Gradually, unwittingly, we often overload our electrical systems at home until a circuit breaker pops.

It may begin with the purchase of a newer, more powerful computer. That computer necessitates having a state-of-the art printer. Then, before you know it, you are the proud owner of a scanner, copier, fax and shredder. Of course, you already have task lighting, overhead lights, clock radio, speakers, electrical pencil sharpener, air-conditioner and a ceramic heater.

You vaguely remember that the computer guy suggested that you install your computer on a separate electrical circuit. You promised yourself you would do that – someday. Yet, you put it off, because so far you haven’t noticed any major problems. Yes, at times the lights seem to be dimmer or the A/C runs less efficiently, but that doesn’t happen all the time. And besides, you hardly ever use more than a few of your machines at the same time.

But as luck would have it, on the very evening that you are operating on a tight deadline, the room is suddenly pitched into total darkness. Your first thought - the damn electrical company. You pray you haven’t lost too much data. Then you notice that lights are on in another part of the house. Could it be that a circuit breaker has popped? You find the flashlight and are pleased that its batteries are still working.

You search for the popped switch on the electrical panel, flip the breaker back on and return to work. You’ve just settled in when pop, you’re in total darkness again. Too late. You forgot to turn off a few of the machines before you went back to work. Annoyed, you think, what a pain in the neck this circuit breaker is.

Then you remember what a circuit breaker is designed to do. It’s a safety device to protect you from fire or damage to your appliances that would undoubtedly occur if you continued to operate on overload. As a result of its activation, you know that you need to make a change. Something must be removed from the overload if the electrical current is to continue to flow safely.

It seems to me that many of us need circuit breakers for the way we live our lives. If you’re living a harried, pressured, stressed life, you most likely have an overloaded circuit yourself.

If you didn’t have so much to do, you wouldn’t be so stressed about the delivery being late. If you weren’t so stressed, you wouldn’t be so nervous about that upcoming event. If you weren’t so nervous, you wouldn’t be so irritable with your partner’s inconsiderate remark. If you weren’t so irritable with your partner, you wouldn’t have this pounding headache? You get the picture?

Too bad that we too don’t have circuit breakers built into our systems to alert us of our overload. Or, maybe we do, yet choose to ignore them?

For isn’t chronic fatigue and stress a way your body is telling you, “Stop! You’re doing damage to me; treat me better or I won’t be able to function!” Isn’t chronic worry and irritability a way your mind is telling you, “You can't continue to live like this anymore; you must make a change!" Isn’t chronic arguing and negativity a way your relationship is telling you, “It’s not working. We need to find a better way to be with one another!”

Gradually and unwittingly, many of us have overloaded our lives. Though we receive warning signals that alert us to the danger, often we ignore them, considering them a nuisance. Yet, we ignore them at our own peril. For warning signals, like circuit breakers, are designed to protect us from serious damage. Just attending to the immediate problem without changing how you live, is a way to do permanent damage to your mind, body and relationships.

I hope you’re wise enough not to let that happen.

Copyright 2007

Author's Bio: 

Dr Sapadin is a psychologist, author, columnist, and motivational speaker. She specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior.

To find out more about her work, visit

Her new book, “NOW I GET IT!” Totally Sensational Advice for Living and Loving provides sensible and savvy advice for building competence, enriching relationships, enhancing communication and improving the art of parenting.

Dr. Sapadin is also the author of:

Master Your Fears: How to Triumph Over Your Worries and Get On With Your Life (John Wiley, 2004, also published in Korean)

It’s About Time! The 6 Styles of Procrastination and How to Overcome Them (Penguin, 1996, also published in Japanese)

Beat Procrastination and Make the Grade: The 6 Styles of Procrastination and How Students Can Overcome Them (Penguin, 1999)

She has appeared on national and regional media, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, National Public Radio, and the Voice of America.

Her work has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Newsday, The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan,Ladies’ Home Journal, Prevention, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Men’s Health and many other publications.

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