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The Worn Out Woman
By Steve Stephens Alice Gray
Multnomah Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2004 Steve Stephens and Alice Gray
All right reserved.
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 to!
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 can't relax.
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 goals.
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 surprise.
"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 remove worn 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 about?
* 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.
Excerpted from the worn out woman by Steve Stephens Alice Gray Copyright © 2004 by Steve Stephens and Alice Gray. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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