Overcommitment and stress

Life is about using what we have to the fullest, at least that’s my idea.  We put others before ourselves forgetting that we need to care for our well-being first so we can be there for others. 


Giving too much

We are so busy we are living an unsustainable lifestyle. I’m not talking about shopping, but the number of commitments we place on our time.   The term unsustainable doesn’t just relate to the strain we put on the planet, or the financial burden many countries are buried under, it can also relate to giving too much of ourselves to causes, or others in terms of our time or even our money.

You can’t be all things to all people.  ~~ Unknown

What are we sacrificing when we are scheduled 3 or more nights a week after working all day? We sacrifice time with our children, time to pursue a hobby, even sleep.  Do you find it hard to say no?  I used to. I felt that to be a good friend it meant I had to be there when my friends needed me.  Funny thing is they knew how to say no when a need of mine infringed too much on them.  We can be good friends only when we learn to be good to ourselves first, and that means saying no and finding our boundaries when it conflicts with something (even a nap) that is more important to our own well being.

You are always valuable, worthwhile human beings – not because anybody else says so, not because you’re making lots of money, but because you decide to know it.  ~~ Dr. Wayne Dwyer


Dealing with Stress

We are learning that stress can negatively affect our health, from causing us to gain weight, interrupting our sleep cycles, and even serious health issues can arise.  A goal of mine when I changed my lifestyle was to confront the issues that caused me stress.  For me bills hanging over my head are stressful.  I worry I will forget one and incur a late fee.   I slowly reduced the number of bills I had, first eliminating a bill for television reception.  I rarely watched it, but for some reason believed I needed reception just because the TV was sitting in my house.

Frugality: Where you’ll enjoy what you have, instead of longing for stuff that doesn’t really matter in the first place.  ~~ Unknown

Eliminating the TV reduced even more stress. I no longer watched the news and had to hear the latest “bad” news that not only came on at 11pm but flashed across the bottom of the screen when least expected.

95% of American’s watch TV everyday with TV on 8  hours per day.  Adults watch 5 hours, children aged 2-5  3.5 hours, over age 65  6 hours.  This is our primary activity after work and sleep.  ~~ from Radical Simplicity (page 6)

Another form of stress came from certain people.  Do you know someone who is so negative about everything that it seems to rub off on you, even after you part company?  It was time to take a good look at the people around me.  Who were my real friends and who were the ones who were negative or took advantage? I let those go, freeing that dreadful moment when I saw their name on my caller id.

It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are. ~~ E.E. Cummings

We can’t eliminate all stress immediately, but I found ways to take baby steps in the right directions daily.  I am amazed by the choices some people think of that I hadn’t thought of when I was in their position.  Today Miss Minimalist shared a story by Evelyn who with her husband owned a home, but knowing she wanted to stay home when her baby was born, rented out the home and moved into a basement apartment, and they couldn’t be happier with their decision two years later.  Would you have ever considered renting when you already owned a home?

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.  ~~ Leonardo da Vinci

What can you do today to take back control of your life?

The people most satisfied with life, it turned out had strong social connections, found meaning in their work, got to exercise what they considered to be their highest talents and had a sense of some higher purpose.  ~~ from No Impact Man (page 26)




  1. Yet another fabulous post! I really hate the whole Protestant work ethic thing – “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” and all that. It seems it’s reached a fever pitch these days with “busier-than-thou” being our national motto.

    There was a post over on Down to Earth today about women who choose to stay home even though they don’t have kids. It left me with such mixed feelings because people were going on and on about how important and hard the work of being a “homemaker” is… and people resenting the fact that working women think they lay on the couch and watch soap operas all day, because really they work SOOOOO hard. I dunno… I’m not saying that cooking and cleaning and what have you are all a breeze… but it seems that people have made an art out of turning everyday activities into some sort of cross to bear these days. It’s like people feel the need to justify their existence by explaining how hard they work. Like it’s not enough to just be a person, and not being busy is some sort of a crime.

    My own theory on all this is that we’re willing participants in all the stress. I mean, my life is pretty much the picture of stress-free bliss, yet I amaze myself at how I can still pull the “poor pitiful martyred me” thing out of my hat when there’s some emotional issue in my life that I don’t want to face. The thing is, it’s just SOOOOOO much easier to fret over a zillion social commitments, or a trip to the market, or making sure the house is spotless and perfect, or pretty much ANYTHING at all, than it is to just slow down, feel your emotions and face yourself as a human being. That’s my take anyhow!


    • Cat, I always look forward to your take on things, for starters I hadn’t heard about women who stay home without children, but the idea makes me laugh. If it works for that relationship they who am I to question it. If one person in the relationship makes enough money to allow the other not to work then congratulations to them, but I think any time someone bucks the system to live differently than the norm they feel a pressure to have to justify themselves to the rest of the world. Now saying that it’s hard work to be a homemaker without children, like you I would question that.

      As for the Protestant work ethic, I was raised Catholic, but it’s the same thing and it was pounded into my head to work hard and be responsible. In some ways, the earlier generations had to work hard, they produced everything for themselves, from building their own home and furnishings to growing their own food. But we no longer have to live that way, everything is readily available to be bought today, so it’s time to re-evaluate how we want to live instead.

      You may be right about being willing participants in the stress, have you ever happened to overhear a conversation between two or more friends who are almost in a competition to show how bad a day they had? I can’t picture you pulling the “pitiful me” routine, though!


  2. With you all the way. The thing that gets me, is the people who wear their busyness as a badge of honour – and expect us to sympathise with them. Well I do sympathise, but not for the reasons they expect. I’m not sympathetic to the friend who is always away on business and too tired to be around for his family – I know he’s had ample opportunities to change the way they live. The point is, he (and many others), has chosen that path for the financial rewards and status he gets from it. In a perverse way, he enjoys that lifestyle – he fits into society’s preferred model for living. I am sympathetic that an intelligent human being is missing out on the quality of life he should be enjoying, because as yet he hasn’t seen through the ‘what I am is what I do’ masquerade.

    But to be fair, it took me a long time to see things this way – now that I do, it’s hard to see why everybody doesn’t get it too, but it just seems to be something we find out for ourselves – however much someone tries to explain it to you, until you’re ready to hear, the message just won’t get through.


    • So true, we can’t help anyone to travel a different path than the one they believe they want or need to live. I too see it all the time, the people who take on those hectic positions only to want our sympathy for the hard work they do. I know way too many people who live this way, they work for the fine things in life, love to show them off yet want my “oh poor you” for having to work so hard. I have a very hard time biting my tongue and not saying: look stop spending $200 a couple of times on new clothes you don’t need and you won’t have to work as hard. But it’s something they feel they need. I’m glad you found your way out of the rat race.


  3. Interesting sentiments in this post. It seems to be a recurring theme – people in a forum I belong to, my work colleagues and friends are all having very similar discussions. Are we all finally waking up to the stress we are placing on ourselves. I tend to think that the shift to downsizing and simplicity is allowing us to open our eyes and look at what is really important and how best to achieve a simple live with the optional stressors removed.


  4. Some very good points being made especially that a lot of the stress comes from our thoughts patterns and not always from our activities (although they certainly contribute). Also, I think if most people made sleep a priority, everything would be better. If your brain is tired, nothing works well.


    • Why is it the first thing we give up is sleep? I know people who will stay up to watch a television program and give up on the first couple of hours of sleep, it’s just “can’t miss programming”. What I wonder is if that programming changed their life, made it better in some way that sleep couldn’t.


  5. This is one skill I feel I’ve finally mastered – the ability to say no and to control the demands on my time. There can be emergencies, but from day to day, most of my time is spent the way I choose (including work, spouse, home commitments, etc – all of which I chose). Sounds like the same for you too.


    • It took me a long time to learn to say no and not feel guilty or worry about what the other person thought about me as a result. Today I do spend my time, like you, doing what are the priorities in my life, family, work and taking care of myself. Giving up my car was a huge change, before that I was constantly getting calls asking me to drive someone some place that was important to them.


    • Sitting down at the table is something we all did and was an important part of family life. I can’t understand people who don’t eat together. Sure we don’t eat at the table here now, but we still eat at the same time, and make it an activity we do together whether it’s on a blanket on the floor or outside in the field.


    • I’m sorry you are stressed out and even more so that it’s mixed with guilt. Alan Cohen said: Guilt is punishing yourself before god doesn’t. I don’t know if that will help you, but I try to think of that when I start to feel guilty and ask myself if I have anything to be guilty of.


  6. Great post, and so true. When I turned 50 (years ago), I decided that I was quitting everything I hated and start attacking my bucket list. I quit my job of 19 years, which I hated and started my own home business. I never had a dog, even growing up, and I went and got my beautiful dog, and she has changed my life also. Being self employed I have had to cut my budget and live a simpler life, and it seems to be working out. I do have to attack the tv issue, and I have a few negative people I need to deal with, but I still have plenty of time. Thanks for inspiring me to keep reaching for a better, more full life 🙂


    • You will never believe the first reaction I had to your comment. Shock!!! I have been reading your blog for a bit now and for some reason had the impression you were probably under 30, welcome to the group of us “old timers” as my boys call me.

      Seriously, you inspire me by the number of changes you made. To leave a long term job, start your own business, get a job and change everything you wanted to change is amazing. TV is such an issue for so many, I too have had times with the TV. I never wanted one, but found myself owning one from a gift, same as the only microwaves I’ve owned, I would zone out in front of it, but found I became very depressed. It is something that can’t be a part of my life if I want to be happy.


  7. I enjoyed reading this post. i would love to give up our TV but there would be uproar from my family lol.
    I agree with the comment made about unhappy people who have also chosen their way of life…they are unhappy because they chose to earn pots of money believing it will make them happy….and it never does…only they can change this.


    • I have been so happy with no TV, but it’s not for everyone. My boys rebelled when they couldn’t join in to conversations with their peers when they were younger so I completely understand. If you have more than one TV you could try limiting television watching to just a certain time of day or as a family activity rather than having it on all the time, again, it’s hard to make changes if your significant other doesn’t feel the same way.

      Yes, I do believe unhappy people have chosen their course in life, and just like the alcoholic who won’t stop drinking until they want it for themselves neither will the person who chooses money over time and people.


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