Yep. These phrases are amongst the most commonly used phrases you will hear people use. As we move further into the year I am hearing it even more because it is about now that most of us feel this sense of urgency about the year and how far into it we are and what we wanted to do but have not yet done.
There is also this sense of urgency with teachers about trying to fit it all in and get everything done in the time we have.
Personally, I am the least stressed I have been in a very long time. I feel the occasional stresses of things getting done in my day to day life but it is not a place or feeling I spend a lot of time on. For years, I was so stressed at work, about work, about life in general. It sucked. I was unhappy and frustrated and overwhelmed - A LOT! But these days - I am not. Yes - work is still as busy as ever. Yes - my to-do list appears never ending! Yes - there are demands coming at me from everywhere - and I don't have children so I can only imagine that next level for parents!
But I am here to share with you today that it is absolutely possible to let your stress go EVEN with all you still have to do!
Before we continue, I would like you to answer the following questions. If you find yourself answering YES to more than one of the following questions, you are probably already feeling like stress is already a part of your everyday life.
Is your mind often busy with too many thoughts?
Do you find yourself mentally exhausted at times?
Do you sometimes overthink things?
Do you find yourself focusing on the negatives?
Do you have so much going on that is can be difficult to think straight?
Do you wish you could just switch everything off and relax?
This was me. All of them. Every single one! It was no wonder that I was stressed and because I was stressed all the time, I went to the place I always went to - which was procrastination! I was tired all the time. Everything felt hard and there simply was NOT enough time in the day at all!
It took me a while, but through my journey, I have learnt a few tips and strategies that have really supported me and those around me to learn how to, not only recognise when stress is coming but also how to tackle it head on before it becomes overwhelming and all-consuming.
You can do anything but you can't do everything.
We have this idea in our head (especially women) that we need to do everything! Now everything is a lot! When you think about everything and all you feel like you have to do, I bet you could sit down now and write a list of about 20 things (possibly more!) that you could easily think of.
Do you really need to do all of those things? Is it something that could be shared with someone else in your home or on your team at work?
I saw this great anagram for STRESS.
Someone. Trying to. Repair. Every. Situation. Solo. (Dave Willis Org)
We are human. We need people in so many more ways than we realise. Allowing others to help and support us eliminates our stress considerably. It is okay to ask for help to get things done!
It is not the load that breaks you down. It is the way you carry it. It is not the fact that you feel like you have to do everything. It is how we look at each of those things and what we do next.
So what DO we do next?
Pick your Imperatives
If you are in a situation, like a workplace for example, and there are just some jobs that are required to be done by you alone then here is my go-to advice. This was taught to me a couple of years ago and 99% of the time I use it. Occasionally, I forget when I focus on everything and my wonderful teaching partner reminds me of breathing and refocusing. Only human after all!
When you look at your to-do list and the first thing you think is - How on earth am I going to get through all of that today? This is when you use this tip.
Firstly, you have to be okay with knowing you WON'T get through everything today! And you know what? The world will keep spinning! Things will NOT fall apart like you might think and the chances are, no one is going to be asking you tomorrow if you have finished your list of things to do yet.
So...each morning, look at your list. Pick THREE IMPERATIVES for the day. Three items on your list that MUST get done today. I know everything on the list is important but not everything MUST be completed today. So pick three that you need to do or move forward on today.
THEN, once you have picked those three items, pick one to do first and then go and do it. Once it is done, move to the next one! If you get those three things done today or even one of those items complete, remember to cross it off your list and celebrate.
Repeat the next day! Don't be hard on yourself. Set your intentions for the day and move through the action with mindfulness.
Multitasking is a Myth!
This may ruffle some feathers because I know the saying that women are the ultimate multitaskers! Sorry...there are but a few situations where multitasking is effective - especially where children and routines might be involved. But when it comes to your list of things to do - the science shows you are more likely to move through your tasks with more ease and speed by focusing on one thing at a time. It will not only be more time efficient but you are more likely to produce a higher quality of work.
We buy into this myth which supports our thinking of needing to do everything. It's just not true. It is time to slow down a little bit.
Follow your stress and you will find your fear.
From experience and from a place of love, I can share with you - if you allow yourself to follow your stress, you will go down a path of worry and fear of everything. It impacts everything. Stress is simply the act of focusing on EVERYTHING all at once and telling yourself that you HAVE to do it all. When that happens, your brain moves to - worry because you start thinking about it all and wondering HOW to do it all. Then your worry moves to fear because your brain moves to - what is going to happen if I CAN'T do it all? Then all those lovely stories about time, money, family, job, children, spouse, judgement, etc kick in. It is a rabbit hole of negative and disempowering thoughts. None of which you need! Because I promise you:
YOU ARE AMAZING AND DOING THE BEST YOU CAN!
It really is that simple!
Stress impacts our levels of cortisol in our brain. This means, when we are stressed or have periods of prolonged stress, it impacts our ability to learn. It actually impacts our cognitive function. It impacts memory, ability to learn and also our immunity. The higher our level of stress, the higher the level of impact on our brain and body. Our bodies are not designed to function in that situation.
What is even worse, is that it becomes a cycle of stress leading to fear which leads to increased stress.
Stress leads to lack of sleep (hard to sleep when you're thinking and worrying about everything), poor nutrition (harder to make good choices and our body craves the unhealthier foods) and emotional distress (worry, fear, anxiety). All of these factors then impact learning, attention, memory and perception.
So how do we manage to avoid the stress levels we are currently in and how do we teach our little humans to avoid feeling the same levels of stress?
Nothing is permanent. Everything changes all of the time. No matter how bad our situations can get, things will always eventually change.
Stressed is caused by being 'here' and wanting to be 'there' (Eckhart Tolle) We are all on a journey, even our little humans. We are exactly where we need to be, learning what we need to learn. We are not supposed to know everything or learn everything at once. We are supposed to make the mistakes and go through the process so that we can get where we want to go.
Be mindful of our thoughts. Our stress comes from the way we respond to things, not the way our life is. When we check in with our thoughts, adjust how we are focusing on situations, we relieve the stress factors.
Our job, as adults, is to show and teach our kids that they always have a choice in how they respond to things. Regardless of what the situation is. If we teach them to focus on where they want to go and not on what they fear, the outcome will be completely different and so will the response.
Some good ways to get clarity when your body is feeling stressed - (for kids and adults):
- Have a dance, go for a walk, talk about it, breathe, go to bed earlier, focus on what you can control, celebrate a win, get some hugs, smile, and breathe! (Mentioned twice because it's important!)
Just stop it!
Stop trying to make your stress right. Stop trying to justify your stress. There is no reason for your stress other than you are giving it to yourself by focusing on everything. There is no need for you to be walking around all stressed out every day!
You can decide. You can decide not to be stressed. People will tell you they can't help it. You might even be saying that to me as you read this! But you can. You can CHOOSE not to be stressed. You can choose to focus on one thing at a time. You can choose how you react and respond to ANY situation regardless of how busy or unfortunate it might be. We give meaning to everything. So why not change the meaning of what you're doing from stressed to something more positive and empowering?
When we are stressed, what happens to our breathing? It becomes shallow and quick. So it makes sense that the deeper breathing you do the calmer you can get yourself. You have to breathe! So why not do it to really help you?!
There are so many great apps for kids to help focus on their breath and take some time to relax. They are great for adults too! This is why, when children are upset, the first thing I say is to breathe deep! You can not possibly get clear thoughts with a stressed body and mind and rapid, shallow breathing! You will be surprised at how simple, quick and effective breathing can be and it's free!
Until next week...have a fabulous and stress-free week!
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