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ebbs and Flows

Yesterday's post led me to think about energy ebbs and flows. Although I didn't have this problem before I began taking medication fifteen years ago, and even though I'm off most everything, the problem has remained.

So...when I have a bit too much energy, if I'm not careful (and I've learned to control this to a great degree), I over-commit myself. It used to be a huge problem, so I vividly remember the worst of this behavior.

Suffice it to say that it's one thing to enthusiastically embrace new projects. It's quite another to commit to too many things at once, to assume a leadership position in every project, to make promises that are unrealistic, and to have to bow out (at some point) because my energy flow has begun to ebb.

As embarrassing as it used to feel, I would ultimately have to say, "I'm sorry. I've over-committed myself. I can't possibly do all the tasks I've volunteered for. So...while I'm willing to continue (or not), I need others to step forward or I'll have to step down.

When I put it this way, people truly didn't have an option, which was exactly my intention. If they said they'd help me, I'd stay involved--although to a much lesser degree. If they didn't, then I, too, would quit.

And actually it usually worked itself out. The bottom line was that I may have been over-involved, but they were usually under-involved. And that wasn't fair either--even if it was my own fault.

These days I rarely have this happen. But, there still are times when I have to learn the same lesson over again. And as painful as it feels, I've made great progress.

Question: How do you handle situations where you've over-committed yourself? What tips and advice can you give to others?


KJ said...

I have never been good at saying no. So I often found myself overcommitting and then getting overwhelmed. I try to really think through what the time cost will be first and not say a word until I can picture doing it and having the time to do it. I used to keep a sticky note on my phone that said breathe first so that I would give myself a few seconds before just saying yes to something I really couldn't do. I am a lot better now.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear KJ,
That's great advice. And it took me a long time to be able to say no without feeling bad about it. I imagine many other people have the same problem, so it probably would be a good subject to post about.

P.S. I love the visual image of a sticky note on a telephone with the words "breathe first."

marja said...

Dear Susan,
As you've seen from my last post, I'm having that problem right now. When you get into a high mood you want to do everything. You feel capable of everything. Such a dangerous place to be!

I've invited people over tonight, tomorrow night, Friday night and Sunday. When I stand back and get a clear picture of what I'm doing, I can see I'm over-committing. We never learn completely not to do that, do we?

Thanks for visiting my site this morning and pointing out your concerns to me. I appreciate that.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marja,
It is a problem, isn't it, and that's why I was concerned. But, I think if we can just learn to identify what we're doing, perhaps we can stop it. Maybe, having people over on Friday and Sunday would have been enough? (smiling face).

And, you're welcome. That's what friends are for.


Emma said...

I am learning to become a little more cautious and measured in my approach to life. It may not be 'impulsive' or 'spontaneous', but it is flexible enough for me not to become overwhelmed by commitments. I allow myself a certain number of appointments in a day or week, and I do TRY to stay within the limit! (Not a good look otherwise!) Small steps, but it does help. I also loved KJ's 'Breathe First'! Such good advice.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Emma,
More good advice. I think it's a great idea to control the number of appointments in a day or week, and commit to staying within the limit.

I try and do that too. In the past I might have said to myself, "But I need to do this or that."

Then I realized that I wasn't being truthful with myself. If my top priority is remaining well, then I don't need to do anything that doesn't promote wellness.

It sounds so obvious, but it took me a long time to figure it out.


shawnalyne said...

Great response to finding yourself in over your head--this will come in handy for me in the near future!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Shawn,
Welcome to my blog. So glad to hear that it will help. Thanks for letting me know!