It’s the age-old question, even more relevant today when so many of us are engaged in multiple, simultaneous projects.
I worked a 54-hour week last week at work. We had a shoot at the studio, which went into a second day. Many other things also happened in my life right around the same time (kind of like how November 5, 1955 was the date the whole universe hinged on in the Back to the Future movies…Dec 6-9 for me was that same critical hinge-worthy time period). Last week was the most physically and mentally grueling week for me ever. (You may have noticed I posted one photo on my blog of me smiling on the set…and then nothing for 3 days.)
When I’m under a lot of stress in one part of my life…I have to pull back on the other parts. Put the blog posting on hold, forget about that face mask, pile stuff into my corner of the office and leave it there. Stop answering email for a couple days. Stop paying attention to what I’m eating and just eat when I’m hungry. Put the workout routine on hold. It’s as if I just don’t have the head-space to deal with anything else except what’s going on in front of me, stressing me out. And many things fall by the wayside during that time.
If you’re anything like me, this might be how you deal as well. Here are some tips for keeping up with the things that do matter to you (even if they seem like added stresses whilst in the thick of things):
1. Make a List
Figure out everything that’s still on your plate besides what’s stressing you out, and designate it either:
- Keep Up With It
- Put It On Hold
- Drop It Completely
Seeing your task list written out like that, and giving yourself permission to do away with to-do’s (or even just delay them), can add some calm in a world of chaos.
2. Pull Back on Your Commitments
For your “Keep Up With It” tasks, further break them down into tasks that you can keep up with in only a minimalistic sense. If you have to be making daily dinners for your family, can you just heat up TV dinners or work with pre-cooked ingredients or dishes that take only 5 minutes? Can you plan out your week of dinners to make it easier? Can you post a single photo on your blog of a “wishlist item” instead of an entire post? Now is the time to pare down and to become a total slacker. What can you get away with by doing the bare minimum?
3. Talk or Hang Out With Someone Not Involved in What’s Stressing You Out
Your friends and family can often be a great source of help, even by just being around someone who isn’t caught up in the madness. Even if you’re just dishing about Kate Middleton’s latest outfit or your friend’s last horrible date, chatter that isn’t focused on your issue can help free up your mind from its mental hamster wheel. Even just 10 minutes can make a huge difference. Laugh, cry, shout, give advice…get caught up with what’s going on in someone else’s life for a few moments, to take a step back from what’s going on in your.
4. FORCE Yourself to Make Some Me Time
It doesn’t have to be a huge amount; just whatever time you can afford to spend on yourself. A nice bath. An episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos. A chapter in a good book. A face mask (which I didn’t even have the presence of mind to do last week *ahem*) Even 10 minutes of exercise – a quick stroll a couple times around the block – is actually doable and will do wonders to improve your mood.
5. And, if nothing else, a deep, deep breath and some EFT
I’ve been using a 7-breaths technique to gain calm (breathe in for a 7-count, breathe out for a 7-count, seven times). Repeat as necessary. However, I’ve recently discovered EFT and have been absolutely amazed at the results. It works by stimulating nerve receptors in the skin by tapping them (the same as with acupuncture), thus creating an interrupt in the body’s creation of negative emotions (which are, in actuality, just chemicals released by the brain and other organs, flooding the body and affecting heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, etc. negatively). Just try it and see. Even try it with a completely negative attitude, convinced it won’t do a darn thing for you. You may be surprised. (Read more about EFT here and here if you’re interested.)
Edited (12/31) to Add:
6. Ask for Help from the Important People in Your Life
Sometimes it’s really, really hard to admit to your friends/parents/significant others/kids that you really can’t do it all. Asking for help sometimes feels akin to admitting that your not superwoman/superman…but sometimes you just have to ask or else go utterly crazy. And the people who really care about you, whether they are friends or family or co-workers or the person you’re dating, will probably be okay with doing something to help you out. Hub can make dinner one night – it’s not going to kill him. Maybe instead of you sending a holiday card to your parents’ friend maybe they could just write a greeting from you into their yearly card. Maybe a friend could drop your Goodwill donation off instead of you doing it. Etcetera. It definitely takes a village, and if you’re at your wits’ end don’t be ashamed in asking for little favors from the people in your life! (But conversely, be prepared to return the favors at another time.
How do you cope with major stress in your life? I’d love to hear your tricks for staying sane amidst utter insanity!