They say the only sure things in life are death and taxes. I’d like to add STRESS to the list. No one is immune. In American, we live in a fast-paced, high stimulation environment. We have hundreds of details to manage and sort through every day. Email, text messages, phone calls, appointments, traffic, kids homework, parent-teacher meetings, work deadlines, errands, and on and on. We move at a fast clip and rarely if ever get a break. It is wreaking havoc on our mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Here are some suggestions for how to manage inevitable stress:
- First of all, let go of perfectionism.It’s not helpful. It only adds to our stress when we beat ourselves up. Perfectionist thinking is actually de-motivating. It can lead to paralysis rather than progress. Instead, strive for progress. Accept “good enough.” And if you are one of those high achieving types, think about pursuing excellence rather than perfection.
- Cultivate compassion for yourself and others.When I am stuck in traffic-a daily occurrence in this town-I try to imagine why the person in front of me might be driving below the speed limit. Maybe she is new driver. Maybe he is elderly and no longer confident behind the wheel. Maybe the driver’s dog just died and he is leaving the vet’s office in shock. OK, that may be a bit extreme, but seriously, I try not to attach to the idea that it’s personal. Creating alternative explanations for irritating situations is one way to lower stress because when we attach to one fixed idea and convince ourselves it is personal, we can get aggravated and stuck. We don’t always know what motivates others to do what they do.When you are feeling stressed and discouraged, make the effort to acknowledge what you have accomplished or done right, even if it wasn’t as much as you hoped. If you find you are falling hopelessly behind, see it as a problem to be solved, rather than a statement about your worth as a person.Maybe you need to work on time management skills. In which case, it would help to create specific daily goals and schedule them at specific realistic times in your day planner. Scheduling specific goals at specific times helps keep you on track and can give you a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. Just be sure you schedule in down time, time to relax, and be with friends and family or just be alone. Many of us are so busy, if we don’t schedule pleasant, relaxing activities, they won’t happen. We’re not machines! We can’t run 24/7. We NEED rest and relaxation!
- Develop healthy habits and routines.Habits are powerful because we do them without much thought and therefore they are more effective and cost us less effort. The problem is this works for BOTH healthy and unhealthy habits. A habit of endless web surfing can waste hours of our day if we aren’t paying attention. An interesting exercise is to create a time diary for a week. What do you do with your time? Who are you with? Where are you? What are you doing that you truly believe is worth giving away the precious, limited time we have been gifted? Try it and see. You might be pleased to see you really are leading a busy but fulfilling life. Or you might discover you are frittering away hours and hours of your life on pointless things.Healthy habits require less thought and help us move smoothly through our day. Are there some healthy routines you could begin? They might be as simple as setting out your clothes and setting up the coffee maker the night before rather than stumbling through the process, bleary-eyed, in the morning. People-adults and kids- with ADD or ADHD are especially helped by external structure. One of the great challenges of modern life is the frenetic pace and constantly changing nature of everything from technology to news to traffic patterns, etc. I suspect in the past life also had more of a simple, predictable rhythm to it. Healthy, daily routines can be soothing and good for us.
- Set priorities, keeping first things first.Sadly, we can’t have it all. It’s a pity but there are only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. We only have so many years to live and we can’t do everything we might like to do. We have to be clear on what really matters to us and set our priorities. When we are clear on what we want and have our long-term goals in place, life becomes simpler in a way. We can look at everything we do and ask ourselves if it is helping or hindering us from achieving our long-term goals and attending to our priorities.
When you feel like the pressure is enough to make you snap, try a few of these things and see if they don’t make a difference.