By Allison Florence
Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed in the midst of life’s never-ending list of demands? I’m talking about managing a career, balancing home and work life, running the necessary daily errands, maintaining a household, and finding time to train and eat right. Oh, let’s not forget how all the while you’re expected to remain sensitive to the needs of your friends and loved ones. Let’s be honest, there’s not enough coffee in the world to get you through it sometimes. It’s so easy to have things stack up in a way that you can hardly see around them, let alone get them off your plate to make room for dessert. Finding the time to indulge in things you truly enjoy, proves a struggle at best. If you envision a 30 minute break for yourself between dinner and bedtime but don’t prioritize it, guess what, life will gobble it up. Those of us who feel compelled to always be there and always have things in order, sometimes forget the importance of doing things that are entirely for ourselves, taking time to breathe in our successes. Having a touch of fun can go a long way in terms of fulfillment. If you fail to foster your creativity, engage in things that promote relaxation, or simply pamper yourself once in a while you will inevitably find yourself bitter and resentful. As if you’re on a runaway train, headed nowhere, packed full of overly entitled people, without a stop in sight. Decide to “do you” every now and again in lieu of satisfying life demands. Maintaining status quo isn’t all that important if it leaves you with nothing but crumbs. Run yourself ragged when life absolutely requires it, hard work is unavoidable. Just know when to hit the brakes, pull off to the side, and get out to stretch your legs. Do you say yes to everything and everyone else, yet at the end of the day neglect yourself? If so this article is for you!
We must take care not confuse how we’ve been commanded to love and serve others with the disease of always needing to please others. I often fear letting others down by saying no. I get wrapped in what they will think of me, if I put myself first. I fear looking selfish and being deemed unsupportive. Self-love can easily be mistaken for self-centeredness if the person on the receiving end of the “no” can’t see the whole picture. I take care to explain my “no” but don’t feel obligated to justify it anymore. It is either accepted with grace or mistakenly taken as harsh. Reality is that your true friends will know your heart and understand that it’s not that you don’t want to help. No is usually the product of having to much to do at one time and learning to say “no” is something worth mastering. It may not be as gratifying or as noble as saying “yes”, but it certainly can be liberating. It will free up time allowing you to focus on you and do the spiritual maintenance required to continue saying “yes”. Saying yes is something wonderful indeed, it’s the key to bringing joy and satisfaction to others, and builds trust. If you learn to say yes as often as you are actually able to, you will undoubtedly enrich the lives of those around you. The caveat of yes is to only say it when you know beyond any shadow of a doubt that you have the excess time and energy to pour yourself into that “yes”. If you’ve got ten other yes’s to fulfill that day, gravitate towards no, and offer to make it up. Nothing is worse than pulling your hair out wondering how you are going to be in five places at once. Overloading yourself is a recipe for disaster. The stress of looming deadlines will eat you alive, rob you of your joy, suppress your spirit, and counteract all that you do in the gym and kitchen to maintain your health.
I know a lot of women can relate to this feeling I am describing. The feeling of never having enough time and always being short changed when it comes to ourselves. Women today are expected to do so much and although I think we are the queens of multitasking and play a large part in keeping the world together, it can be a bit much. So many expectations, so little time.
The world has expectations of us but let’s be real, so do we. I know as a female bikini competitor that I can subject myself to some pretty unrealistic expectations, above and beyond what the non-active woman must deal with. I expect my weight to be stable, my strength to increase, and my body to remain pleasing to my eyes. I expect for all my jeans to fit and be able to eat whatever I want. This is not always the case and when I do experience negative self-image it is often directly correlated to the amount of things I must accomplish outside the gym. So being a liberated and independent woman with a demanding career, on top of being an athlete, is only that much harder. It’s just that many more things to check off. Competition doesn’t afford you the luxury of time outs. The girls you step on stage with are just as relentless as yourself and that know that resting will only leave them behind. Most of us do not have the luxury of skipping work for a spa day, escaping for a vacation, or riding off into the sunset leaving our cares and troubles behind. So how can we get balanced again and learn what is best to say yes to?
I suggest taking some time to unplug, a break from social media. Yes, that’s right, no Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or whatever else distracts you from staying in tune with what is currently right in front of you. Technology is convenient and the aim is to simplify, therefore saving time. No more searching for information cause it’s right at your fingertips. Wrong, social feeds inundate us, they draw our focus away from ourselves and into a vortex of drama that never stops spinning. You are the big picture in your life. A healthy focused you will serve your friends and family well. A distracted you will put distance between you and your loved ones. Make a list of what is making your feel overwhelmed and identify areas where you can afford some give and take. You have control over what you do and say yes to in life. You have control over feeling stressed, guilty, inadequate and overwhelmed. As Lysa Terkeurst says, “A woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule will often ache with sadness of an underwhelmed soul”. I think our society creates the expectation that we must “go, go, go” to get ahead. Most of us have become accepting of and accustomed to this lifestyle. God did not design us to live this way. I think this is why so many of us feel spinning our wheels and getting nowhere. Stop treading water, back float for a bit, than swim to shore. We have to be strong in the way of saying “no” and not be afraid of feeling powerless by doing so. If we really want our lives to feel “unrushed”, we must re-evaluate our schedules, allowing time and room for purposeful tasks, one’s that fill our souls. I struggle with this daily. I want to have my career, train like a champion, be a part of serving others and God, and maintain healthy relationships. I want to always view myself in a positive light. I want it all, and I want it all in this limited amount of time we have. Life is such that the cards are already stacked against us. I give even more credit to those who are mothers because that places even more demands on their time. We all want to be a “rockstars” and have it all figured out. In order to do so we have to know where to begin to untangle the mess.
When I find that my life has become a mess again, I tend to start by focusing on time management and better boundary management. People often complain about their lack of time yet they display a lack of direction. There is no plan in place for the day. There is just a rough idea of what needs to get done and the dread of having to do it all. A plan that includes, anticipates, and makes provision for “you” time is essential. What is your purpose today and where is your focus? Is it on you and improving you or just making it through? What is essential that you accomplish today and what might you do to just honor the privilege of being here? These are questions that must be asked. If not you will simply follow the rest of the cars around, stand in the same lines, and eventually finding yourself in bed wondering “Where has my life, my time, and my joy gone”. Baby steps at first. Every day we awake by the grace of God, with the same amount of hours granted to us. How will we choose to use them? His purpose in creating you was grand and his intention was not to watch you simply toil. I know for myself to have balance is to make a decision, stick with it ,and enjoy the choice that I made. Even if that means saying no, even if it means something doesn’t get done, even if it’s not the choice you would have made. We as women, especially those who are strong need to guard our time while being generous and intentional on how we spend it.
To sum it up you need to learn to say no without feeling guilty, set boundaries that are healthy, and respect and take care of yourself. I have learned over time to walk away from situations and people who threaten my peace of mind, or are to going leave me empty and with an “unfulfilled soul”. I have also learned that saying no to things that do not honor you or bring you joy is ok too. You do not need to explain or justify your no. Say your “no” with zero regret. I have learned my lessons and once I realized it was ok for me to think about and identify what I wanted, that is when things start to come together. I hope that if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed at times you can figure out how to take charge and improve your situation. For me it means at times, I take a break from social media, go for a nice walk with my dog (which doubles as cardio), skip the gym for a day or two, or do something to serve someone else. It helps to plan something fun to look forward to also, when you don’t have time to take an immediate break. I even like to bake yummy treats, and as much as it kills me that I can’t enjoy them while dieting, I love bringing someone something sweet to brighten their day. I mean chocolate heals everything right? Just remember it’s ok to say no. Learn to say yes to what is important and listen to your soul. The decisions you make determine how your day goes and what fits into your schedule. The schedule that you live by determines the life you live. And how you live determines how you will shape your soul and what you dedicate this precious life to.