What do I do to manage stress?
I used to think multi-tasking was a virtue. And perhaps it is, in certain cases, as I learned when caring for penguins at the NEAQ. But multitasking all the time is just distracting, and I think it is leading us to more disconnection with each other and what is important in life. More importantly than my opinion, recent articles by Chris Kresser summarize research that states that multitasking actually weakens our brain, and the rapidity of technology and switching between screens and buttons and tabs is having a negative effect on our brain.
That is why, as much as possible, I am trying to single task. I don’t eat and check facebook at the same time. If I am watching a video lecture on Coursera, I won’t switch back and forth between other articles or tabs or my email. When people speak to me, I’m not thumbing through my phone or reading or doing anything else – I work hard to listen and give the speaker my undivided attention, especially if it is a child.
- assigning time limits for technology
In tandem with single tasking, I find it very important to assign time limits for technology. I have a 7:30pm laptop curfew. Sometimes I find that even hard to follow, so whenever I know I don’t want to be on the computer I physically power it off. Once or twice a week I leave my laptop at work overnight and have technology-free evenings. I assign 10 or 20 minute blocks for email or social media, and stick to checking it once or twice a day. I’m never perfect about maintaining this, but it helps me remain more productive and sane.
I’m not really a big fan of cell phones, and you won’t find me constantly texting. But I make it clear to friends, family, and work mates that I don’t like to answer my phone from 8pm to 8am. If someone calls during that time, I know it is important and I should answer. If you can receive emails on your phone, I suggest turning off sound alerts.
- Cultivating mindfulness started with mindful eating and grew out into other parts of my life
- single tasking and setting boundaries help me to remove unnecessary distractions and focus more on the task at hand or simply being more aware of the present. Pausing every hour at work to take deep breaths, stretch, and move around makes me feel better and work better.
~ Coming from someone who grew up with schedule anxiety, don’t be too mindful of time itself. I used to be a slave to a schedule, planning out every move I made according to the clock and adjusting if I took an extra 20 minutes at the store or what have you. I realized that this robs me of the present, and I’m usually trying to cram too much in anyway. I’ve stopped wearing a watch, and I’m much less go-go-go than I used to be. I enjoy whatever I’m doing much more when I am not preoccupied with or worrying about time.
write gratitude lists
- nothing keeps you more aware of all the goodness in your life than writing it down each day
- do more things that you enjoy & add positivity to your life
For me, pleasure is playing music, listening to jazz, being outside reading in my hammock, working in the community garden, playing with my friends’ children, swimming or walking, going for tea with friends. Taking day trips, getting a massage, having at home movie and DIY spa/beauty nights. Going to butterfly houses, zoos, museums, relaxing in hot springs (hot baths work too), Skyping with family and friends afar, and volunteering.
Volunteering and service for others brings great pleasure and fulfillment to my life. I am careful to make sure I take care of myself first, in order to better care for others, and also not to overextend myself or my schedule.
Take the pressure off
Make sure to take one day of no self-imposed obligation
- we always put enormous pressure on ourselves, usually because we don’t feel “enough”. We fall into the trap of being busy for busyness’ sake, thinking that we have no right to schedule time for ourselves, thinking that we can always do/be/give more. Often you need to give to yourself. In my family, Sundays were family time. We stayed away from activities, as best as we could, and spent time together before the week began. I still like to keep Sunday nights quiet, sometimes spending it with friends but usually preparing for the week ahead.
Setting boundaries is difficult but rewarding. We have a hard time saying no, but the world doesn’t fall apart if we do. If you don’t want to do something but feel like you need a “reason” to give (which you don’t but I understand the sentiment!), you can just say that you already have plans. And those plans can be spending time doing whatever it is YOU wish to do.
Most likely the hardest thing about stress management is the fact that we don’t add something in to take care of our stress, but we must make the hard choices and do less. My mantra is always do less so I can enjoy more, which is difficult to put in practice at times, especially during the holidays, but I enjoy my life much much more now that I set boundaries and seek out pleasure rather than busy.