Breaking Up with Stress
Its tough not be over-stressed these days. But have you ever thought about the possibility that you might actually like being stressed out? That in fact, you might get the same kind of giddy high from having too much to do that you get when you fall IN LOVE? Dr. Kathleen Hall, author of Alter Your Life: Overbooked? Overworked? Overwhelmed?, suggests that living an overly-busy life can create a natural high that affects the pleasure centers of the brain. But the negative consequences – including anxiety, sadness, insomnia, memory loss, confusion, borderline depression, and a whole host of physical diseases – can create severe problems for any woman who defines herself by the number of things she\’s is able to get done on any given day.
There\’s a bumper sticker that would be funnier if it weren\’t so true for so many women these days: “Don\’t tell me to relax – stress is the glue that holds my life together.” If you\’re measuring your value and purpose by a full calendar or the fact that your cell phone never stops ringing, you\’ve formed an unhealthy love relationship with your stress. Here\’s some quick ways to break it off:
1. Sleep on it. Sleep is not only important to helping us cope with our hectic lives, it naturally slows us down and makes us more aware of our natural rhythms. Women who are in love with stress often claim they can get by on three or four hours of sleep, but the truth is we all need at least seven preferably eight hours a night. Buy yourself a new pillow, a machine that plays the sounds of rain or the ocean surf, and hit the sack.
2. Don\’t call (or fax or e-mail) it in. Technology is very addictive – the idea that we CAN keep in touch and get things done while commuting or even on vacation sucks a lot of women in to believing they SHOULD. Make it a policy to turn off all your electronic devices whenever they\’re not absolutely necessary. Pretend you\’re on a plane about to take off and have no choice.
3. Talk it out. The voices in your head have probably led you to your unhealthy relationship with stress. “All the other women I know are working 70 hour weeks, if I only work 60, I\’ll look like a slackard!” Try reframing your life with different words, like “Destined for greatness, but pacing myself.” Or “Out of my mind; back in five minutes.” The more your inner voices acknowledge your addiction to stress and have a sense of humor about your attempts to change, the better!
4. Fall in love with love instead of stress. Instead of trying to find meaning in living a busy life, spend more time connecting with people (and animals) that bring love to your life. Whether you meet friends or loved ones for lunch, sit down every night at dinner with your family, or call people you feel disconnected from, every moment you spend seeking to give and receive love will fill you up in a way a busy calendar never could.
5. Lean on your friends. Women naturally tend to seek out the solace and comfort of their friends when under stress, but if you\’ve become so busy you\’ve let your friendships falter and forgotten how to make new ones, this can be an important step for you in breaking off your unhealthy relationship with stress. Women who measure their value by how much they do tend to see other women (and men) as competitors rather than a soft spot to fall. Spend at least fifteen minutes every day connecting with someone on an intimate level.
6. Become choosier. If you\’re in love with stress, you tend to say Yes to anything that fills your day. Simply learning to tell the difference between what\’s urgent (like a ringing phone with a telemarketer on the other end) and what\’s important (like your daughter\’s ballet recital) can help you devote your time and energy to the things that really matter in your life. When faced with another stressful activity you have to choose whether to do, ask yourself whether it is important or simply masquerading as important by its urgency. Pride yourself on your ability to tell the difference.
7. Laugh it off. Laughter is good for your body, mind and soul. One of the best things is that it creates endorphins which give you that natural high you\’ve been seeking through a busy schedule, but without any of the negative consequences. A sense of humor also helps you rebuild camaraderie with the people you\’ve ignored of felt competitive with in the past. Not to mention that it burns calories!
8. Take a calming moment. Try to spend three to five minutes each day in total peace and quiet. This time not only helps you appreciate a few moments of doing nothing, but it lets you hear your true self more clearly. The true self that wants happiness and love more than it wants business and stress. Three to five minutes isn\’t undoable, even if you have to close the bathroom door to get the time to yourself.
9. Move on. When a relationship ends, there\’s a period of grieving, but eventually, we move on to the next thing in our life. Make a list of the things and relationships that you really want in your life now that you don\’t spend all your time hanging out with stress. The idea isn\’t to replace everything on your calendar, but to put back into your life the things that make you whole, healthy, and happy.