When to put the book down: Recognizing when we’ve taken on too much and how to step back.

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Hey sister, cut yourself a break.

I see you over there, feeling guilty that you are taking time to surf some blogs and read quietly to yourself. You are probably feeling like there are a lot better things you could be doing, and mentally ticking off all the tasks on your to-do list. I know you. I am you. But I’m suggesting to take a week to just “be,” and not “be doing,” and see how it feels. Drop a few things off of your list, and refocus your priorities. Focus on your health. On your partner. On your child. On your dog. Anything that might get a little lost in the shuffle. This is why I am telling you to start cutting back …

If there is one thing that pregnancy has taught me it is that I take on way too much—and beat myself up about not taking on more. I decided that it would be the best idea ever to give our house a make-over, including paint, new furniture, and some slight remodeling to a few rooms. My brilliant plan also had a hard deadline—my June 4th shower, when family and friends would arrive. Add that to a full-time job, morning sickness, daily fatigue, and other daily responsibilities and my husband and I quickly felt like we were drowning.

Nothing ever goes as planned, and projects got delayed and took longer than we thought. My changing body and chemical exposure restrictions meant I was more and more limited in what I could help with, so my husband was left to captain most of the projects. I have since then realized that we had taken on way too much, but I couldn’t help but feel that I wasn’t doing enough. The house was a mess, my blog neglected, and I wasn’t taking the steps I was planning on to grow an independent business. I was feeling majorly disconnected from my husband. I was feeling like a failure.

My wake-up call happened after I had traveled to two back-to-back work conferences and a bridal shower in just two weeks, and I was experiencing extreme exhaustion. My body wasn’t responding well. My OB looked at me and said “You are seven months pregnant. You need to slow down.” She was right. I was pushing myself so hard, just trying to get to June 4th, and I wasn’t taking good care of myself.

You don’t have to be pregnant—or anywhere near it—to be feeling overwhelmed. As women in today’s society, we are expected to be everything—plus more—to everyone. We need to be high-achieving professionals, doting mothers, good family members, attentive lovers, participating society members … the list goes on and on. I don’t know if other women experience this, but no matter how hard I work I feel like I always have to do more and am never doing enough. Maybe it is just my hard-wiring to be an overachiever. Regardless, my mom helped bring my ambitions back into focus—“You are a human being, not a human doing.” Read that again please: “You are a human being, not a human doing.” It was time to change my mental tape to just being as a woman, expectant mom, and wife, instead of telling myself to do, do, do, do. I needed to take some steps back and realize I mentally, and physically, just couldn’t do it all. And that is okay.

It is okay to just be great at a few things, and say no to the rest. The world won’t fall apart. Your future won’t be doomed. In fact, I am willing to bet you’d be a lot happier and feel more fulfilled when you put the book down. Just let go. Let go of your expectations and enjoy your reality. It can definitely be uncomfortable, and feel downright wrong at first. You almost have to re-train yourself to run a new mental tape and live in a different state than you had been living before. Take a step back, and just be. I’m think you will thank me.

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