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Are you over-functioning?

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

Over-functioning is something I've done a lot in the past. It was a coping mechanism I'd picked up over the years and it worked really well for me. Until it didn't. I became completely overwhelmed, burnt out and exhausted. It led to some breakdowns in relationships with close family members and it's something I've worked hard at finding more balance with. Sometimes we have to go through hard things to evaluate what works for us, and what doesn't, what's healthy for us, and what's not, what we want to carry on with, and what we want to change, what we want to prioritise for ourselves and what we want to let go of.

Signs you're over functioning

  • Feeling that if you don't keep all the plates spinning they'll come crashing down

  • You're seen as 'having it together', reliable and organised

  • Not wanting to be a burden

  • Feeling responsible for other people and their problems

  • Common in high achievers

Why might you over-function?

It could be a learnt behaviour from seeing other people doing this as a child or in early life. You could have been placed in that role or you've taken on that role in a relationship or family dynamic. It could be a coping mechanism that has worked for you in the past. Over functioning can be triggered by fear, anxiety, guilt or shame. Doing it can distract you from other problems. It can also be a trauma response from something that's happened to you and has become a pattern of behaviour.

Over-functioning can lead to overwhelm, burnout, exhaustion, increased anxiety, hyper-vigilance, resentment and relationship problems. Especially if you're in a relationship with someone who is under-functioning and you're doing more than your fair share.

Some questions for you to ponder are:

  • Where does over-functioning show up for you?

  • Where are you holding onto the reigns so tightly?

  • Where are you micromanaging people or situations in your work or life?

  • Where do you feel nobody can possibly do things as well as you do, or even do them at all?

  • Where are you doing more than your fair share?

Journaling on these questions will be really helpful for you getting some awareness and clarity. If you're new to journaling you can read my Journaling blog post here.

What can you do to bring more balance?

  • Allow others to do things - it's not all on you. Start small and let other people pick up smaller tasks. Or sit back and don't do all the stuff you usually do.

  • Give other people the chance to step up.

  • Ask for help from the people around you, and make sure you accept help that's offered. You don't have to be strong or perfect.

  • Be honest with yourself, and be and open and honest with those around you. Chat about how you feel, the impact of doing all the things you do and what support you'd like.

  • Set boundaries - articulate your needs and set clear boundaries with people around you. If you'd like to know more about boundaries take a look at my Boundaries blog post here.

  • Take a proper break - rest is productive. You're a human being not a human doing, practice this.

  • Be mindful - when your inner voice gets critical of you or other people, listen and take notice. It's likely your values aren't being met. To get clear on your values take a look at my Values blog post here. There's a free downloadable worksheet to help you.

Final note

You wont have the perfect balance all the time. Sometimes you'll go between over-functioning, under-functioning and optimal functioning but if it becomes a fixed pattern, is affecting your wellbeing and is ongoing for a long period of time it may be something you want to get help with. You can work with a coach (like me!), a counsellor or therapist.

PS if you found this blog interesting, you'll LOVE my emails! Subscribe to receive my emails here. I'll send you one every few weeks and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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