I feel like I am constantly running at work from appointment to appointment, and then when I get home hurrying to make dinner, running to a sporting event or practice, helping kids with homework, and if I’m lucky I get to sit down around 9.30pm or 10pm after I’ve made lunches for the following day and the kids are settled in bed. I have high energy but I have noticed that I don’t sleep as well as I should, and that I feel exhausted by the time the weekend comes because I haven’t paused for even a moment.
So do I consider all this “activity” stressful? I don’t think I realize how much pressure I put on myself until I go on vacation or have a few days off when I can actually breathe and pause for a moment. I did a little research to find out what impact stress could be having on me, even though I am fortunate enough to not be affected at this point, I do know that if I keep up this pace, at some point my body is going to tell me to slow down. Before I go into the results, I want you to ask yourself a question…do you listen to your body? When you start to feel tired, irritable, impatient or flustered, do you stop to think why you might be feeling like that? I always used to think that it was just my temperament, but as I have started to watch and listen to my body, I am noticing that when I am on vacation I am far more tolerant, patient and kind…so that tells me the level of stress I am putting on myself is definitely affecting me.
Based on the research I have done Adults are more likely to find family responsibilities much more stressful than ever before. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we schedule our kids into so many different things, then we schedule ourself on top of that, and wonder why we have no energy left. When I was growing up I remember sitting in front of the TV almost every night with my family and just relaxing after school or work. These days I am lucky if I get to watch TV at all, or if I do, its after the kids are in bed, and I am in the bath or just for 1/2 hour before I go to sleep.
Here are a few interesting facts that may help you prioritize your responsibilities and stop trying to do it all:
44% of Americans feel more stressed than they did 5 years ago!
1 in 5 Americans experiences “extreme stress” – which includes depression, heart palpitations, and shaking
Work stress causes 10% of strokes
3 out of 4 doctors visits are for stress related ailments
Stress increases the risk of: Heart disease by 40%, heart attack by 25% and stroke by 50%
40% of stressed people overeat or eat unhealthy foods
With all of these facts, it certainly puts the importance of taking care of myself into perspective a little more. Stress can be caused by so many different factors, but one of the common denominators is over-extending yourself. I have always been a person that believes I can do it all. So, I don’t like to ask for help, I take on more than I should, and then I add stress to my life where I really don’t need to.
Over the past few months I have really been focusing on how I can change my perspective on taking too many things on, and I have been practicing being open to people helping me, so now when people ask me if they can help or if they can do anything, I actually say yes. This is a huge step for me, and the beginning of a new outlook on life. One thing I have noticed is that people really do want to help (OK, so maybe when I ask my kids to help out, they don’t always appreciate it), but on the whole, people are willing and actually like to help others. I guess I should understand this because I love to do things for other people, I’ve just never really allowed them to do it for me.
Another thing that I have become really good at, is taking vacations. What I have realized is that I can work really hard for short periods of time, but I become burned out…so when I take vacations that allows me to recharge and come back raring to go again. In England they actually require you to take vacations, which is a really smart thing to do. In my home town, a lot of businesses would actually close down for 2 weeks and that would be when you would go “on holiday”…I didn’t really remember that until I started thinking about my dad taking time off as we were growing up and it was always a priority of his. In the US, vacations are quite often frowned up – even when you have been given the vacation time. I used to always take my laptop with me when I went away and always at one point or another, would end up doing some kind of work (even though I was on vacation). I don’t do that anymore, I have learned to trust others to help me, and allowed myself to completely disconnect (not an easy thing to do when you have control issues 😉 )
Take time to do something that relaxes you (like spending time with friends, going for coffee, getting a massage, or my favorite, taking a bath)…find something that works for you and incorporate that into your routine. Even just a small break will help you through, and help minimize the stress just a little.
So, as you head into the Holiday weekend, I hope you will take the opportunity to contemplate your health, what things you can do alleviate the stress in your life, and come up with a plan that will help you live longer, happier and actually be more productive with no multi-tasking (which is a whole other subject that I will be touching on soon!)