We are often our own worst enemy when it comes to stress. In an effort to “cram it all in” we end up missing out on the joy of our lives. Over scheduling ourselves can increase our stress significantly. It’s also a tough habit to kick. But reining in the tendency to fall into the over scheduling habit will yield huge benefits down the road.
Over scheduling ourselves is more than just a thing people say, it shows up in our behavior as well. When you overdo you rob yourself of precious sleep, leisure time, and time to devote to optimal self care. Which increases the stress you feel. Striving to get just one more (insert your favorite widget or task here) done ends up being a cycle that seems like it will never end. Choosing to stress ourselves can have huge impacts on our ability to stay present and engaged in our lives. Life is too short to wade through it only half present.
Manoush Zomorodi devoted an entire book–Bored and Brilliant: How spacing out can unlock your most productive and creative self-– to dealing with a kind of over scheduling that takes the form of the addiction to devices and the internet sweeping our society. She shows how our tendency to “never be bored” or have a second unfilled is actually hurting us in ways we are only starting to recognize. You can find her book here. (I give this link only as a help to you, I am not receiving any monies from Amazon or Manoush.)
What can we do?
How do we step away, say no to things we may really want in order to have a more peaceful life? One step at a time. The habits you have today are not going to be changed overnight, but to be sure they can be changed.
Become more aware.
The first step in this process is to become more aware of what you are doing. I like diagrams. I think they are very illuminating. Sit down and write a list of all the things you’d like get done on the average day. Make it an exhaustive list.
Now sit down and consider the following
- How many hours a day must you work?
- How many hours of sleep do you need a day?
- Do you have other people depending on you?
- Do you have others who take care of repetitive life tasks for you?
If you are like me you have to work and likely those shifts are at least 8 hours. Ideally most adult people require about 8 house to be at their best. Yes, I know many people are not sleeping that amount. That’s likely why many people are in sleep debt, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Unless you live on Venus you have a 24 hour day. Given the information above that gives you just 8 hours to do all the life stuff apart from work and sleep. Grab your list. what is the likelihood that you will be able to get it all completed? You’re going to have to make some choices.
Pleasing versus planning
Take a look at your list. How many of the things on the list are things you might not really want to do, but are doing just to please someone else? I’m not saying that pleasing others is a bad thing, but if you are burning the candle at both ends to make other people happy you may find you are increasing your stress. Since we are talking about reducing stress looking at your habits is a great starting place. If you are a people pleaser it is often easy to say “yes” to requests before thinking about what that “yes” means to your schedule. I know this has been true for me.
So what now?
Once you are aware of it, you can begin to change it. That said if you start saying no to everything others want you to do you may find you are not only stressed, but lonely as well. Change is imperative and can be accomplished more easily than we sometimes believe.
Look at your list and jot down how long each one of those items takes for you to do. You might be surprised that you are trying to pack a lot into your day and this could be increasing your stress.
- Take a good hard look at those items
- What are they?
- Who do they benefit?
- How likely are you to get them done today?
- Determine for yourself which are the non-negotiable things on the list.
- Things that if you don’t do them you will sacrifice a big chunk of your happiness.
- Taking care of your kids.
- Spending quality time with your partner.
Ask yourself the following questions about each item.
- How much does getting this done affect my life?
- Will someone else be harmed if I don’t do this?
- What sacrifice do I need to make to do this?
- Is sacrificing something to get this done worth it in the scope of my life?
- Do I need help?
Put it on the Clock
When you start to put in all the activities you have on your list PLUS work and sleep hours, you may start to see a problem. It may be at this point that you will being to loosen your grip on all you want to cram in. You may even start to consider asking for help.
That one 33% wedge of the pie is often much too small to cram all the things we want to get accomplished done. At this point we are tempted to start doubling up on activities and not really being present for either.
STOP, Look, and chose a different approach. Start scheduling yourself more realistically and dare to be truly present in your activities. I think you’ll find you are much less stressed and much happier to boot.
You can review 5 Minute Stress Management here.