I'm on the phone, pumping gas the other day. I had just spent thirty minutes in the school drop off line, simultaneously yelling at my kids to put their shoes on, brush their hair, stop fighting and find their backpacks. I was doing all of this while checking incoming work email from the boss and responding to coworkers questions and checking personal email from the kids' school to tell me I've been volunteered to be the box top lady, all while I'm putting on lipstick and drinking coffee.
So, after that chaos, I'm talking on the phone while getting gas when the gas pump stops working, so I jump back in the car swearing to myself, but continuing my conversation, and back the car up a little to the pump behind me only to discover that one is only diesel.
So now I swear out loud and the person on the other end of the phone doesn't miss a beat of our conversation. She doesn't act shocked or dismayed or even annoyed that I'm doing five things while talking to her (including cussing). She knows. She's been there.
She's also a parent and can pretty much guess I'm yelling at some inanimate object that is just not working. Stress. It can't be just me, right? So, how to deal with our too busy lives with too little time and money and still deal with day to day realities?
- Now it: According to some beliefs, 'now' is the only time that matters. How does one 'be in the now' as they say? And does that really reduce stress? To be here now, you need to find a way to stop fretting over what's to come and start looking at what's in front of your face right this second.
Is your son trying to tell you some story about one superhero fighting another while you're making vegetables and prepping lunch boxes and washing clothes and waiting for the dishes to finish drying? 'Now' theory would tell you to stop all of those things and focus only on one at a time.
So, stop chopping vegetables and sit down face to face with your son and listen to his story, really listen. Then ask some questions. Then listen some more. Calm down and slow down and breathe and just be. When the story is over, ask your son to help chop carrots or set the table and do it together, one project at a time.
Will it reduce stress? Yes, if you let your timetables and rules fall to the wayside. Willing to give it a try tonight?
- Off is in: Start turning some things off in your life. When you get up in the morning, turn off the radio alarm clock and the news and just open some windows instead. Wake up to fresh air and the sounds of morning.
When you get in your car, turn off your cell phone, or better yet, stick it in your trunk so you're not tempted because you're a phone junkie just like me. When you get home at the end of the day, turn off the TV and tell your kids you'll all watch one show (or movie) together later, after dinner.
When you're heading to bed at night, turn off the TV and radio and cell phone and iPod and computer and pick up a book. I'm betting if you do this for just seven days, you'll sleep better, wake happier and be a whole lot less stressed.
- Expect less: While this may sound somewhat negative, expecting less of people, places and things is actually a pretty smart way to stay stress-less. It's when you expect to get to work on time and the traffic slows you down that stress starts to rise.
It's when you expect your coworker to have their end of the project ready, or when you expect your kids to have finished their homework before 8 pm, or when you expect people to be on time, that stress hits peaks. Expect less and relax more.
Temper your expectations and allow some room for humanity, human error, problems and concerns that others have that you don't know anything about. The bonus of this theory is that you'll find yourself pleasantly surprised when people go above what you've expected which should be less.
It's time we all find ways to reduce stress. We're all supposed to be eating healthier and exercising more (or at all), and finding time to play a bit more. Anything that works to reduce stress is a good thing. So give these ideas a try this week and see what happens.