We’re living in an age of paradox. On the one hand, it’s almost impossible to listen to or watch the news and not get angry, depressed, or frightened. On the other hand, medical breakthroughs are coming out every other day. It seems like we’ve learned how to add years to our life but we haven’t learned how to add life to our years.
The truth is most of us have got more stress and less balance than we should have.
In the workplace, for example, fewer people are doing more of the work and the pressure to do more with less seems never ending. And if you’re in a leadership position, it may even be worse. Fortune magazine described the new corporate style, "the high commitment model" that suggested "your life should revolve around work and not much else."
You can also see the too-much-stress and too-little-balance paradox in our families.
According to the Family Research Council, parents spend 40% less time with their children than they did 25 years ago.
However, you are NOT helpless. There are some things you can do to resolve the paradox... to reduce your stress and increase your balance.
Try one of these strategies for starters.
1. Think about what you want out of life
The first step in busting your stress and getting more balance is to make a small commitment of time. Free up one hour a day for thirty days to reflect on some simple questions:
- Am I working too hard?
- Am I working at a job I don't enjoy?
- Am I letting important things clutter up my life?
- Are my kids draining all my energy?
Then start thinking about how or what you can cut back. Never give up on what you really want to do. You only have a limited amount of time and if you're not happy doing what you're doing, it's time to make a change.
2. Evaluate the quality of your life
Look at what you're putting into your job and what you’re getting out of it. Do the same thing with regard to your personal life. As you make your evaluation, use your own standards, not your parents' or your boss's or the world's. Find out if you're compromising too many of your values.
3. Learn to say 'NO'
If you discover that you are compromising or even sacrificing too many of your values, you’re going to feel stress. A lot of it.
One of the best ways to get out of that bind is developing the ability to say 'no'. In fact, you will never have a stress-free, balanced life if you can't say 'no'.
Where do you start saying 'no?' Start by knowing your priorities. No one can maintain more than three priorities. If you have a job you care about, that's a priority. If you have a family, that's a priority. And perhaps your third priority is serving the Lord, staying in shape, or becoming financially independent.
Once you know your priorities it's easier to say 'no' when people try to pull you in several different directions. It's easier to say 'I’m not taking on any new commitments for the next six months'. So figure out your priorities. And then say 'no' to everything else if you feel overstressed or off balance.
4. Look at how your job affects your family
Look at how your job is affecting your family NOW. Do you like what you’re seeing?
And then ask yourself, 'If I keep on doing exactly what I’m doing right now, how will my family look FIVE YEARS FROM NOW?'
It might help to remind yourself that at the end of life, no one has ever said, 'I wish I’d spent more time at the office'.
5. Don’t take a job just because the salary is high
If you hate your job, more money will not make you like it. All money can do is distract you with some extra toys, for a while. But it won’t take away your ongoing feelings of stress and imbalance.
You might even ask yourself what your friends are worth to you. How much money would someone have to pay you to drop your friends? $10K? 50K? 100K?
That sounds rather crude, but the fact is, if you take a job somewhere else, perhaps quite a distance away, over the course of the next one to five years, you will lose those friends. Oh sure, people always say they will stay in touch and 'nothing’s going to change', but over time most friendships fade away without face-to-face time.
6. Take time for yourself
Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier to get a slower, quieter introduction to the day. Take a short walk or read something inspirational. Make a list of all the things you'd like to do before you die, and check one off each year.
Put another way, make a list of all the important relationships in your life. If you’re not on the list, you’re out of balance. Your priorities need some re-adjustment. Take some time for yourself, and some of your stresses will immediately lessen.