I’m not a doctor. I don’t even play one on TV. Yet, after 7 years of serving frazzled, Type-A women, there is one human condition I’m supremely qualified to diagnose: Overitis.

Overitis is a virulent condition resulting in both acute and chronic inflammation of the soul, which results in a significant loss of vitality as well as potential increases in anxiety, depression and chronic stress.

Cases of Overitis can be detected year-round during periods of intense transition like relocations, career changes, relationship status changes, or the start & finish of a school year. However, there is a significant uptick in Overitis outbreaks in North America from the very end of October through the second week of January, more commonly known as the “holiday season.”

The holiday strain of Overitis seems particularly severe in its damaging effects and duration. Classic signs of this insidious condition include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Over-scheduling
  • Over-eating
  • Over-caffeinating
  • Over-spending
  • Over-indulging
  • Over-doing, in general.

While men are, in fact, susceptible to the disease, far more women, especially working professional women, are affected annually. Accurately diagnosing and treating Overitis among women is incredibly difficult due to the “Superwoman” effect – the silent, unrelenting, perceived shame and pressure around not living up to a questionably unsustainable, peer-derived standard of feminine perfection.

While current research on Overitis is limited, the most effective prevention seen in clinical practice is an intentional “No” assertively communicated in a timely, but not rushed, manner.

A Sample Preventative Protocol

Before saying “Yes” to anything:

  1. Buy yourself some time to think clearly. Thank you for thinking of me. This time of year is extraordinarily busy for me. I want to make sure I can give this request my complete attention. I’d like to take [tonight, this week, this weekend] to consider it. 
  2. Put a reasonable deadline on it and tell the other person. I will get you an answer by ____. 
  3. Ask the person for all the information you need to make an informed decision. If you’re not sure exactly what to ask, start with who, what, when, where, and why.
  4. When you’re alone, take 3-4 deep breaths. (I dig Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing, but do what works best for you.)
  5. Ask yourself: Does this really matter?
  6. Ask yourself: Is this a “HELL YEAH” or a “No”? Listen, especially for the word should. Should = No.
  7. Make your decision and communicate it by the deadline promised. Stalling will only siphon more of your energy and focus. It will also blow your credibility with the other person.

Hi, so-and-so, thanks for giving me time to consider your request/offer. Based on my current commitments/load, my answer is no. Thank you for thinking of me.

A Sample Treatment Protocol

At the first sign of decreased vitality or increased anxiety, depression or stress:

  1. With your schedule or task list in hand, find a distraction-free space to focus for a minimum of 11 minutes
  2. Set a timer, so you can focus on your treatment without additional worry about maintaining your schedule or falling into a rabbit hole.
  3. Put all devices into Do not disturb-mode for the duration of your treatment session. Yes, this is possible and absolutely necessary for a full recovery.
  4. Take 3-4 deep breaths. (Again, Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing works great, but don’t fuss. Aim for longer exhales than inhales.)
  5. Starting with the current week, go event by event on your schedule and ask yourself the following antidotal questions:
    1. Does this really matter? Listen and check in with your physical body.
    2. Like really, reeeaaaallllly matter? Listen and check in with your physical body.
    3. Is this a “HELL YEAH” or a “No”? Listen, especially for the word should. “Should” = “No”.
    4. When you identify a “No”, ask yourself: How can I responsibly ditch, delegate or ask for help with this commitment as soon as possible?
  6. Immediately communicate your “No” – assertively, effectively and timely – to any other involved parties.
  7. At the end of your session, congratulate yourself for your treatment efforts.

This protocol may be repeated daily or weekly until the all symptoms of Overitis abate. Once in remission, the preventative protocol may be used.