Dial Down Your Stress

Here’s a conversation I have all too often with friends:

Me: “Great to see you! How is everything?”

Friend: “Crazy busy! I just don’t have any time.”

When I ask what is happening, the friends shares a few things but nothing that sounds “crazy busy.”

The friend asks me how I am, and I reply: “Great. Things are great.”

I tell this story not because I don’t have stress, because I do, but because when I was sharing how busy I was, how crazed I was, how much I was working, I found that I often exaggerated based on what others said. I’ve observed my friends doing it, too.

It’s as if we are in a competition to be the busiest, the craziest, the most sleep deprived.

For the past few years, I have worked really hard to dial down the stress. I routinely get my required sleep. I rarely work weekends, and I manage my work hours. Of course, there are times when work is a bit busier and I might have to work some extra hours, but it’s not routine.

When a friend tells me they are staying late regularly, I’ll ask why. Often the person doesn’t have a great explanation. It’s so easy to slip into bad habits, which is why I don’t want to get into a contest with my friends about who has the worst schedule.

Here are some tips to dial down the stress –

Don’t overcommit: Michael Hyatt, co-author of “Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want,” talks about triaging your calendar. I’ve learned that I need one evening during the work week in which I schedule no activities. It’s my night at home to be a slug. It’s usually Tuesday night when some of my favorite shows are on. I need an evening in which I am being entertained. I also know that I need one weekend a month to hibernate. That means no commitments (no matter how much fun), no traveling, no making long to-do lists. Instead, I enjoy the weekend as it unfolds, and I mainly sp20140727_180844end it in my home or yard and going for long walks or bike rides in the neighborhood.

Plan: A few years ago I realized that there are seven days in the week (five in the work week), which means I don’t have to do everything on Monday. I’ve learned to plan better and spread out deadlines. When I return to my office from a meeting, I schedule my action items on my calendar so they don’t get lost. In December, I plan my vacations for the coming year.

Reduce the drama: Be careful of the words you are using. Overemphasizing your situation is not helpful. One way to recognize all the good in your life is to keep a gratitude journal. Each evening I write down three to five things from the day for which I am grateful. Some days, it’s a struggle, but when I pause and reflect, I come up with the items, and I realize life is good.

How do you dial down the stress?