Not Enough Time? Maybe You Just Think You Are Too Busy!

Often, stress arises when we feel we do not have enough time to do everything we’d like. The problem is not that things do not get done. The problem is attached to the things we tell ourselves.   Such thoughts are often not very pleasant. These negative thoughts are what creates the stress, not the unfinished task.

The out of control feeling  we have when we walk through the house and realize that not everything is perfectly in place, or the disappointment we experience when we look at our lists of things undone, is tied to perception. We attach meaning to things that are neutral. So someone else might look at the stain on the rug and think “so what,” but every time you walk by, you remember that your neighbor’s kid dropped the grape popsicle and you should have bought the stain resistant carpeting and you wonder about the warranty and whether using shampoo will void it.

That’s one example of a re-run, a thought we have many times per day. Most of our thoughts are re-runs. How often do you have these types of negative thoughts? First, realize that your thinking is creating the stress and chill. Relax because now is all you have, but you needn’t give up on getting things accomplished. Oh no. Not at all! If you are procrastinating and that is causing anxiety, begin by analyzing the tasks.

There may be reasons that lurk behind the procrastination, or maybe it is mere overestimation. You may think about a project and believe that it will take too long to accomplish now, so you wait for a time when you have a gap in your schedule. Of course, such a time never arrives, so you continue to put it off.  What is the answer? You must make time to do it. Realize that we tend to overestimate how long a given task will take.

Get started. Plan to go at it for an hour and revisit the task during another scheduled time next week. If the task includes multiple components, make a list of possible steps. For example, Step 1. Call the carpet manufacturer and find out about the warranty. Step 2.  Research ways to get grape popsicle out of the rug  and so on. The next time you walk by the spot, you will know that you are taking care of business and the mind clutter is gone. Once you get started, you gain momentum and may go beyond the planned hour, or you may realize that the task was not as time-consuming as you thought. And when you accomplish one thing, it is easier to finish other things. What’s next on the list? Yes, that is what you will be thinking as opposed to feeling overwhelmed.

We like Nike’s advice: just do it. When you just start your tasks rather than either over thinking or ignoring them you get the satisfaction of achievement without the mind clutter and without the angst.

The Razor Blade Myth and Other Reasons Why We Should Favor Healthy Halloween Treats

imgresIn 1985, Best and Horiuchi published a journal article titled the “Razor Blade in the Apple: The Social Construction of Urban Legends” contending that threats of tainted Halloween candy have been widely exaggerated.

Today, we shy away from baking our own treats or giving out fruit, for example, because there is a lack of trust, even though the danger has been blown out of proportion. Instead, our children bring home pillow cases full of hermetically sealed  store-bought candy. While stockpiling candy may not appear to be a healthy thing to do, Halloween does invite a lot of walking, so while the sugary treats will certainly be present, at least there is exercise involved.

As adults, we can do things to encourage healthy eating, even on a holiday like Halloween. When we give out treats, we can favor healthier varieties in sealed packages. We can veer towards  pretzels,  nuts, popcorn, granola or non-food items. The holiday is two weeks away so we have time to create a solid strategy and stick with it.

An occasional treat is fine, but Halloween invites overkill with days of rationing and bargaining ahead. Giving out healthier options is not trickery. It is simply the smart thing to do.

Make Time to Make Change

In our book Change Your Mind: Lose Weight, we explain that in order to lose weight, we have to plan for it just as we would plan for anything else. When you go on vacation, you call the travel agent, you arrange care for your pets and plants, you tell your boss that you want specific days off, and you make sure your hair is coiffed before you leave. You plan. In the same way, you have to plan for weight loss. You have to figure out when you will exercise, when you will shop for food, when you will cook your healthy meals, and how you will handle social events.

While planning is key, it is not everything. If you tend to be thrown off track a lot and find yourself not sticking with your plan, you are not putting yourself first. We write about why it is so important to do that in next week’s Clear Monday post.

Welcoming Autumn

On Thursday, we suggested joining a sports team as part of the transition from summer to autumn. Not only do we think about new sports as the seasons change, but we also think about starting another year.

September begins this Saturday and September, for many of us, signals the start of a new period. Many calendars start in September and provide 16 months of planning. The Jewish New Year is in September. Here in the Northeast, it is the beginning of the school year. And this year, the autumnal equinox is on September 22nd.

While resolutions are usually only associated with January, September ushers in a time of renewal. The flowers die, but the cool breeze thankfully returns. So now is a time to plan. Are there changes you want to make? There is no need to wait until January 1st. With summer over, now is the perfect time to dream about what you want for the upcoming year.

Stay Flexible During Difficult Times

There is an expression that human beings plan, and God laughs. The expression highlights the fact that we don’t know what will be tomorrow. Things happen. While it may be true that we will be surprised by something in the future, we still make commitments, we attempt to reach goals, and we do our best to stay grounded while chaos ensues.

How can we better manage surprises? Flexibility is key to managing time, adhering to schedules, getting along in relationships, and coping with loss.

Some people just go about their routines, despite disruptive events. Sometimes working with blinders on like that can be good, but sometimes, we need to step back, assess the situation, and take another course of action.

When something thwarts your plans, ask how you can alter your activities so that the outcome is still good or even better. There is another saying: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

These common expressions are aligned with the basic idea of flexibility. Planning may be good, but never expect everything to go exactly as you hoped. Be ready for anything. And when things become chaotic, think of ways that you can–to use a cliché–go with the flow. Flexibility in all areas of your life is key to coping with stress. Life is, as they say, is what you make it!