How to Recognize When You are Near Your Limit


To be human is to be limited.

Yet we often find ourselves living as if we are unlimited, stretched emotionally, financially, mentally, physically.  We become restless, sleepless, nervous, irritable, frustrated, anxious, tired, and/or depressed. Many of us ignore these sources of information that come from our onboard equipment God gave us and view them as things to overcome instead of signals to heed. With Superman and Superwoman capes securely tied on, we determine to push on, push past, and shove our way on through life.

Throwing one more ball into our juggling act happens almost mindlessly. We don’t even question whether or not we can or should add something else to the act. We live from the presupposition that there is always room for one more thing. One more responsibility. One more hobby. One more activity. One more conference. One more committee meeting. One more lunch with a friend.

After all, these “things” are all good in and of themselves. The inherent problem is that we, as humans, are not designed to carry unlimited loads of responsibilities, even when they are basically good, helpful, healthy ones.

And then, at some unforeseen point, when we can no longer juggle the load we’ve taken on we begin to drop the balls resulting in a failed juggling act.

In the arena of actual juggling, that might not be so bad. We can simply regather and begin again. In the area of our humanness, it’s not such an easy undertaking. The stakes are much higher.

Our overcommitted lifestyles wreck havoc on our physical body, our emotional health, our finances, our mental processes, and our spiritual life. The processes of rebuilding and restoring takes time.

The principles of healthy living are ordained by God. When we ignore those principles, it’s presumptuous to assume that God will always rescue us from whatever mess we find ourselves in. Does He rescue? Oh, yes. Many times He has rescued me from myself and my misjudgments and mistakes. Other times, He has allowed me to have to face my failures. In His ultimate kindness and big picture way of thinking, He teaches me how to do life better.

Lessons learned through pain and suffering and failures often have a higher stickability rate. In other words, I remember them longer and learn from them more fully.

In recent years, I’ve been learning how to recognize my limits. I certainly haven’t arrived yet, but I am learning how to listen to the multi-faceted ways God speaks to me about balance and boundaries and emotionally healthy spirituality. I’ve learned to increasingly say no to the need to be Superwoman and yes to the need to live in balance.

I’ve discovered that I live more fully when I am not driving myself all the time to accomplish something. I breathe better when I take time for fun, relaxation, restoration, and pleasure.

I’ve had some rough days lately. In recent months, I’ve added a major ball to my juggling act, caring for my elderly mother who has Alzheimer’s’. At moments, it is emotionally draining, mentally exhausting, and physically depleting.

I’ve had to give myself grace to live within my limits during this season.

Wednesday afternoon I arrived home from work. My mom needed me to help her with her bedtime routine. Life with Alzheimer’s’ is confusing, at best. There were lots of questions to answer. Lots of reassurances to be given. More emotional energy to be used.

Normally I go to church on Wednesday night. My former frame of reference would have spoken with a shaming voice and said, “You have to make it to church. You’re the pastor’s wife. You need to set a good example for your kids. What will other people think?” and so on.

But this week I thought, “I can’t do this tonight. I don’t have enough resources left. I’m fairly spent emotionally already. It wouldn’t be wise to push through this. If I pull this off (and make it to church), then I will be completely exhausted afterwards, will have no energy to spend with my husband, and will be jittery and stressed because I’ve tried to do it all.”

So I gave myself permission to stay home. I got Mom in bed without having to rush her. I sat down in the peaceful quiet of an almost empty house and had some good food. I resisted the urge to lose myself in social media and picked up a novel that I am reading, propped my feet up, snuggled in with a soft blanket, and unwound.

Later when my husband got home, I had something left in my energy tank to give in conversation and presence of my heart.

I wish I could tell you that I always get this right. I don’t. But I get it right much more often than I used to.

Living within our limits allows us to receive the information that God is speaking to us so that we can live long, healthy and productive lives. Living within limits honors God’s ordained principle of rest and restoration that tells us that we are not made to be limitless in our humanity but that we must purposefully pursue a life of balance. A life that includes listening to our heart when it says, “You’re too close to the limit.”

Where are you today? Are you stretched too far? What changes do you need to make to begin to live a life that honors God, yourself, and others by acknowledging that you only have so much to give and that you must give that wisely, purposefully?

Are you running on empty?

You don’t have to. You can reprioritize. You and only you can do the work of change that results in a life lived well according to God’s design.

What one change could you make today to live within your limits? Will you make it?

(Related post: When You Have No Margin Left: The Pathway to Burnout)


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Categories : boundaries, Change

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