It happens every year during this week, I get mega-stressed. My husband is gone for a week-long work trip so I’m alone with the kids and my busy season begins next week so I need extra time at work. Because I know this stressful week reappears each year, I have to prepare to get things done, spend time with my kids and maintain a normal, positive attitude whether I feel like it or not. Not always easy to balance everything when your insides are screaming, “You’re stressed out, act more stressed out! Aaagh!” Here’s what I do when I get stressed, like I am right now:
Make Progress Somewhere. I’ve noticed the more stressed I get, the more I need to clean and organize something. Sometimes, I don’t even realize I’ve started cleaning–but when I become aware of what I’m doing, I realize that I must be trying to calm down. I often come into my office and tidy before anyone else gets there. At home at night, I’ll get extra bursts of energy and need to get up and clean. I’ve realized I do this because I need to make progress somewhere. When I feel overwhelmed by the amount of things that I need to do (three to do lists can do that to you), I have found that cleaning something makes me feel better, makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something and gets me ready to focus on the tasks at hand. What works for you? You may feel like you don’t have enough time, but even 15 minutes can give you the time you need to clean up a few things, get back on track and set yourself up for success.
Get Up & Moving. On Wednesday morning I had one of those moments where you heatedly discuss something in your head to yourself:
“You should go to the gym for your exercise classes, you’ll feel better!”
“But the air conditioner was broken on Monday, which made the workout grossly hot and I have way too much to do!”
“You brought a gym towel with you, suck it up and go to the gym!”
“OK, I’ll do it, but I’m not going to be happy about it until I forget why I’m so busy!”
“Well, we both know that will be in about 10 minutes because you forget everything quickly.”
“You sure do know me, let’s do this thing.”
So I went to the gym for my employer-sponsored workout classes and I forgot about how busy I was two minutes after I got there (I don’t take easy classes). Turns out, I did need something to burn off my extra stress-related energy. And I felt much better after the class. I felt hot and sweaty and gross, but much calmer and ready to tackle the rest of my day. I promise that you will feel better if you get up and get moving. Even if you only have 15 minutes, you can make progress, reduce your stress, and improve your health.
Write it down. I have three to do lists going right now. One is for work, one is for home and one is for my new volunteer responsibilities. With this busy week, I started to freak out a little with all of the things I had to do. I realized I was just stewing over them and that wasn’t doing any good for anyone. On Wednesday night, I wrote down every task I could think of on a to do list. And after I made (or updated) these three to do lists, I felt better immediately. I knew I had it listed so I didn’t need to think about it anymore. And since then, I’ve whittled away quite a bit from each of them–so I know I’m making progress (yes, sometimes I do write down things I’ve accomplished just so I can mark through them and I LOVE to re-write my to do lists when they get mostly completed, gives me space for new tasks). If you don’t keep a to do list, I’d recommend starting one. You’ll find it’s much easier to remember what needs to get done and it gives your mind the freedom to focus on other things.
Learn the Difference between Immediate and Important. With three to do lists active, it might be easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of things that need to be done. But, when you learn the difference between immediate and important, it suddenly becomes much easier to figure your priorities and make progress on your tasks. I also serve on the editorial board for a national magazine (doesn’t that sound fancy!?!) and I have an article due. I’d listed the due date as today, but in truth it isn’t due for 10 more days. Guess what, that task moved from my Immediate To Do list to my Important To Do list and it’s not getting done today. Immediate tasks must be done immediately. Important tasks need to be done, but can be moved a little lower and often saved for later. I’d recommend looking at your tasks and listing accurate deadlines on the immediate and important tasks to help you prioritize your time.
Focus on What Really Matters. Sure I have tons of stuff I need to do, but really it can all wait. Because my Immediate and Important Tasks aren’t essential to my life. It’s these two little balls of energy that deserve my time and attention. But when I’m realistic, I know that I can’t ignore my work and responsibilities if I want to maintain my current lifestyle. So I have to make choices. Each night this week, the boys and I spent some quality time together and then I worked on accomplishing my important tasks. One night, we went window shopping at the pet store, to the “Big Fire” restaurant (Mongolian grill) and then we came home and cleaned the house together. Another night, we went to a local pool for the slides and diving board and then while the kids were watching a movie, I organized my PTA notebook. And last night, I vegged out for Project Runway with the 6-year-old:
“Mommy, why are there so many beeps in this show?”
“Well son, these people are saying naughty words and they can’t show it on TV”
“Mommy, they sure are saying a lot of naughty words.”
“Yes, you are wise beyond your years–they shouldn’t be talking to each other like this.”
And after the show we went all for an adventure walk in the dark with our flashlights and played a game of follow the leader. And today, the kids want to go to the zoo, so I’m awake two hours earlier than them so I have time to write this blog (truth notice–some of these blogs are written way before I post them!)
You can do this. Reduce the stress in your life by getting yourself back on track. Remember, this too shall pass–what ever you’re going through, be thankful. You’re going through it and soon you’ll be on the other side and you’ll be better for it. Now, back to cleaning . . .