Are You Pushing Yourself Too Hard?
Three Signs of Self-Induced Stress and a Super Power Remedy
It’s the American way to set goals. We find something important to us, and we say yes to doing whatever it takes to achieve said goal, because ultimately we believe that reaching our goal will make us feel more happy, satisfied or supported. And so like good achievers and doers, we go for it, work our way to making the goal a reality and for a while we feel good about our progress. But then something happens along the way that stops feeling so good as we start to realize that to reach the vision we’ve set in our mind for how this goal must look and when it must be achieved, we will have to work a lot harder.
And so we push ourselves. We put on our superwoman or superman capes, power up, exhaust ourselves and sacrifice our self-care. We push ourselves to keep working and put the things that replenish and nourish us on hold. No time for moving our bodies; we’re glued to our computer screens. Our intentions to eat healthy get pushed aside as caffeine and sugar become a major food group in our diet. Fun activities get pushed off because we can’t play until the work is done. As a result, the goal we originally set out to achieve that is supposed to create more happiness ends up creating more stress. And in the end, even if we achieve our goal, we are too depleted to actually celebrate and enjoy it.
The challenge is that most of us don’t know we are pushing ourselves too hard until we have already gotten to the “bad place”—the land of the crabby, the self-critical and the unhappy version of ourselves. The first step in transforming self-induced pressure into a more supportive, sustainable way of living is awareness and knowing the signs of when we are pushing ourselves too hard.
Three signs we are pushing ourself too hard:
• Crabbiness. Ask, “Am I feeling crabby?” Pushing hard creates internal pressure inside our physical, mental and psychic fields, making us feel like we have no time or space for ourselves in our own lives. Starved for play and pleasure, we need to push back on the pressure we feel on the inside, and so we become crabby on the outside.
• Self-criticism. Ask, “Am I judging myself against unrealistic expectations?” We set expectations that are totally unrealistic, then judge ourselves for falling short, and our mind swells with pressure-filled thoughts like, “I should … Why can’t I… If I could just…”
• Self-sacrifice. Ask, “Am I putting my happiness and self-care on hold?” When we keep working and pushing for the day life will slow down so we can rest, we live for the future instead of in the now, and we deplete ourselves and rob ourselves of our happiness. While we may not be able to take a seven-day cruise during times when we have a lot going on, waiting for a vacation to take a break isn’t the solution. Even machines get to take a break each day.
While there may be moments we need to rally and push to the finish line, pushing and working extra hard should be the exception, instead of the norm. Our operating system for life should not be pushing ourselves hard. So why do we push? Bad training. Most of us don’t know that pushing isn’t the only choice. There is a second option. When the pressure starts pouring on, instead of pushing, we can choose to pause. We can release the “superperson cape”, refuse to live at the unsustainable, pressure cooker pace and pause just long enough to check in with our inner wisdom to find a different, more sustainable and supportive way to operate, where we can take care of ourselves and take care of what is important to us.
While it would be wonderful to have a fairy godmother that would descend from the clouds every time we found ourselves in the pressure cooker to wave her magic wand and make it all better, the truth is we have to be willing to do our lives differently. When we find ourselves at the choice point, where we feel the pressure to do, be and have it all, instead of sucking it up and pushing through, driving ourselves like workhorses, we need to stop, pause, breathe and say no to sacrificing our happiness and health.
There will always be more to do, achieve and take care of. We have to be willing to say “Enough! I’ve done enough. No more.”
Then, instead of feeling guilty, we feel good that we’ve made a choice for our own self-sustainability. Connected to an inner feeling of self-love, instead of crabbiness, self-criticism and self-sacrifice, we can check in with our inner wisdom to reflect, reassess and realign to find the path that helps us achieve our goals, but not at the cost of our own happiness or health. When we give enough, instead of giving in excess, everyone is happier and better off.
Christine Arylo is a former corporate executive, self-admitted recovering achievement junkie and doing-addict who now guides men and women to transform their pressured-filled lives into sustainable lifestyles they love. She is the bestselling author of Madly In Love With Me: The Daring Adventure of Becoming Your Own Best Friend and Choosing Me Before We, The EveryWoman’s Guide to Life And Love. Read more at ChristineArylo.com.