Do You Recognize Your Breaking Point?

By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen Tribune News Service.

Are you pushing to help your family and friends, keep up at work, and pay your bills on time? If so, you're living like most people. You're driving yourself hard, but you're hanging in there.

But what if the treadmill you're on keeps moving faster? Would you recognize the signs if you were near the breaking point?

Trying to do too much will eventually backfire.

Consider a woman we'll call Wendy. Wendy was doing okay as a single mom until she let her unemployed sister move in with her and borrow lots of money.

"Now, I'm getting kicked out of my house, and I feel like I'm losing my mind," says Wendy.

A man we'll refer to as Jake decided to volunteer three days a week at his church. His wife had already complained that they lacked free time to spend together.

"My wife told me yesterday, she is at the breaking point," says Jake. "She is sick of my long days at work and giving away my free time to do volunteer work. She asked me for a divorce."

If you're pushing your limits in one or more areas, you need to take stock. You'll need to make some decisions to protect what you have.

Consider a recently widowed friend of ours we'll call Dixie. Dixie works full time, takes care of her elderly father, and financially supports her daughter and two grandchildren. Something in Dixie, according to her, is about to snap.

Another friend of ours runs two businesses he owns. We'll call him Gary. Gary's brother was just diagnosed with cancer, so Gary took on the management of his brother's retail store as well.

"It's a matter of time before Gary has a heart attack," says his wife, Paula.

If you know you're near the breaking point, be sure to stop and make some decisions. People who fail to change things can wind up divorced, sick, emotionally unhealthy or dead.

These tips can help:

-Require someone to supply help. Maybe someone in your household needs to get a job. Or they might need to provide physical help of some type, such as helping with chores.

-Move your plan along in small steps. For example, if your divorced sister and her children have moved in and stayed too long, offer to help her find help from social services or other relatives. Tell her you will help her make calls and implement a plan to move out.

-Confide in someone for support. Talk to your banker or your brother about your issues. Don't try to carry your burden alone. Other people can help you see new options you hadn't thought of. Address your major financial struggles. Maybe you need to sell a property in order to pay off credit card debt. Or maybe you need a part-time job to help you pay debts you owe. Look for what's going to work and take action.

"I had to force myself to get out of bed last year," says a minister we'll call Edward. "Our church had built a new building we could not afford. The payment was astronomical. After about five months of this worry, I met with local bankers. They restructured the loan and got our payment down. We also sold off five acres of church property to create a big savings account, too. Before these changes, ulcers were eating a hole in me. It pays to cry uncle and get help when things are horrible." ___ (Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe, Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)

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