Let’s break for a minute and talk about stress.
We all know the facts. Negative stress weakens our immune system, disrupts our sleep, affects our mood, impairs our ability to deal with others…
et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
But we like stress. We wear it like a badge. We say, “Oh, I always take on too much!” or “I’m SO busy!” or “I never have time for….” If we’re not busy, if our lives are not out of balance, then we’re not doing enough. Stress is stylish. If we’re busy, we somehow feel that we’re making more of an impact, that we’re doing a better job.
I, too, felt this way once. I loved busy days, where I felt like I accomplished so much. I frequently volunteered for more than one person could possibly do, then ran myself ragged trying to get it all done. Work and family were always at odds with each other, as I tried to give both 100%.
Then came last summer. Not only was it the first vacation in years that focused only on our family, it was also very quiet. Sailing involves a lot of living in the moment, and, frequently, a lot of doing nothing. As I did nothing, I found that I had greater patience with others. That I had access to more of my brain, for problem-solving. That I was happier and more at peace.
It was then, in the fall, that I decided to quit multi-tasking. That was a project in itself, and, over the next few days, I will share my learnings with you.
Today, we will talk not about the “how,” but about it “why.” Because any efforts to reduce stress will fail, if you haven’t given yourself permission to live a calmer life. Some things to keep in mind:
1. We often say that we are stressed, to justify spending time on ourselves. This is due to guilt! We need to look at why we’re feeling guilty. Is it because we spend time shopping and overspending? Indulging too much in food and drink? Paying for a pedicure we really can’t afford? If this is the case, then we are caught in a cycle of negativity. We overbook ourselves, so that we can justify doing something that–deep down–makes us feel bad. There is nothing wrong with “me” time. We all need some time to ourselves, doing something we enjoy. We just need to examine other ways to meet this need, ways that don’t cause guilt.
2. We run ourselves ragged, because we don’t feel like we are doing enough. It’s time to focus on quality, not quantity. Do a few things, and do them well. Give them your full attention. Then, learn to see “not doing enough” guilt as what it is. More than anything, it’s a marketing device. How many products/services are being sold, by making people–especially parents–feel guilty? It’s an advertising ploy that has made its way into our society. We are expected to feel guilty. It’s time for us to stop the guilt, stop comparing ourselves to others (who are also struggling with stress, just as much–I promise!), and start taking care of ourselves and supporting those around us.
3. When we’re constantly under stress, we don’t work with others as well. We have less patience. We’re more likely to snap at those we love most. Nothing helps our relationships like a calm mind.
4. When our mind is not calm, we can not use it fully. Stress makes us stupid. When there are a million to-do’s on our mind, we can’t focus. We make stupid mistakes. We forget things. Ironically, in our efforts to get more done, we are able to do less.
Convinced? Then I invite you to journey with me, toward a calmer, more fulfilling life!