Breaking Busy: Tips to Reduce Stress and Do More With Less
I'm going to level with you guys. These past few months have been some of the most unpredictable, rocky and testing days in my life so far. From starting a business to working myself to a near mental breakdown, it's been a whirlwind of changes, and I have come to know my limits. It hasn't been easy to accept these limits. Since I was very young, I have been independent, the type who just gets it done. I take on more than I can handle. I thrive under pressure.
I've never been great with boundaries. I've always felt I need to do everything. And I've never known quite when to stop, pull back and do less. I've never paid much attention to the consequences of those ignoring the signs that just maybe you've done a bit too much. I usually push ahead and get the job done.
I've realized the cost of this attitude. I realized that there is a cost to stress. And it's not one I'm willing to pay.
So I'm changing the game. My game.
I'm respecting my limits and employing strategies and tips to reduce the stress and focus on what matters.
I hope you find these strategies helpful. If you have a good tip to reduce stress not listed here, let me know about it!
"Can you help me with...?"
I often find myself stressed out because I have taken on too much. Because I don't say no when someone asks if I can help with something or if I have time to do this or that. I have a hard time with this little word. It's got me into some very tearful situations because I couldn't handle what I put on my plate. I'm learning to take a step back and assess my capacity to help. The world isn't going to fall apart if you miss that party or skip that dinner. I'm trying to do more by doing less. Take on fewer projects, but give more of myself to them. Maybe that's a pro/con list. Maybe that's a conversation with a friend to generate some insight.
"How are you?" "Good. Busy. But good."
When did "busy" become a badge of honour? I'm so guilty of this. I have a hard time relaxing and reflecting. And when you are too busy trying to balance all the balls in the air, there's no time for relaxation or reflection. And I've tried. I have scheduled in "unbusy" time where I sit, journal, read, or do whatever comes to mind. I have yet to successfully sit for 30 minutes without thinking of my to-do list. The strategy: sit for five minutes. There are 1440 minutes in a day. I can take five of them to break busy and soak up the moment intentionally.
One of my favorite books on this topic is Ali Worthington's Breaking Busy. If you have a crazy, busy, non-stop schedule, I encourage you to read this book. It's insightful, funny and relatable.
"Hey, can I talk to you?"
If I have learned anything over the last few months with as much intensity, it's this: we are meant to live in community. Reach out to your friends, family, small group, church, co-workers. Talk with the person in the cubicle next to you. A simple conversation and connection with someone can significantly reduce the negative stress. I meet with a coach every two weeks, and she helps me work through a lot of the things that stress me out. A simple connection with her helped me break through some significant stress I was experiencing a couple of months ago.
Take Care of Yourself
When I'm at my peak with stress, my diet and exercise routines are, um, not good. When I can't think of anything else other than what's stressing me out, I reach for fast, easy and convenient and eschew exercise. Every single time I do this, it backfires. I end up feeling worse and more stressed. It's a dangerous cycle. Eating a healthy diet and exercising has always helped me get things back on track. When my body is well-taken of, I'm in a much better place to take care of my mind.
Take Inventory and Reorganize
"Keep. Donate. Throw away."
My mom is a big fan of HGTV shows and an organizational maven, and we watched a lot of home organization shows where they separate all the junk into different piles. One you kept. One you donated. And one you threw away. Most of the time, people put what they thought they needed into the "keep" pile when it should go in the "throw away" pile. After some tough and tearful conversations with the show's host, only the things that truly belong in the "keep" pile were left over. Everything else was either donated or thrown away.
One of the best things I have done to reduce my stress over the last few months is to take stock of what I was doing and reorganize my life. Some of the things I held on to are things that belonged in the "throw away" pile, and the things that needed to be in the "keep" pile were often thrown away. Holding on to the those bad things and ignoring the good things just added junk and stress surmounted. It's taken some tough conversations, but now I'm much better equipped to separate the piles and reduce the stress in actionable ways.
I have to be honest about this post. It's been on my editorial calendar for a couple of months now, and I've been putting off writing it. And the words written above do not reflect the goal I originally had in mind for this topic, but they do reflect my journey. I've realized the major stressors in my life, what's junk, and what's not. I've taken baby steps to do more by doing less, to give more of myself to fewer things, and to be extremely intentional in my business, friendships and relationships.