Recently I’ve been talking about stress – a lot. It seems most of the people I know are feeling like they have too many things to do and not enough time in which to do it. They feel overwhelmed and underappreciated. They feel like they have no energy at the end of the day to do the things they enjoy or spend time with friends and family. They wake up in the morning not feeling rested and end the day feeling absolutely exhausted more days than not. Does this sound like you? Even just a little?
Having too much stress in our lives seems almost endemic in our modern society, and taking on too much and feeling like there isn’t enough time in a day almost seems to be the norm instead of being something that happens at a particular season or in a particular circumstance. There’s a saying that goes something like this: “If you want the job done right, ask a busy person.” People who see that you are competent and busy will always ask you to do more, so it may be up to you to ask yourself to do less.
It’s also true that when we feel stressed out and overwhelmed that we often stop doing the things that actually make us feel better – less stressed – like exercise, eating a good diet, and getting enough sleep. Think of the things you do when things are not so crazy for you. Do you meditate in the morning before you start your day? Do you play tennis on the weekends with friends? Do you take your children out for fun activities? Do you take time to read a novel?
Are you doing any of those things right now when your stress level is high? Those activities seem like they aren’t important enough, and we need to stay on top of our work and get things done. We don’t have time to go to the gym when that report is due tomorrow. But in reality, we don’t have time not to. When we do things that allow us to take a break from our stress, slow our brains down, and generally feel good, we are not only reducing our immediate stress, but we are also making the time we are working more productive. If our brains and our bodies are fed and stretched and happy, we are more likely to be creative and work faster to get work done. Also, if we have things we are looking forward to that we enjoy, we set better deadlines for ourselves and are more productive.
I think having too much to do may begin with getting our priorities back in order. My favorite way of doing this is that when I know I’m busy I will not take on any extra work and responsibilities. I know that I can’t really commit to doing them well anyway, and I simply can’t spare the time. Someone else will step in if you step out – or maybe it wasn’t that important in the first place. If you want working out or your family to be a priority, carve out specific time for them. Make yourself unavailable to phone calls or appointments when it’s your time to be with family or to exercise. Very few situations are so pressing that an hour or two can’t go by without you responding to an e-mail. And if it is that important, you probably know about it in advance. You may have to communicate with people that you are not available at particular times until they get used to it and understand that you are truly not available.
I challenge you to find a way to drop some of your stress today. You probably already know what to target. In the long run, it will be better for you and everyone around you.