Part of the problem with doing too much in your life is in believing that you have to. If you see the need, you should fill it. Right? The children need taxi service; the church needs volunteers; friends need support; spouses need taking care of.

What’s in Your Dictionary?

When life starts to seem overwhelming, it’s time to step back and reevaluate the contents of your dictionary. Yes, your dictionary! When you look at how you define the words “help”, “need”, and “solution”, are you starting to see yourself figuring prominently in the definition, so prominently that it might even be a picture of you posted next to the words?

Who’s Doing the Fishing?

Knowing when to step into the breach is part of being a good citizen, friend, parent, or lover. Knowing when not to step in is part of being those things too. Think back on the old story about the fish. Oh, you know the one: Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and feed him for a lifetime. Are you handing out fish, constantly in motion, stressed, short-tempered, out of options, and often fulfilling obligations for people who have more time and, frankly, more resources than you do? If the answer is yes, understanding why will help you break the cycle. It’s liberating, so give it a try

Give Yourself a No

Do you feel guilty when you say no? Do you believe others will think less of you for your refusal? Hey, no can be a frightening word. You’re a giver, and not giving touches a deep part of you in a negative way. So, don’t think of it as not giving. Think of it as giving something else, something like self-reliance, or beginning a dialogue that will lead to a plan that’s fair to everyone. Start to think of your behavior as a catalyst for those around you. If you do everything, others won’t fully develop their potential. Don’t think of a refusal as no. Think of it as yes to building better relationships by empowering others and encouraging them to act.

Confused about how to handle a refusal? If you can’t think of a good excuse when confronted with a request, make a list of useful excuses and memorize them. Then when someone approaches you, you’ll be prepared.

Selfish is a Good Word

No one but you can appreciate how tired you are. Be your own advocate and work as hard to take care of yourself as you’ve been working to take care of others. If you’ve ever snapped at someone you love because you were frazzled and stressed, you owe it to him or her too. You can’t be your best self when you are overextended. Your mindset affects everyone around you. Ask yourself, in a year, will it matter that you didn’t bake twelve dozen cupcakes for the charity bazaar? Will your children have suffered if they cut back on one after-school activity?

Embrace Compromise

If you are having big problems saying no, start negotiating instead. If your neighbor asks you to babysit, tell her that you have a few hours to spare, but that you would really appreciate it if she’d pick up your dry cleaning when she goes out. If the kids want a ride to the movies, charge for the service. Ask that a chore be done, and make sure that it’s performed in advance. Better yet, make them come up with a list of the things you do for them and have them suggest ways to do some of those things themselves, or do without. If they find two items, they get the ride.

Reward Yourself

Deeply ingrained habits don’t change in a day. Don’t expect to wake up tomorrow a new woman. Take baby steps Every time you say no, suggest a compromise, or offer an alternative that puts the responsibility somewhere else, give yourself something. Chocolate is always nice, but shoes and torrid paperback novels work too.

You aren’t what you do. Thinking that your worth is tied up in your hectic daily routine or that your chores are somehow holding the cosmos together does a disservice to you and those around you. Redefining your place in things might just give you a new outlook on life. Who knows, with the free time you’ll be carving out for yourself, you may rediscover sleeping passions or new interests you never expected. You owe yourself the pledge to make your needs as important as the needs of those around you.

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