Overscheduling and Anxiety

overscheduling and anxiety

Before Google Calendar and iCal there was the PalmPilot, before the PalmPilot there was the paper agenda, before the paper agenda there was… probably less to schedule. Today, whether you’re an adolescent or a parent, life seems to run on scheduling, or more likely, overscheduling.

And, this holiday season it may seem even more relevant. December can often come with a plethora of holiday parties, gift shopping, end of year deadlines and family gatherings. During months like this it’s important to take a breath, relax and ask yourself can I do it all? Better yet, do I need to do it all? Let’s think about this together.

What do I mean by overscheduling?

Does your week revolve around a calendar? Do you identify who goes where at what time and what needs to get done by what day? Do you check your calendar the night before to see what’s on schedule for tomorrow and again check your calendar in the morning to figure out what needs to get done today?

While having an organized schedule can help with time management and organization, it can also lead to anxiety and a feeling of there just not being enough time. It can make life feel overwhelming. And truthfully, it might be. If you’re the type of person to think nothing will get done unless you do it yourself, then life will get overwhelming and cause you to feel anxious and stressed.

Costs of overscheduling leading to anxiety and stress

If you tend to overschedule yourself and your family, you might start noticing signs of anxiety and/or stress. Anxiety and stress not only impacts your mental health but also your physical health. Our minds and our bodies truly are connected. Your mind might not recognize what’s going on but your body will absolutely feel it. When you start feeling the physical signs of anxiety or stress it’s telling you something, that it’s time to recognize how your mental state is impacting your physical being. Let’s look into some of the physical signs a little more.

Stress and anxiety can sometimes manifest in the form of a panic attack. A panic attack might look like shortness of breath, chest pains, arm numbness or arm pain. All these symptoms sometimes appear and feel like a heart attack. Yes, this can be a very scary feeling. It’s always important to be checked out if you have never experienced this type of pain before, but if you have, it’s important to recognize where your stress and anxiety is coming from. Not to mention, stress can cause a weakened immune system which increases your chances and likelihood of getting sick.

It’s impossible for your anxiety and stress not to spill over and impact your relationships, too. Whether you’re feistier than usual, angrier than usual, or more lethargic than usual. Because of your anxiety and stress you aren’t going to show up for the people in your life the way you want to.

So, what can you do about overscheduling?

Firstly, it’s important to recognize if you are feeling overwhelmed. Because if you can identify what you’re feeling, then you can start to figure out what will be helpful to you. If you recognize that you do have a lot going on and tend to “burn out” every few weeks, then here are a few things you can do.

Delegate and ask for help.

There are many reasons behind not asking for help. Depending on the way you think and the type of person you are, asking for help might signal weakness or being incapable. Asking for help might seem futile because it won’t get done as well as you do it. Asking for help doesn’t seem worth it because no one will help any ways.

Regardless of the reasoning, asking for help can seem difficult or impossible. And asking for help is an exercise in better communication with people in your life. If you find you have difficulty communicating your needs to those around you, you may want to seek the help of a therapist who can work with you on that.

Schedule a block of nothing. Literally, nothing. And do whatever it is you want to do.

You’ve probably heard about “me time” before, but the truth is it really is important. Scheduling time for yourself will help reinvigorate you. It will provide you with the space to feel like yourself again. To worry only about yourself again. Something that might seem impossible or a luxury. Even if you can only manage a little bit of time, it’s important to think about yourself every once in a while so you can really show up for the people in your life.

Talk to other people who may be in a similar life situation as you.

Something I’ve written about before is the idea that as our life becomes more digitized and activities that we used to do with other people are now easier to do alone (for example using a Peleton rather than going to the gym), life also becomes more lonely. We forget that other people might be feeling similarly to us. If you have a friend, a colleague, or an acquaintance who you know has a similar lifestyle as you then reach out to them, talk to them, see if you can provide each other with some emotional support. I bet you’ll find that more people than you think are feeling just as stressed and over scheduled as you are even if they look like they’ve got it all together.

Challenge yourself to think about why you’re doing it all and if you need to be.

As the days go by and you get caught up in your tasks, appointments and chores, it can be hard to find time to reflect on how you really feel. But, it’s important to recognize and honor when you’re feeling stressed, anxious and/or overwhelmed. You can’t always rely on others to see when you’re falling apart, but you can try to rely on yourself to. Challenge yourself to take a moment to take a step back from your life and reflect on what is truly making you feel satisfied and what is causing you stress. If going to one more Secret Santa is going to push you over the edge, don’t go. Saying no to others sometimes means saying yes to yourself.

How does overscheduling relate to or impact my adolescent child?

Your overscheduling impacts your child in many ways. It sets an example and an expectation that anything seemingly unproductive is unacceptable which can lead to internalization of feelings or anxiety. It can also cause you to be less available to them when they need you for emotional support.

As they say on planes, put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. And this is basically what I’m talking about here. You have to take care of yourself before you can truly take care of others. If you’re a parent, making time for yourself will help you to feel calmer and more relaxed when around your kids. It will help you to be less irritated and more curious about them rather than judgmental.

It might seem like a small thing, but when you feel like you have made time for yourself, it will be easier to make time for them.

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