I’ve been there. No, actually I am there now. Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe, like I have a huge boulder pressing against my chest. Other times I feel all jittery and accelerated as if I drank too many energy drinks or too many cups of coffee. I talk too fast, but struggle to connect coherent thoughts. A friend described it like a snow globe… ideas swirling everywhere in her head, even after she sits or lies down to rest. Some people dream that they are in a car, squealing around the corners out of control or flying over the guard rails.
Stop the car! I want to get out!
The problem is… I am not in a car. I am living life, and I can’t just get out. I can, however, learn to control the speed and handle the curves better. To manage my stress level, I’ve practiced a few tips over the years (that I am re-applying this week!). These are a few of them…
Talk to someone: It helps to get another perspective, receive objective advice, hear experience and tips, or just laugh with a friend or mentor about the chaos. It doesn’t require a lot of time; a chat in the hallway, an honest conversation over lunch, a phone call or coffee date can make a big difference in my attitude.
Toss the artificial deadlines: I put unnecessary pressure on myself because I want something done NOW that doesn’t really need to happen immediately. Many appointments can be rescheduled, due dates adjusted, bills paid in installments, dream projects postponed to a better time. If it is causing stress, but isn’t truly urgent, I am learning to let it go until later.
Test it visually: I quickly overload my calendar when I generalize tasks and time availability. To counter that, when life feels out of control, I write down every major to-do item or category that I have and then schedule specific time for it so that the calendar helps me see reality. “I’ll do that tomorrow” requires that I actually confirm that I have some free time tomorrow. “I can get to that next week” means that an empty day or part day is really available for the new idea. If I don’t have extra time, I need to understand – and see – that a prior commitment will be squeezed out when I add a new one.
Think rhythm: Life is a journey; it ebbs and flows. There are deadlines…and boredom. School semesters… and vacations. Friends… and loneliness. New babies… and graduates. Weddings… and funerals. Health… and crisis. Promotion… and retirement. Much we cannot control; some we can. I don’t want to add additional stress by stressing out over the stress. When I accept and appreciate where I am, and practice these tips when possible, I breathe a little easier, think more clearly and keep my car on the road.
How about you… Is your day-week-year out of control? How do you handle the stress?