Becoming a Stress Buster

What is the difference between a pleasantly active life and one that is compulsively busy?  Sometimes, it is a heart attack.

There is no doubt about it – we are a “can do” society. Sometimes though, “can do” becomes “have to do,” and “have to do” can have some unpleasant consequences. For one thing, people who “have to do” things, as opposed to “wanting” to do them, often find ways to subconsciously sabotage themselves, just to take the pressure off. For another, they short-change their families and themselves.

When you are compulsive about how much you have to accomplish every day, you sacrifice spontaneity, creativity and the joy of everyday living. Your children grow up largely without you, and you can’t kid yourself into thinking that a few minutes of so-called quality time can make up for generally not being there at all. (Well, you “can” kid yourself, but you won’t be truly happy with the results.)

Compulsive doers also run the risk of actually reducing their productivity. Psychologists who specialize in stress management report compulsive doers make more mistakes and are more prone to physical illness. They are called “Type A” people, and we know that they make more mistakes and are more prone to heart attacks than the rest of us. We also know that stress-related accidents in the workplace are increasing at a dramatic rate.

Feeling driven to achieve can lead us to become high performance people. But when that is taken to extremes, it can result in compulsive behavior that can have disastrous effects on our families, stress levels and health. If you sometimes feel that you are a candidate for the “Most Overworked Person Award,” what can you do about it?

Psychologist Christian Komer, of Grand Rapids, suggested that you try doing nothing for short periods every day. Designate a time to simply sit, without talking, reading or even watching the television. No checking emails, texts or Facebook posts; no Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. Simply sit and listen to the world around you and the world within you. This can help short-circuit compulsive behavior and reveal the feelings behind it.

Try to just wander around for a while, too. Follow your impulses, something compulsive people rarely do but which can get you back in touch with your own life. Instead of trying to fit more into your day, try doing less, but concentrate on doing it better. And avoid trying to do two things at once. (Research indicates that “multitasking” is a fallacy anyway. Our conscious minds can only focus on one thing at a time, even if the attention given is extremely short.)

Pace yourself as well. Take some time in the morning to relax and set the tone for the day instead of racing around trying to get a head start on your list of things to do. Create an affirmation such as, “I calmly and easily accomplish what I need to do and take time to enjoy the process as well.”  Say it often every day, while you visualize yourself doing just that.

Then, absorb and revel in how good it feels to be in control of your life and your time. Congratulations! You are now a certified Stress Buster!