What is "too much"? Part 1: recognizing the signs

Recent events in the lives of a few people close to me have gotten me thinking, "how much is too much?" and "how do we know when that is"? We tend to be able to realize we've overloaded ourselves, but we often realize it pretty late in the process. It would be better all around if we could recognize it earlier, at a point when little damage has been done, and when simple changes can turn the tide.

Here's a list of some Early Warning Signs, chosen because they're easy to spot. Again, the key is early detection! In a future post I'll offer a compact and easy-to-follow plan for the next step: what to do about it?

  • You forget things. Physical things (keys, cell phone), but also - and maybe more telling - whether or not you've done something. This often results in sending that second e-mail because we've already forgotten we sent the first one. Or going back into the house to check the stove, and not trusting your memory of the check once you're in the car. Forgetting things other people have told you is another example.
  • You have aches and pains you don't normally have. Most people know not to ignore the warning signs of a heart attack, but physical symptoms of stress can be more subtle, like achy joints, or a low-grade headache, or feeling like you're going to get a cold (without actually getting one).
  • You're angry, really angry, angry enough to yell and/or break things, in a situation that would normally just piss you off. Someone walks past and stares at you without saying anything. The driver of the car in front of you waffles between turning right or left. A friend of yours changes some arrangement you two made, but doesn't consult you first.
  • You treat your partner, child, pet or other loved one with indifference (hopefully nothing worse), because you "just don't have the energy" - and you don't explain why.
  • You can't stop. You're so wound up you watch late-night tv even though it exhausts you. You go to bed late because you're hyper. You're caught in a loop and can't seem to get out of it. In the same vein, you might find yourself constantly eating or smoking. This kind of nervous activity doesn't result in much real productivity. It's just busy-ness.
  • Your bathroom habits are not what they should be.
  • You wear your glasses instead of your contacts, because (1) you haven't cleaned your contacts in six days, and/or (2) you've gotten so little sleep you can't bear to have the things in your eyes.
  • You forget or otherwise don't do exactly those things that would help you: doing the laundry, picking up milk for breakfast tomorrow, straightening up your desk, paying bills.
These are all relatively small but telltale signs that are easy to recognize. 

What would you add to the list? Please leave a comment!