When Stress Attacks: How to know when you’re doing too much

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Written by Ali Mariani.

“I can’t do this” is a phrase that spews out of my mouth without thought, without control, and without warning during stressful periods of my life. In fact, it happened to me fairly recently.

The truth is—I may be onto something. Call it a Freudian slip or whatever you want: I have found that I know myself better than I think. Usually when I say, “I can’t do this,” it’s true. I am doing too much. My plate is too full. I am maxed out. I need to change something. I really can’t do it.

It’s only recently occurred to me that perhaps this is a tricky place to be. It can even be a dangerous place to be. What happens when we’ve reached our max? Here’s are a few things that happen for me when my stress is too much:

  1. I become irritable. Self-explanatory.
  2. I become physically exhausted. It doesn’t matter how long I have been up or how much I slept, I have exhausted my body and mind to the point where I have little energy leftover.
  3. I make mistakes and am careless. When my plate is too full, I am prone to making mistakes. Little ones like forgetting lunch, or bigger ones like missing a stop sign.
  4. I do less self-care. Again, I make this situation worse.
  5. My sleep schedule is off. I will either sleep more than usual or less. My sleep schedule is thrown off.
  6. My relationships suffer. By default, I have less to give other people in my life. I can’t be the best friend, the best partner, or the best student. When I am maxed out, it takes a toll on my relationships.
  7. My eating isn’t the healthiest. Snack attacks. During stressful times, I seek more nourishment. I seek comfort foods, too. I don’t always eat the healthiest and this doesn’t help how I am feeling!
  8. I feel burnt out. We all know the feeling. Drained, emptied, fried. This is a telltale sign for me that I am doing too much and need to slow down.


If you are having some of these signs and are experiencing high stress, there is something to you can do about it! Here are 10 ways you can recover from “doing too much”:

  1. Get honest about your schedule. Be honest with yourself. Write it all down. Where are you spending too much time? Is there anything that you have to eliminate from your schedule? Can you delegate more to other people?
  2. Designate a day or an afternoon as “You Time.” For real. Give yourself a treat. Mental health days. They are there for a reason. Take them if you need them. Give yourself an entire day to do nothing, to rest, to read, or to go outside.
  3. Do something that you absolutely love. Order your favorite meal, Netflix your favorite show, and turn off your cell phone. Restore your energy. Brainless activities can help us to restore ourselves. Try not to feel guilty about it, either!
  4. Sign up for an intense cardio class or go for a long run. There is a lot to be said for “sweating it out.” You’ll forget why you are so stressed out and be able to start fresh.
  5. Plan a vacation. If it’s available to you, plan for some time off. Even if it’s only a weekend, time away from your life may be just what you need to come back refreshed and rejuvenated.
  6. Write a list of accomplishments. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day stressors that you can forget how much you’ve accomplished. Write a list of accomplishments. Remind yourself how far you have come!
  7. Do something creative. Most of us don’t spend a lot of time doing creative activities. They can be relaxing. Color, paint, draw, or make a collage.
  8. Go outside! Hiking with my dog is the best. Getting outdoors, changing the scenery, and getting fresh air always help me feel better.
  9. Meditate or do breath work. Slow yourself down with some meditation. Focus on your breathing moment to moment.
  10. Write it out. Journal how you are feeling. Write about your struggles. Write a Haiku. Write a blog. It helps!



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