for release Friday August 8, 2003
by Melodie Davis
Quick! De-Stress While There is Still Time
August should be space for some serious down time-doing nothing at all. But I know that's not going to happen. Summer in these times has become just a short burp between the end of school, and figuring like mad how to squeeze a vacation in before kids report back to band camp, soccer practice, dance lessons, or move back into dorms.
I may only be imagining it, but I seem to remember actually having ample down time during the course of a summer when I was growing up. Our parents kept us busy on the farm, to be sure, but between chores we could play with the cats, wander the fields, rock hop in the creek, ride bikes with our friends, play four square and hopscotch, and old games like "Seven steps around the house" and "Mother may I?"
On the adult side, August should bring time for sitting on the deck late at night with friends or spouse enjoying the coolness and fresh air (air conditioning seems to keep us all inside too often). You don't even have to talk, just sit enjoying some lemonade or Sleepytime tea.
I subscribe to an e-mail service called "Today's Stress Tip" taken from a book, Why Make Yourself Crazy? 100 Ways to Rid your Life of Needless Stress by G. Gaynor McTigue. (www.pickmeupbooks.com)Here are some tips that have helped me lately:
1. Do one thing at a time. We are experts, in today's society, at doing at least four or five different things at once-things that once would have taken one's total focus and energy. In the evening, I may be in the process of cooking supper, talking on the phone, instant-messaging one of my daughters on the computer, doing the laundry, and proofreading another daughter's paper-more or less at the same time.
McTigue cautions, "Multitasking might work for computers, but humans
have yet to get the hang of it. It leads to careless mistakes, shoddy work and
unreliable performance." While you might want to argue with that, it probably
depends on the job and what machinery is involved. It is no big deal to be
washing dishes in the dishwasher, doing the laundry and cooking supper all at
the same time. But you shouldn't try running the table saw, drill press and
shop-vac all at once!
His point is that when we are doing too many things at once, we lose the satisfaction of focusing on a job, giving it our total attention, and doing it well, and then finishing and moving on to the next thing. I do think that multitasking adds seriously to our level of stress these days. He emphasizes, "Enjoy the experience. Why make yourself crazy?"
2. Throw something out every day. McTigue says, "You've got too much stuff in your house. Office. Garage. Attic. Useless clutter that weighs you down, getting in the way, obscuring the things you really need. Be realistic. If you're not going to use it, lose it." Or give it away. Just getting rid of one thing a day should help to keep the clutter under control.
3. Eliminate meaningless deadlines (one might add useless meetings). "Our life is full of deadlines. Arbitrary and unrealistic time constraints imposed by ourselves and others that serve only to make us more pressured, anxious, stressed out." He adds that we can save our stress energy for the truly immutable deadlines, like tax day, or Christmas.
4. Don't be so self-conscious. "Most people aren't judging you. In fact, they're usually so wrapped up in the business at hand, or in their own image, they're barely noticing what you're wearing, how you're coming off, or that everything isn't just so." Lighten up on yourself.
5. Just do it. This may seem like a contradiction to the above, but rather than procrastinate over something you have to do and stress out about it, just do it. Usually the time spent stewing and brewing is longer and more stressful than just tackling the job and getting it done. Or chop the job down to manageable, bite size portions. I had a neighbor who was great at making herself tackle huge yard chores just a half hour everyday and accomplishing a job over a week rather than a three-hour marathon session. That of course depends on the amount of equipment you have to haul out and put away to accomplish a specific job. But if a big job is looming (like cleaning out the garage or basement) make yourself straighten up for just a half hour a day and see how far you get in a week. August is often miserably hot. There is gardening and canning/freezing of vegetables to do, and the fall schedule is ramping up. But do take time to just be, hang out, read, sleep, and relax. This is easier for some of us than others. But we all benefit from taking a little time to do nothing at all.
For a free booklet, "Easing the Burden of Stress," write to me at: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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