6 Signs You’re Spread Too Thin (and what to do about it)


We moved to a new house, in a new state about this time last year. There was so much opportunity I saw in this new place for myself and my family!

Previously we lived in several different states, moving every year or so for 4 years in a row. At one point we lived in 4 different homes in a 24 month period! We knew that we would eventually find something permanent, but all the different moves made it a fun adventure and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything! There were no ties to any people, and no worries about the places were living, as we knew we would be leaving them behind eventually.

Because we knew that our time in each place was short lived, we never really immersed ourselves in the community. We didn’t attempt to make friends and we didn’t really care too much about what was happening locally. We loved this time in our lives, but it was fleeting, and so were we.

Things are different now. We came to Maine for keeps and don’t have any plans to move for a very long time.

With this settling down of our family, I thought it was time we got involved in the community, school, local government, gardens, find new places to go, make new friends, and anything else that I could cram in there!

I jumped right, joining committees, clubs and taking on new commitments. I connected with the Maine DOT and bothered them until they came to town to erect new speed limit signs. I was selected to be on my town’s planning board, I got Adam to sign up for the Parks Committee. We volunteered ourselves to shovel sidewalks, pick up trash, and power wash fences. We enrolled the kids in all the sports they already had been playing, and also doubled booked them with new activities like, karate, skiing and ice skating. We accepted new friend’s invitations to hang out and extended our own. I started yoga classes at a new studio that’s 30 minutes from my house. We’ve spoken at career day and chaperoned field trips. I donated time and money to the school garden, and I even agreed to fill out grants for future funding! Grants - what was I thinking! I don’t know how to write grants! The list goes on and on and on and on…

Recently, I started to experience some serious signs that this was all too much. I was crumbling under my good intentions and I needed to figure out how to get my own life back. It may seem obvious to you, just looking at the list of things I was committing to, but for me it took a while to see that I needed to cut back.

Maybe you do too?

6 signs you’re spread too thin.

1. You’re constantly sick or feeling run down.

The entire winter my family and I were sick. It was a revolving door at the doctor’s office, and most of the time the real issue was nothing more than a “virus”. The sick, tired, and run down feeling continued into the spring, we just haven’t caught a break!

Worse than being sick I was beginning to feel exhausted, like all the time. Have you ever gone to bed early and still woken up exhausted? Ever feel hungover when you didn’t have a single cocktail? That was me. Perpetually exhausted. And if that sounds like you, perhaps you have too much on your plate too!

2. Everything annoys you.

If you feel like you want to pick a fight with anyone for anything, or that the simplest thing might just put you over the edge, then you may be stretched too thin. Feeling irritable and annoyed all the time likely means that you are irritated and annoyed, but not necessarily for the way your husband is chewing his food or the obnoxious lady in the checkout line behind you.

You’re likely annoyed and irritated with all the things that are keeping you from a balanced, relaxed lifestyle. In other words, your to-do list.

3. You can’t concentrate.

Distraction is a sign that there is too much on our plates! I’m easily distracted to begin with, but if I find myself bouncing around from project to project and not able to focus on one thing for an extended period of time, that’s a sign there’s an issue. Especially if it’s something that I enjoy, or want to be doing!

Concentration is vital to accomplishing tasks and goals and if you’re unable to focus on the things that you really want to be doing, you’ll know something's gotta give.

4. You’re anxious.

I get this horribly tight jaw sometimes. It feels like my teeth want to clench together and it actually hurts. This comes and goes, and can last a few hours to days at a time. It took me a while to notice this subtle feeling, but now I know its anxiousness manifesting in my body physically.

We all get anxiety and stressed, sometimes we actually feel it. Pay close attention to what you’re feeling in your body, your physical self may be trying to tell you to slow down and relax.

5. You’re cutting corners.

This is absolutely my M.O.! When I’m overbooked and completely overwhelmed, I have a hard time pulling away from my commitments or responsibilities. Instead I figure, I’ll just half-ass them all!

Not a good plan.

If you are cutting corners, producing less then quality results, only half way showing up for your friends and family, then you know it’s time to delegate something from your list or sit out the next chaperone trip, pie baking contest, or birthday party.

6. You stop making time for yourself.

I’ve been practicing yoga for 20 years. Sometimes in a studio, sometimes at home, with on and off consistency. I also have been meditating for years now. I also happen to enjoy spa treatments! Manicures, pedicure, massages and facials are some of my regular indulgences. These are the things that I most enjoy, and recently I realized I was putting ALL these things to the back burner. Why? No time! That was my excuse at least, and it's true, I stretched myself too thin and the things that most make me feel healthy and relaxed fell off the list.

If you find yourself with not enough time in the day to do the things you enjoy, whether that’s yoga or running, spa days, painting, or reading, you need to seriously consider if you are taking on too much.

Ok, so we all overbook our calendars and spread ourselves too thin from time to time, so what can we do about it?

Learn when and how to say no.

The reason people over book their calendar is for one of two reasons. Either they see everything as equally important, or they have a hard time saying no.

Let’s fix the first issue…When to say no.

You have to get your priorities straight if you want your life and your sanity back! That means you need to figure out when to say no. It will become very clear when to say no, if you understand what your goals, values, and priorities are.

Think about listing all the goals you have right now from most important to least important. They can be short term goals, like things you want to accomplish within the week, or longer term goals that might be on your list for months at a time.

Let’s say at the top of your list you have… kids sports, your career, and yoga practice.

Knowing what’s at the very top of your list makes it easier to say no to the things that are currently less important, like the garden club, harassing the DOT for speed limit signs, or the parks committee! It doesn’t mean those things don’t have their place, but if you’re stressed out and stretched too thin, you may need a reminder of what’s really important – I know I did!

The second part…How to say no.

No is a complete sentence. Have you heard that one before? Yes, we all have. Then why is it so darn hard to just say no! I struggle with this sometimes, and one of the things that I’ve found most helpful is to take time and give things some space before I respond.

I have this tendency to quickly say, sure, and commit to things, before I’ve even thoroughly read the email requesting my help in the first place!

If you’re feeling stretched too thin and need some more time in your life, do yourself a favor and try one of these simple, yet highly effective, responses before committing to the next thing that comes your way:

  • Let me think about it.

  • Let me check my calendar and I’ll get back to you.

  • I’m not sure yet, but I’ll let you know.

Once you have thought about it and decided that you don’t want to take on anything new right now, feel confident that you can “just say no”. It wasn’t a kick-ass DARE slogan for nothing people!

Once I got myself in check and started to say no to things that didn’t line up to my current goals, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I could breathe again. I started to feel better about everything and was able to get back on track with my family, my personal health goals, and the things I find fun to do. I was less irritable (a little less) and I felt a lot more in control.

I know it’s hard, if you’re a woman, especially a mother, you may feel the pressure of wanting to be all the things to everybody. But that’s not fair. It’s not fair to you or to them. A well balanced and relaxed spouse, mother, business owner, friend, or community member is always better than one that is freaked out, overwhelmed and exhausted.

What about you? What are the signs you pick up on when you know you are seriously over-doing it? I’d love to hear from you, leave a comment below and share your thoughts on this topic - that is, if you have the time :)

Thanks for reading!