Self

How To Tell If You're Taking On Too Much — And What To Do About It

Relieved woman smiles at camera

A pattern has emerged among some people in my professional and personal sphere  people always trying to do more and be more. They are trying to live up to standards and beliefs that they have been force-fed by their cultural, traditional, familial, religious and societal norms.

This practice of being a "superhuman" figure directly affects our ability to function.

It can stunt growth and reduce our capacity to process emotions such as sadness, fear, excitement and joy. It also leads to disruption of the thoughts and sensations that impact your day-to-day decisions, interactions and beliefs about yourself.

It doesn't have to be that way. The first thing to do is notice that it's happening. The second thing is to do something about it before it leads to burnout — or worse.

RELATED: What Does Burnout Feel Like & How To Recover

Being a 'Superman' means always believing that you have to do more and be more.

I often hear things like, “I got to put in extra hours,” “when I get these new accounts, I can get that bonus/promotion, car, first home or the vacation home, acknowledgment” or “I have to get these last emails out.” You know, that hustling, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” type of comment.

We strive for perfection in every role we play. 

Wearing a 'cape' that we put on daily makes us feel productive, worthy, useful, purposeful and capable because we’re working to complete ‘important’ tasks. Unfortunately, that attitude can also be a source of anxiety, depression, shame, guilt and addiction.

When we don the cape, it causes us to only see what’s in front of us, making us feel like we are in survival mode with a laser focus on the task. We tend not to pay attention to our inward selves, and this can cause us to fear and question our self-worth and our abilities. When we put on that cape, not only does it come with the 'superpower' of productivity, but it also can rob us of needed vitality.

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Who are you, really? 

When I ask clients: Who are you authentically? What are your values? The challenge of identifying what we are and who you are, can sometimes leave us unable to answer and give rise to shame, guilt, and feeling judged.

This Superman or Superwoman complex we carry affects our true humanity in such a toxic manner that even the healing journey we are working on has to be perfect and measurable. It has to come with a promotion, a certificate of completion, a trophy. Because the discomfort and work that you will be experiencing and putting into this journey come with emotions that we have not had the opportunity to practice coping with in a society where everything has a price or has to be tangible.

How do you challenge your beliefs?

Here are a few signs that you're just trying to do too much and that it might be time to reevaluate your priorities:

  • You're drinking a bit more,
  • You're feeling irate.
  • You're easily frustrated.
  • You feel anxious.
  • You feel isolated and alone.

I challenge you to question the outer pressures by giving yourself permission to first slow yourself down. 

RELATED: What Is Self-Care? 7 Ideas For How To Take Care Of Yourself Every Single Day

Exercises to help you find focus and slow down

Slow down your breathing as you slowly inhale through your nose and exhale out your nose. As you do this for a count of four between each breath, this will activate your autonomic nervous system, which controls your digestion, and blood pressure. Your brain will begin to calm.

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Once you’ve been able to keep a slow breathing pace for a few minutes, ask yourself, "What is important?"

Then, ask yourself this question: “What do I need?”  

Practice patience.

Just wait a few minutes. Grant yourself flexibility and empathy as you seek your answer. 

With curiosity and a calm mind, you have the space to question the existing beliefs that you have supported and have guided you down this path of shame, depression and anxiety under the premise of productivity and the quest for wealth. In order to challenge these beliefs and allow yourself to experience the raw feelings, it's important to give yourself permission to be vulnerable with your emotions and to verbalize this secret that we have been keeping from ourselves: “I can’t do it all and I don’t know it all.”

Next, you'll be ready to grant yourself the "power" to change. 

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Where do I have POWER?  

POWER is an acronym I use with my clients that allows them to determine what they need and what is worth their emotions, energy and attention.

  • Presence: Acknowledge and pay attention to the space you take up, your presence at this moment in time and to what you are experiencing.
  • Observe: Notice the role you are playing in whatever situation you are experiencing and how the environment or others around you may be affecting how you are present and how you feel.
  • Worthiness: It is important to honor your emotions and your experiences. Are you worthy to trust what you’re experiencing? To trust your emotions? To choose how you want to be present? Are energy and emotions being exerted?
  • Explore: Be curious about the options available to you. Trust that you have the power of choice in many situations. You get to decide where you have control and how you want to use it.
  • Resolve: Here you get to decide what options you will be taking action in. Do you have the ability to resolve whatever challenge you are experiencing? And by resolve, it’s not always a solution that you agree with, but a solution that you can live with because you honored your values, you responded authentically and you are free of shame and guilt.

Challenge your habits

Allow POWER to guide and ground you, as you begin to identify and practice honoring your values and boundaries, let's challenge the habit that leads you to respond with Superwoman and/or Superman traits. Using your POWER will allow you to feel the control and relief needed, to truly honor what authentically represents you as you practice being human.

As you embark on this journey, it is important to have a tribe that understands or is aware of what you are experiencing. 

RELATED: 7 Little Secrets To Making Real Adult Friendships That'll Last

Who can I identify as my true supporters? When everyone I know is trying too hard or is wearing a similar cape and/or has similar existing beliefs, who can I rely on to help me change? This can bring about that feeling of loneliness and isolation from loved ones or close friends.

A professional therapist also can serve as a self-care guide.

When we choose to seek support from a professional healer, it’s important to choose someone who is going to ask relevant questions, who can provide guidance, but also allow room for you to be curious and exploratory in your journey.

Allow yourself to be curious and willing to face the fears, to verbalize the stories you have been telling yourself and to take up the space you need and you deserve.

Remember this is your journey. Be mindful of yourself along the way. And don't try to take on more than you can handle!

RELATED: 5 Tips To Help You Develop A Solid Self-Care Plan

Nancy Andino is a licensed clinical social worker with 22 years in the healing field. Her focus is on healing individuals by providing exploratory and community healing experiences. 

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