Chapter OneWhat's Going On?
Don't ask me to relax; it's my tension that's holding me together. Author unknown
Mommy, I don't feel good."
Little Susie did look pale. Instinctively
her mother felt her forehead and it seemed
warm. So Susie's mother took out the
thermometer and checked her daughter's temperature. It was
a simple procedure, but it provided important information.
In the same way, you might do well to do a quick check
on your level of weariness-to take the "temperature" of
your life to see just how worn out you are. In this fast-paced,
hectic, squeeze-as-much-as-you-can-into-your-day world,
you might be more exhausted than you think. Each of us has
our limits and our breaking points. Get too close to them,
and you put yourself at risk for any number of problems.
But you probably already know that. You don't need to
be told that you are weary and stressed-you feel it every
day. And you are not alone. Studies estimate that there are
more than sixty million worn-out women in the United
States and that another sixty million are on the fast track to
becoming exhausted and overwhelmed.
As I (Steve) counsel women about their lives and concerns,
I am amazed at all they are trying to balance-caring
for children; fixing meals; cleaning; decorating and maintaining
their homes; volunteering at school, church, and
community activities; hosting get-togethers; balancing
finances; working at full-time or part-time jobs; loving
their husbands; caring for aging parents; and seeing to all
the other aspects of their daily lives.
I worry that many women are working at 120 percent
of their capacity and feeling guilty because they are not
doing more. That's probably true of you as well. You take
what you do seriously and try to do the best you can. I
know how responsible, caring, diligent, and active you are,
but your life is so busy that you run out of energy long
before the day is over.
Dear worn-out woman, you can't do it all, nor do you
Have you ever felt that even though you're taking things
"one day at a time" . it's about twenty-four more hours than
you can take? Author unknown
How Much Is Too Much?
The women who come to me for counseling certainly
know they are feeling worn out, but many aren't sure what
their symptoms mean and how serious they might be. They
wonder if they are just too sensitive, if they have PMS, if
they are experiencing the beginning of menopause, or if
they're just "going through a phase." But even if part of their
distress is due to hormonal or season-of-life issues, I usually
find they are coping with long-term overload as well.
So how do you know when too much is too much?
Chances are your body and mind have been trying to tell
you, but you may be moving too fast to even notice. Or
maybe you have gotten so accustomed to feeling worn out
that exhaustion seems normal. You can't even imagine what
it would feel like to have vitality and extra energy.
If you have even an inkling that being worn out might
be an issue for you, then I urge you to take the little quiz on
pages 24-25. The quiz lists eighteen symptoms of overload.
Even one can signal a problem, but the more you have, the
greater your risk. After marking your symptoms, slow down
and consider what might lie behind your answers.
Determine if these issues are constant or if they come and go.
When do they surface, and what is involved when they do?
If you routinely experience more than three of the eighteen
basic warning signs, it's time to make some changes.
Try not to dismiss your results with statements like, "This
is just the way life is" or "I'm not doing that badly." If you
find it hard to evaluate yourself, a great way to double-check
is to have a caring friend take the survey for you and
point out the signs they see in your life.
Are You a Worn-out Woman?
The quiz below will help you "take the temperature" of your
life when it comes to stressful overload. Read through the list
carefully, and check off each item you have experienced
more than once in the past week.
Add up your check marks for a quick assessment of
how worn out you are right now, and evaluate your "score"
according to the key at the end of the quiz.
You get irritable or impatient over little things.
You have a hard time getting to sleep or staying asleep.
You seem overly emotional.
Your body sometimes feels so wound up that you
You think, If I can just get through this, then I'm
going to do some of the things I really want to do.
You get frustrated at how forgetful you are.
You are easily distracted, even from things you enjoy.
Your friends say you are moody.
You run out of energy before your day is done.
You find it hard to make definite decisions or to stick
to them once they are made.
You get fed up when things take longer than you plan.
You find yourself eating when you really aren't hungry.
You avoid spending time with family or friends
because they just take too much energy.
You feel like nothing sounds fun or exciting.
You enjoy the adrenaline rush of last-minute deadlines.
You are not working up to your normal ability.
You find that worry distracts you from reaching your
You have trouble delegating tasks because you think
you can do them better.
If you checked . Your stress level is probably .
1-6 Mild to moderate-be careful.
7-12 Serious-may need to make some changes.
13-18 Severe-get help now!
A Reason to Hope
When I speak with women's groups and share my little
quiz, women come to me and say, "I thought I was doing
pretty well, but now I really feel worn out and stressed."
My response, "That's great," usually catches them by
"That's great," I continue, "because now there is hope."
As long as you deny, ignore, or minimize these symptoms,
you are headed for trouble. Even a mild to moderate level is a
signal that something is not right. The higher your score, the
greater the probability that you will face serious consequences.
If you don't do something to change, you can easily
end up with health problems, broken relationships, severe
depression, or a number of other difficult consequences.
But don't panic! There is hope for the worn-out woman,
but you have to take action. You have to do something.
The sad truth is that problems in our lives rarely get
better by themselves. If you get a sliver in your thumb and
ignore it, what happens? I suppose there is a slight chance
the sliver will work its way out, but more likely the thumb
will get infected. It turns red and hurts. In time it swells
and throbs. The infection spreads, and if left untreated it
even has the potential to kill you. But if you take the time
to remove the splinter and perhaps apply an antibiotic,
your thumb will probably be well in a day or two.
It's relatively simple to care for an infected thumb, but
caring for your worn-out body, mind, and spirit can be
trickier. You may know you need to do something but feel
too tired or frustrated to do anything at all.
If that's true for you, consider that you've already taken
the first step toward change, which is recognizing that you
have a problem. With God's help and the support of those
who love you, you can take another step, and then
another-until you've stepped right out of your rut. The
journey is not always easy and there are no quick fixes, but
it does help to have a plan. That's exactly what I hope you'll
find in the coming chapters-some simple tried-and-true
strategies that can keep you moving in the right direction.
If you keep taking steps, you may eventually removeworn out from the list of adjectives that describes you.
Instead, there will be words like alive, caring, confident,
purposeful, joyful, vibrant, and vital.
Just the way God planned for you to live.
Something to Try
You can choose just one .
* In your own words, write out the worn-out symptoms
you are experiencing. Which one are you most concerned
* Identify the people and circumstances that you
believe may be contributing to your weariness. What
about your own habits and tendencies?
* Take a few minutes to look at the contents page. If
you are drawn to some chapters more than others, put a little check by them. Decide whether you are
going to read this book straight through or if you
prefer to read the chapters you checked first.
* Find an hour or two in the next few days and do
something just for yourself. A leisurely walk, a nap
in the backyard, curling up with a favorite book, an
unhurried lunch with a friend . whatever speaks
comfort and relaxation to you.