Ask anyone today how they are doing and two out of three will answer with “busy.” It’s a crazy world out there. We’re overwhelmed like never before. There’s little time to focus in and make meaningful changes that will make our lives better. One reason is that it seems like it will be too much work and take too long. Who has the time these days?
Short of entering years of therapy to uproot all the issues, some simple changes and strategies can make a huge difference.
If you’re stressed and overwhelmed start out small and simple.
1. Time Management: Let’s face it…most of us just have too much to do and deciding what to do and when has become a chore in and of itself!
Time, like our physical space, is limited and we can only squeeze so much in. If you were to fill up a jar at the beach and you had to fit in rocks, pebbles and sand, what would you put in first?
Well, what’s the most important? For most of us, it’s the big things…like our jobs, family time, a hobby and/or a ministry. Those would be the rocks and they’re generally already scheduled into our lives for us. The pebbles are the things that are important but not as essential. And the sand is everything else.
If you had to fit everything tightly in a jar you would put the large rocks in first, then the pebbles, and finally the sand. Do it in reverse order and you simply won’t fit as much in…and the important things like family time may be left out.
The same is true with your schedule. Use a physical calendar and block out those big things in one color. Or take advantage of an online calendar that offers color coding. In another color add in the lesser priorities and then fill the sand in all around it. The pebbles may be those 5- and 10-minute chores that you can do between things…folding the socks, cleaning out the junk drawer etc. The sand may be surfing the ‘Net or playing mindless online games. They’re not necessarily bad things but you don’t want to put them before the more important tasks.
One tip I got from Julie Morgenstern’s book Time Management from the Inside Out was life changing for me: make a list, estimate the time you think it will take you to complete each task, and write that on one side of the list. Then time it and write the actual time on the other side. Be prepared for some surprises. For instance, how many days do you procrastinate making the bed in the morning because you don’t seem to have time? I was shocked to learn it takes me about two minutes to make the bed. (I’m one of those people with lots of pillows and fluff). I personally function better in a neat environment and knowing that making the bed only takes two minutes has turned many days from chaos to calm for me. On the flip side of that, how many times did I set myself up for failure because I allotted 20 minutes for something that required two hours? More than I want to admit! On those things that you do on a regular basis, getting a handle on time requirements will be a huge help for you.
2. Physical Organization: We’re not all as visually oriented as some but having some resemblance of physical organization is essential for everyone. I was surprised to learn how someone I know reacts visually. When looking at houses, she compared two that we’d seen and thought they were so similar – the paint colors, the look etc. I was stunned. They didn’t look at all the same to me. One was drab and dreary in outdated colors – (you know, the aqua and peach of the 80’s) and the other was the warm earth tones of golds and sages with beautiful bright white crown moldings offsetting the colors. I realized then that she simply doesn’t see what I see…which explained why living in a chaotic environment didn’t usually phase her but drove me crazy.
That being said, being able to put your hand on the scissors when needed and knowing where to find your keys can make your life run a lot more smoothly and save you a lot of stress. Finding that second shoe by corralling them in one place like a shoe rack also makes life more livable.
Now as much as I like an organized environment, with so much to keep track of these days, I found it really helpful to hire a professional organizer to help me get my office at home to a place where I could function more efficiently. I’d tried so many solutions…and some of them worked, but getting a fresh pair of eyes was a big help. Her knowing what organizing tools were out there was invaluable to me and saved me a lot of time and stress.
Prioritizing is usually the toughest challenge. Enlisting the help of a life coach may be your best first step to getting both your physical space and your schedule under control and pointed in a direction that you’d like it to go. A coach can help you explore what’s in your heart and what works best with your personality.
Try this: If you want to see immediate results, isolate one or two things that are causing you some inconvenience and tackle them. For instance, I spent a lot of frustrating time every morning trying to dig out two of the same earrings from my jewelry box. I had separate drawers but not many. All the silver earrings were in one drawer, gold in another, and bracelets in the other. One day I decided to take two 18 compartment egg crates, stick them in a drawer and organize my earrings. Not only was it simple and free but it made every morning SO much easier (and took me less than ten minutes!)
I bet there are a bunch of little inconveniences in your life you can address just as easily. Will it help you find fame, fortune, and romance? Probably not. It will eliminate at least a little stress and that’s a good and empowering start.
3. Spiritual Reading: I don’t know about you but with all that’s going on in the world and all that my friends and family are dealing with life can look a bit dark a lot of the time. It’s easy to get caught up in the negativity and anxiety of our culture. To balance it, try 5- to 10-minutes of spiritual reading every day. That’s all it takes to inoculate you against the darkness. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but you’ll be amazed at how you’ll finish book after book with this small time commitment. Check our online bookstore for some recommendations.
4. Get out of the “dark room” and start developing your positives instead of your negatives: It’s so easy to see what’s wrong in the world, in your home, with your spouse, with your physical features, and with almost anything and everything. Especially if you grew up in a negative or critical environment or if you have a melancholy temperament like I have. Getting caught up in the negatives probably comes very naturally to you. If you do nothing else, change that.
Here’s how: Listen to your self-talk and keep a journal. How often are you focusing on what’s wrong? How often do you make self-deprecating remarks? Look at the people around you. What do they talk about? Are they complaining or gossiping? Are you? If so, get away from them. Quickly!
Flood yourself with positives. Read a book about miracles or true stories of angels intervening in people’s lives. Read biographies of people who beat all the odds and attained success. Listen to Christian music…and only Christian music. There are some great Christian radio stations around like K-Love that are positive and encouraging. Pandora online radio is another good option.
5. Engage Support: Often when we’re struggling, it’s hard to find our way out of it on our own. Talking to someone can really help! Take stock of your friends and acquaintances. Does someone have an organized home, positive attitude, spiritual grounding and time management skills that you admire and wish you had? Ask them their secrets. Most people are happy to help others. Keep it simple and focused.
Talking to someone with some training can yield great benefits and be well worth the investment. If you’re not sure who you need, call us for a consultation and we can help you sort it out. But here’s a run down to get you started:
• A professional therapist can help you root out entrenched patterns and deal with past hurts and painful relationships. If you’ve been dealing with the same problems most of your life, it could indicate that some patterns developed in childhood and may need to be addressed in therapy. The goal of therapy is to set you free from past hurts and to help you find more productive ways of coping with stresses. In short, therapy is really about healing root hurts and issues.
• A coach can help you define and set goals and help you to devise the best ways to meet those goals. If your faith is an important component in your life, hiring a coach that shares your deep convictions can help you to order your life around those most important priorities.
• A professional organizer can come to the rescue if conquering clutter in your physical environment is your biggest challenge. You’d be amazed what a second pair of eyes can see and how objectivity combined with knowledge of specific skills and organizing solutions can do. It’s not as expensive as you may think. It’s an investment that truly pays for itself. Once organized, creating a system to stay on track is something else they can help you with…tailored specifically to you and your unique traits and preferences.
Naturally, you may employ all three plus a friend at one time or another. Working together as a team will help you to find the balance and best solutions for the greatest long term results.
Remember, God created you for happiness. If the stress is getting in your way, don’t wait. There are too many blessings that you could be missing out on.
Call us and learn how YOU can go from chaos to calm.
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