I’m so busy. I’m so stressed. I’m so exhausted; sleep deprived; burned out!
These are frighteningly common responses, these days, to the simple question “How are you?” And we’ve all said them; sometimes with pride!
Stress and anxiety have become so common place and accepted that many of us have forgotten life doesn’t have to be like that. In fact, too many people have come to embrace these states of being, thinking they’re helping us function and perform better.
But that’s not necessarily the case. There’s no doubt that “negative emotions” such as stress and anxiety are normal; and there’s no doubt we’ll all have some of them in our lives; and that’s OK. But there’s also no doubt that chronic stress and anxiety is not necessary or helpful; in fact, chronic stress can contribute to significant physical and psychological problems, ultimately reducing our ability to enjoy and to live fulfilling and satisfying lives.
So, what’s the answer?
Well, we could remove all stressors from our lives; except that’s not at all possible! Or we can minimise the number of stress inducing triggers in our lives; which is far more possible. And we can learn to cope with stressful stimuli more effectively, thereby reducing the impact they have on us and our lives.
Let’s look a bit more closely at how to achieve the latter two options.
Firstly, what would it be like to have fewer factors causing stress and anxiety? You don’t need to answer that question; it’s rhetorical. And I very much hope your answer was something like “fantastic!”
The good news is it’s very achievable and here’s a simple strategy I recommend for bringing it about:
Reflect back on the last week of your professional AND personal life
List the top 10 factors (people, meetings, tasks etc.) that caused you to feel stressed and/or anxious
If any of these can be removed from your life, then do it!
If any of these can be reduced (that is, have less of them or have them in your life less frequently) then take action now to do it!
Can you delegate any tasks? Stop seeing any people? Give up or swap any activities with someone else?
Is everything you’re doing really necessary and/or really important? Would anything terrible happen if you just stopped some of these activities?
Too often we add more and more to our lives forgetting that we don’t ever have more and more time. Every now and then, like a “spring clean”, it can be very helpful to remove things from our lives; and that might even include people!
That being said, we’ll never remove all the stressors or negative factors in our lives. What we can do, however, is learn how to keep calm and relaxed despite them. With this in mind, here’s a related but slightly different strategy I invite you to trial:
We can all enjoy more calmness and relaxation in our lives if we remove or reduce obvious stressors, and if we change the way we think about unavoidable stressors. So just remember, less is sometimes more and “nothing is either good or bad ‘cept thinking makes it so” (Shakespeare).