Feel Overtasked? Change Your Inner Dialogue

Most adults lead hectic, structured and demanding lives. Much of the stress is created by ordinary challenges associated with our daily routine, family needs, obligations to our work, accommodating others’ expectations and our inner hastening and sometimes demeaning self-talk. Is it possible to be as accomplished as we choose to be and less hurried, stressed and exasperated?

Many people are unaware that exhausting themselves by being “too busy” is a choice – not an externally imposed state of being. While it is true that work, family obligations, raising kids and managing life’s survival tasks are time consuming, depleting and require daily organization and coordination that is intellectually and emotionally stressful, these demands need not be viewed as overwhelming and exasperating. The latter is a self- imposed state of mind that hinders our capacity to approach life challenges with equanimity, confidence and optimism.

It is common for busy people to say to themselves and others, “I have so much to do that I don’t know how I can get it all done?” This mere phraseology creates a feeling of overwhelm, self-doubt, emotional discomfort and may be self-defeating. Rephrasing it to, “This is a challenging schedule and I trust that I can manage getting it all done well in due time”, is emboldening and self-supportive!

Some individuals’ laments about life burdens may be a subconscious plea for reassurances about their competence, talents and time management skills. Receiving validating messages about their capacity to succeed helps them tackle their forthcoming tasks with greater confidence. Occasionally, people may be reprimanded for undertaking more than they should. Though the “re-assurer’s” intent may be supportive, the impact is often discouraging and demoralizing.

In Hamlet, Shakespeare’s exchange between Guildenstern and Rosencrantz concludes, “There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

In “Choices and Illusions” Dr. Eldon Taylor states, “I believe that inside every human being is a vast resource that typically goes untapped and left wasted through neglect for no other reason than self-doubt. I believe in you! When your self-talk changes, so will the reality of your experience.”

Patients in psychotherapy often state that their tasks at work are so depleting they do not have the energy to invest in their family after an exhausting day at work. I call these statements inaccurate thinking. Though work exhaustion is certainly true, the claimant’s loss of energy for family is a misguided statement. This type of thinking permits him/her to indulge in being a guest at home, rather than being invigorated by the privilege of being a spouse and a parent after work hours.

Feeling over-tasked?

  • Elect on your way home to shift from your worker’s role to welcoming your spouse/parent role.
  • Accept that your work atmosphere has been left behind and view your home life as a privilege and a delight.
  • Abandon the notion that being drained at work entitles you to become a “child” at home.
  • Enthusiastically greet your family with love. Your fatigue will wane!

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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