I may be a stress management and empowerment coach, steeped in objectivity, and calm empathy, but whenever I hear someone exclaim (usually accompanied by appropriately dramatic body language) “I can’t because my crazy-busy schedule is making me so stressed” or variations on this theme, I am tempted to burst out laughing. I want to ask the obvious “well, why don’t you re-arrange your priorities?”
Brene Brown talks of numbing strategies—where people seek solace in socially acceptable addictions, to avoid facing what they don’t want to face. And never before has crazy-busy-stressed been such a socially acceptable numbing strategy. We have developed a culture that’s bought into the idea that a) busy means valuable and b) if we stay busy enough, the areas of our lives that require attention will just go away.
Being stressed in our society has become a kind of trendy tag for success.
We think it says I am so in demand, and so busy that I must be valuable. What it actually says is I am convincing myself and others of my value and significance through a socially acceptable avoidance strategy.
But this begs the question if you are so smart (and obviously you are, as you are so in demand), then surely you can grasp the fact that your stress alarm is warning you that this story is not going to end well? Stress is after all our internal anti virus alert—a threat to your well being has been detected.
Surely smart people know what happens when you ignore that kind of message?
Is there perhaps a smidgeon of attention getting martyrdom in this crazy-busy-stress thing? Do you use busyness stress as a socially acceptable cop out clause?
It works for all sorts of situations, tasks and people you want to avoid—but can’t bring yourself to just say so.
In other words it is often used as an excuse.
You’ll notice for instance that even the most die hard stress devotees are never too busy to indulge in activities that align with their priorities in some way.
Could it also be that stress is often used to break the boredom of lives that have become too comfortable; too lacking in challenge? Are we subconsciously harking back to the adrenalin rush days of dodging dinosaurs and hiding from hairy mammoths?
The fact that many of us allow our lives to be hijacked by technology grants crazy-busy-stress a great deal more power—and provides an infinite number of excuses for it.
Research seems to indicate that individuals who use technology to enable them to continue working beyond office hours or to receive social media notifications around the clock are often highly successful in their jobs. But they’re also at greater risk of overload.
Are you controlling the tools of your trade—or are they controlling you?
A recent study reported in TIME magazine, that some people checked their phones on average 110 times a day. Some checked them as much as 900 times a day! What you can be sure of is that if your digital devices have this kind of hold on you, you are going to be stressed!
Why not try an experiment to test whether your use of technology is within healthy limits or verging on addiction. How about designating one day a week as technology-free; or between certain hours of the day? Does that sound do-able, or does it make you break out in a cold sweat?
Do you need to get your priorities straight?
We need unplugged time, a variety of activities, environments and interactions and face to face interpersonal relationships for a well balanced life. The secret to keeping stress in its place is to know what is really important to you at any given time.
In other words—get your priorities straight.
What we consider important has a direct effect on how we live our lives. The actions we take, the goals we set, even our daily thoughts and feelings are driven by what we consider our priorities.
That’s why there’s no such thing as there’s not enough time. It would be more accurate to say that doesn’t fit with my priorities right now.
Whether it’s your health, relationship, relaxation, family commitments, a holiday or business success, whatever you are neglecting isn’t because you haven’t got the time—it’s because it isn’t at the top of your priority list right now. This is okay. Not every area of our lives can be a priority at the same time.
But let’s quit the not enough time excuse shall we?
People who are successful consciously peg their priorities in alignment with their primary goals and values; the areas of life that are most important to them at any given time. If you’re feeling the ill effects of stress, what it’s telling you is that you need to re-evaluate your priorities.
13 ways to rearrange your priorities—and decrease stress:
1. Put technology back in its place—as a highly efficient servant—instead of an over demanding master.
2. Stop using busyness as an excuse. It’s a choice.
3. Prioritize the right people—your significant other, your family, your business partner, your employees and customers, in order of their importance in your life.
4. Make you-pleasing a priority. Pleasing others will then come with ease, rather than resistance and resentment.
5. Identify why your life is out of balance. What areas are being neglected?
6. Value, grow, nurture and reach out to your support team. Delegate. Don’t try to do it all alone.
7. Re-evaluate your goals and priorities regularly.
8. Celebrate your milestones and wins, so you know you’re making progress.
9. Make your well being a priority—especially when under pressure.
10. Treat your stress alarm like a smoke alarm—and rearrange your priorities when it warns you to.
11. When you’re taking strain acknowledge that you do in fact have options
12. Consciously choose your individual priorities.
13. Change these priority filters as and when necessary.
Life is constantly evolving, so our priority filters need to evolve with it.
Has busyness got the better of you? Is it making you miserable? Are you ready to change this?