Do you often find yourself overwhelmed by your responsibilities? Do you feel like you’re always running around doing something - or spending most of your time doing things for others? Do you feel like your commitments have control over your life?
In today’s world, it’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of overcommitting. And it’s even harder to get out. Usually by the time we realize that we are overwhelmed by our commitments, it feels like it’s already too late. Whether we are afraid of disappointing a friend, want to stay on a boss’ good side, or don’t want the money we put into something to go to waste - we often feel stuck once we commit to something.
While this can feel stressful, a tendency to overcommit is not an inherently bad trait. Those of us with this trait are often passionate, loyal, hardworking, and follow through on our obligations more often than not. These attributes are admirable…in moderation.
Once we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed, it might be a sign that these attributes are no longer serving us and are instead, encouraging us to stay stuck in a cycle of overcommitting. So, why do we overcommit?
We Have a Hard Time Saying No
Many of us have a hard time saying “no” in general, and it becomes that much more difficult when someone is directly asking us to do something for them. By always saying yes, we might find ourselves in all kinds of situations that have nothing to do with our own life or goals. For example, this situation might sound something like, “I really don’t want to be a part of this book club, but my best friend started it and it means a lot to her, so I guess I’ll keep going.”
We Want to Be the Hero/Be Helpful
Sometimes we will commit to things because we want to help someone out. Admirable as it may seem, it can be exhausting and have negative impacts on us. If we spend a lot of time being a hero for others, it’s possible that at the end of the day, we might have less energy to care for and help ourselves. For example, this situation might sound something like, “My boss asked me if I could stay late after work to help him out with a presentation. I was supposed to go grocery shopping and go to the gym, but it really seems like he needs help, so I’ll stay.”
We Have “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out)
Having FOMO can cause us to take on things purely because we are afraid of what we might miss out on if we don’t. These types of thoughts can lead to a lot of anxiety and have us feeling like we need to take every opportunity and request that comes our way. For example, these thoughts can look like anything from, “Even though I don’t have time in my schedule, what if I regret not taking that class later?” to, “But if I don’t go to my uncle’s cousin’s sister’s birthday party, I might miss out on meeting the love of my life!”
These are only some of the reasons we might overcommit. But no matter the reason, the result of giving into them is the same: overwhelm, overcommitment, burnout. Then we don’t show up for ourselves, have enough energy to care for ourselves, or achieve our own goals.
We might also start showing up less in each thing we are committed to - no matter how much we may care about it, since we spread ourselves so thin. How could we possibly have energy to show up for the things we love if we are trying to show up for everything else, too?
In an ironic sense, overcommitment actually results in a lack of commitment, because we are not being purposeful in our choices and energy management.
So, how can we begin to free ourselves from the cycle of overcommitting? Below are some steps you can take to begin to take back control of your life and spend more time on the things you truly care about.
- Reevaluate your commitments and priorities. It can be hard to let go of a commitment, but sometimes it’s necessary. To trim down the number of things you are responsible for, try sorting everything into different categories based on whether they add to your life overall or if they take away by wasting valuable time or draining your energy.
Sadly, no matter the commitment, if it tends to drain you, you should strongly consider removing it from your life. If it’s something you really need to follow through on or be involved in, at the very least, make adjustments to what you need to do regarding that commitment. For example, instead of organizing the whole event, just advertise it and participate in it. Instead of driving the kids to school every day, find someone they can carpool with some days so that you have more time to put towards something else. If it’s a responsibility that drains you and that you don’t need to continue, find a way to gracefully exit that role ASAP.
- When someone asks you if you can help them with something or asks you to be a part of something, tell them that you’ll get back to them. At the moment when someone asks you to do something, it can be really hard to say no, and then you might end up with a commitment you really don’t want to deal with. So instead, take the time to think about whether this is something you really want to do, or if you just didn’t want to say no or disappoint the other person.
- If you tend to have FOMO, try to remind yourself that you can’t possibly be a part of EVERYTHING…no one can! If we don’t maintain reasonable expectations of ourselves, we will end up miserable and burnt out because we are striving for the impossible. So, whenever you find yourself tempted to jump onboard another project or go out with friends even though you have tons of work to do, determine which choice is the most kind and considerate for yourself. Will you really feel like you missed out on being a part of that thing, or will you ultimately be more grateful that you weren’t involved/made a different choice?
- When you get asked to help someone with something urgent or short notice, be mindful of whether you have enough energy to deal with the situation and also take care of yourself and your needs afterward. In addition, seriously consider if the person or persons you are doing it for would do the same for you. This is not to say that you shouldn’t help people out unless there’s some sort of return, but if the same source consistently needs you to swoop in and help them, and they never help you when you need it...
You cannot help everyone, sadly. Be mindful of who you put out your problem-solving and hero energy towards; make sure it’s for something you find truly fulfilling or for people who would do the same for you.