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Posts Tagged ‘Stress Management’

Today was a good day, every day this week has been a good day…..as a matter of fact, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a “good day.” 

Growing up, I had many days that started out to be “good days” that went from bad to worse.  I finally came to the realization that having a “good day” is a choice not just something that happens to us.  So have I had bad things happen in the last year?  Sure I have.  Does everything go the way I want it to go? No way!  Is everyone nice to me (um, no) Is every day a beautiful sunny day, of course not. 

Bad things happen, people treat us unfairly, people say things they shouldn’t say.  Things don’t go according to plan, accidents happen, traffic gets backed up, Grace gets crabby, money gets tight, bosses get demanding, but it doesn’t have to ruin our day. 

Let me explain……a very wise woman I knew growing up (we’ll just call her “Mom”) told me MANY times over the years…..”Beth, you have to choose to have a good day.”  I would cry because my friend was mean to me……”Beth, you have to make the choice to have a good day.” I would be crabby because my sister was picking on me……”She’s making me have a bad day!” I would whine……” Beth, you have to choose to have a good day, no one can make you have a bad day unless you choose  to have a bad day.” came mom’s reply. 

I hated to hear that.  Whenever I was having a “bad day” growing up, I felt very grouchy and angry about it.  I didn’t want to hear that I could consciously do something about it.  I wanted to sulk, to be grumpy, to wait until something “good” happened so that I could stop having a “bad day”

Years passed, I moved away from home, I was in my early 20’s and I worked at a marketing firm as the Assistant Branch Manager. It was a good paying job, but very high stress and very long hours. 

 One day, I walked into work not feeling very well.  From the moment I walked in the door to a stack of messages, a full in-box, a full calendar, a line of employees waiting to talk to me and a boss who wanted me in his office ASAP, I felt overwhelmed and sick to my stomach from all of the stress. This was going to be a bad day, I could already feel it. 

I sat down at my desk to get my bearings, not sure where to start (well, I knew that going to my boss’s office ASAP would be a good start…..) “Beth” I could hear my mom’s voice in my head, “you have to choose to have a good day, bad things happen during the day, but you can still choose to have a good day.”  I had about 3 seconds to make a choice and get in my boss’s office before our meeting started.  I had never tried my mom’s advice on choosing to have a good day, but I figured, what could it hurt?  The day couldn’t possibly get any more stressful.  “OK” I thought to myself, “This is going to be a good day.”  I took a deep breath and walked into the meeting.

That was one of the BEST days I can ever remember having in a long time.  “Wow” I thought “this really works, mom knows what she’s talking about!”  My day turned out so well, that I decided to start choosing to have a good day every day.  For the next few months, every time something bad would happen in my day, I would stop and remind myself, “Beth, don’t let it ruin your day, even though something bad just happened, you can still have a good day.”

I began having “good days” so frequently, that now, I don’t even have to remind myself to make the choice to have a good day, even when bad and stressful things happen, it just comes naturally to me now to have a good day despite the circumstances.

One thing I noticed once I started following mom’s advice, is that before, when bad things would happen and I was having a “bad day”  my day would go from bad to worse.  Once one bad thing happened in my day, it was a downward spiral.  Now since I started making the choice to have a “good day” even though bad things happen, I’ve noticed that when something bad happens, I deal with it, move on and it’s not a downward spiral.  I don’t feel grumpy or crabby for the rest of the day because of it anymore.  I LOVE having “good days” every day, and it’s all in how you look at it.

Thanks Mom, I had a very good day today!

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This has been a very busy week.  As you can see, I haven’t had time to blog very much this week.  My parents are on vacation, so our routine becomes a lot different.  Grace goes to my friend Patty’s house when Grandma and Grandpa are gone, which is great, but Patty lives a lot further away than Grandma and Grandpa do, plus when they’re out of town, Grace and I house sit for them, so after I pick up Grace, it’s over to Grandma and Grandpa’s house to water plants and take care of the puppy.

Yesterday, I had a whole list of things that Grace and I needed to get done, but I woke up with a terrible head ache and by noon, I was out of energy, so we laid down for a nice nap.  I had some energy after the nap, so we were able to get a few things done yesterday evening. 

Even though this week has been hectic, and yesterday didn’t go according to plan, I was thinking back to where we were last year at this time, and I have to say, last year, I was OVERWHELMED.  There was WAY too much on my plate, and I was trying to do it all.  I would push myself to do everything by waking up early and staying up late.  It absolutely WORE ME OUT. There were times I barely had the energy to give Grace a bath and climb in bed at night.  I would crash on the couch all weekend with terrible exhaustion and headaches.  “What am I going to do?”  I remember thinking to myself.  I have to do something…..this is NOT working.  My mind is constantly working on solutions and the only solution I could come up with for being overwhelmed was to SIMPLIFY my life. 

“SIMPLIFY.  That sounds good.” I thought to myself…..”But HOW am I going to do it?  It’s easier said than done.”  I went back to the drawing board and kept thinking it over and over.  My first solution was to work fewer hours.  I was working 40+ hours at work (on top of everything else, so I was putting in over 70 hours a week BEFORE I even did anything for Grace.)  “Cut back my hours?”  I thought to myself, “That’s going to put us in a hole, we need the money.”  Then I did the math.  I cut back my hours at work to 34 hours a week, and guess what?  The difference after taxes between me working 40 hours a week and 34 hours a week is around $30 a paycheck.  I would rather have the extra 24 hours a month than the $60 a month I’d make if I was working those hours.

6 hours a week doesn’t sound like a lot, but I was amazed at how much I was able to get done during that time.  It gives me time to run a couple of errands and teach a couple of piano lessons before I need to pick Grace up.  One of the best things is that when we get home, I don’t have to focus on bills that need to be paid or errands that need to be run, or piano lessons that need to be taught…….I used the time I got out of work early to do those things, and when we’re home, I can focus on Grace!  It’s so nice to be able to go home, have dinner and relax before bed. 

My #2 solution has been my long term goal of teaching piano lessons as my source of income.  I’ve worked and worked on that goal one little step at a time.  I’ve had to push myself and remind myself that even though it’s not happening as fast as I’d like it to, and even though our life right now is hectic, this is only temporary until I can teach full time.

#3, I sat down and took a look at my priorities, and where I was spending my time.  I determined that I was spending too much time on-line.  Even though I was researching things, or trying to work out details of setting up my studio, it was taking up way too much of my time, so now I limit my time on the internet.  Now, I can spend that time working on projects around the house, and playing with Grace.

So, even though this week has been a busy one…….I am thankful that I made a decision to “Simplify” my life and I am not overwhelmed any more.

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As moms, (single or not) we know it’s tough to find time for ourselves.  We’d all LOVE to spend a day at the spa, but if you’re like me, you’ve never even set foot in a spa, and you can’t afford it (or don’t want to spend your money that way.)  We give and give of ourselves.  We give 110% at work, at home, and in our communities (whether at your church or other organizations that you volunteer for, even if it’s bringing brownies for you t-ball team.) We concentrate on the demads of our boss, co-workers, and customers.  We focus on the needs of our children, we focus on how we can give back to our communities or those who support and encourage us.  If we’re not careful, we’ll burn ourselves out, cause health issues because we’re not getting enough rest and relaxation (Headaches, stomach aches, colds, flu,etc.)

For the longest time, I struggled with this area.  If I don’t spend time on me, then I’ll be too burnt out or too sick to focus on others, but if I spend time on myself, I don’t have time for others.  How do you balance everything?  I finally realized that finding time for myself is not as difficult as it sounds.  I never have large portions of time for “me time”, but I found that even if it’s 15 minutes a few times a week, it helps me feel better about myself, and have more energy to focus on the other people in my world.  Here are a few ideas for you to make finding time for yourself a reality.

  • Take a bubble bath, and then paint your toes 🙂 (one of my personal favorites.  I do this one once or twice a month.)
  • Read for 15 minutes before you go to bed.
  • Use your drive time as “Me Time”  During my drive time, I listen to CD’s of my favorite music, and relax on my way home.
  • Be where you are.  When you’re at work, don’t think about the challenges you have at home, focus on your job.  When you’re at home, DO NOT even think about work.  Focus on your family and making memories together.  (This one makes me a MUCH happier mom.  I don’t think about work until I get there at 8:00am and I stop thinking about it when I get in the car at 5pm…..I don’t even think about it on my way home, I relax and listen to my music.)
  • Turn off the TV.  This one sounds simple, but few people do it.   I found out that there’s so much more time in your day when you don’t watch TV.  We rarely watch TV in our house, there’s so much more to do in life!
  • Wake up 30 minutes or an hour earlier than your sweeties, drink your coffee on the back porch, and enjoy the start of the day.  (while this one sounds like fun to me, I’ve NEVER done this.  I don’t drink coffee, and I treasure every moment of sleep I can get, but maybe some day I’ll start waking up early 🙂 )
  • Stay up a half an hour or an hour later than your little ones. (another one of my favorites, I’m a night owl, so staying up later is no problem for me.)  Read, answer emails, write a letter, work on a project you’ve been wanting to do, paint your nails, listen to some music, exercise.

You don’t have to spend hours of time on yourself each week, but finding a few minutes here and there to re-energize yourself will help you reduce your stress, and be a better mom, employee, co-worker, and friend. 

What works best for you?

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A co-worker of mine taught me a lesson several years ago that really helps me put things into perspective.  He shared with us a concept called the “Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence”  I like to call it “Things I can and can’t control.”

He drew two circles on a page one was the circle of concern, which is things that I can control.  The other circle is the circle of influence, these are things that influence me and my day, but they are things I can’t control.  He had us write things in the circles.  We wrote frustrations we had, we wrote things that happened at work that we didn’t like, we wrote all kinds of things, and then we talked about the two circles.

What I learned from this exercise is that the only things I can control are myself, my words, my actions and reactions, and how I treat other people.  I CANNOT control other people, what they say, or what they do.  I cannot control a co-worker or a friend who makes decisions that I don’t like.  I can’t control the weather, traffic, or other people’s reactions.  So I need to stop trying to control everything.  I need to give up control.  I needed to figure out the things that I could and couldn’t control.  The things that I could control, I needed to do something about, and the things that I couldn’t control, I needed to let go.  I needed to stop letting them get on my nerves, stop stressing me out, and stop making me frustrated.

Even though the circle of concern and the circle of influence are not necessarily Biblically based, I think this exercise is good for everyone including Christians to do.  This exercise is something that I did during my “healing process.”  I didn’t necessarily do it all on paper, but i would ask myself, “Is this something that I can control?”  If it was something I could control, then I had to find a solution to take care of the issue.  If it was something I couldn’t control, I had to learn to give it to God because ultimeately, He controls everything.

No matter what situation you are in, this exercise really helps put things into perspective.  Another part of this exercise is when you identify the things you can’t control that get on your nerves or are stressing you out, you need to find something that you can control that you can do so that it will stop getting on your nerves or stressing you out.  So for example, if  you get stressed out by traffic, you can’t control the traffic, but you can control what route you take to get to work.  So, you could take a different route that will be less stressful for you.  If you are planning to go on a picnic and it starts raining, you can’t control the rain, but you can come up with a plan “B” instead of sulking all day about not being able to go on the picnic. 

I know that my examples are little things, but this concept works with big things too.  I’ve found that whenever I’m having a problem or something is getting on my nerves, if I stop and think “Is this something I can control?”  Things really come into perspective for me.  If it’something I can’t control and it’s causing me problems, or unnecessary stress, I’ve learned that it’s something that I need to give over to God to take care of.

This concept has lowered my stress levels DRAMATICALLY.  I encourage you to try it and see for yourself how well it works.

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