How often do you find yourself feeling rushed, pressed for time, hurried, stressed, or overwhelmed? For many of us, myself included, these feelings are all too common, especially these days. While feeling as though we don’t have enough time or that our lives are overwhelming is not a new phenomenon for most of us – it seems to be getting to an epidemic level in our culture these days, particularly as we find ourselves "plugged in" all the time – laptops, cell phones, blackberries, iPhones, and more.
Sadly, many of us allow ourselves to be victims of our schedules, our communication devices, our co-workers, our clients, our families, our families, and some of the other "demands" and "responsibilities" of our lives. And while many of these things are important and much of them do need our attention, we often forget that we are the ones who set up our lives the way we do and allow ourselves to get stressed out, overwhelmed, and caught up in our never-ending to-do lists.
I was at a workshop in San Francisco a few weeks ago put on by Hay House, the wonderful publishing company founded by author and teacher Louise Hay. Louise, who wrote the bestselling book You Can Heal Your Life, about twenty-five years ago, is a pioneer in the world of personal development and mind/body connection. She is a wise soul and teaches people to love and care for themselves in an authentic way. It was an honor to connect with her at this event.
On the final day of the workshop I asked Louise if she was planning to fly home (back to San Diego, just an hour’s flight from San Francisco) that evening. She said, "Oh no Mike, I would never do that to myself." Her response, while simple, floored me. I thought to myself, "Wow, that is a great example of honoring and caring for yourself." Then I thought, "I could use more of that."
I often pack my schedule with so many tasks, activities, events, and deadlines, it becomes hard for me to breathe, enjoy what I’m doing, or really bring the best of myself to a particular activity, event, or interaction. I then feel like a victim of my "crazy" schedule, have a built-in excuse for not showing up for others, and also don’t have to take full responsibility for my results or actions (i.e. "What do you want from me, do you have any idea how much I have going on right now?"). Can you relate to this?
This "I’m too busy" or "I’m overwhelmed" story that many of us run is a lie that we keep telling ourselves and others. Ultimately, we end up believing the lie and we allow it to run our lives. Here’s how we can "prove" it’s not true – whenever anything serious happens (we get sick, someone else gets sick, someone dies, or anything else severe enough to stop us in our tracks), all of the important stuff we have to get done gets put on the back burner. We realize how relatively unimportant most of it really is.
What if we could see, remember, and live with this awareness without something serious happening? What if we could take more control of our lives, our time, and our schedule? What would life look like and feel like if we gave ourselves more time and space?
For many of us the idea of giving ourselves more time and space can seem like a foreign concept or something that is out of our control. However, if we allow ourselves to imagine it or to think back to times in the past when we felt as though we had more time and space, we can become inspired, excited, and even relaxed by this idea.
So how do we do it? Well, there are lots of ideas, techniques, and tips we’ve learned over the years to create more time and space for ourselves. The problem is that when we start to feel stressed out and overwhelmed, we fall back into unhealthy habits and patterns in our lives that we learned as survival skills (which don’t usually support our growth or deepen our capacity for peace).
Here are a few things to think about and practice as you look to expand your ability to have more time and space in your life:
1) Notice your relationship to time, your schedule, and your commitments. How do you relate to time? How do you feel about your schedule? Do you feel victimized by your commitments at home, at work, and in general? The more honest you can be with yourself about how you feel about the things you have to do in life, the more able to are to alter it (if that’s something you would like to do). Most of us have an odd or disempowered relationship to time. Just listen to some of the weird things we say, "Time flies." "I never have enough time to do what I want to do." "Where did the time go?" These and other statements, thoughts, and beliefs put us in the role of victim as it relates to time and our commitments.
2) Start saying "no" to things. This one can be tough for many of us. As life coach and author, Cheryl Richardson says, "If it’s not an absolute ‘yes’, then it’s a ‘no.’" We often need some support or feedback from others when it comes to this one. But, being able to say "no" to requests and invitations that we get is an important aspect of giving ourselves more time and space. And, looking at the many things we have our plate right now and being able to take some of them off (by disengaging from them), is also essential. This is not about being flaky or irresponsible, it’s about being authentic about what we were willing and able to do, and what we’re not. So often our "disease to please" causes us to say "yes" to things we really need to say "no" to.
3) Give yourself more time than you think you need. Packing our days, weeks, schedules, and to-do lists with too many things sets us up to fail. In many cases, we don’t even realize how long it will take for us to complete simple tasks or activities. As I continue to learn, trying to do too many things in a short amount of time has a negative impact on the task itself, anyone else involved in it with me, and on my own sense of well being and peace in the process. What if we gave ourselves more than enough time to complete projects, get places, and take care of things? Imagine what that would feel like for us and those around us, and imagine how much more creative, passionate, excited, and effective we could be in the process.
Get support, feedback, and coaching for this from others you trust, people know you, and those who seem like they have a relative sense of peace in their own lives. We don’t have to figure this out on our own. The world around us is speeding up all the time. The expectations and demands on us can seem unreasonable (and often are). However, when we remember that we are the authors of the book of our life and that we get to dictate how we operate, feel, and show up in life – we no longer have to victims of time, our schedules, and all that we have to do. When were willing and courageous enough to give ourselves more time and space, our life can transform..
What can you do to give yourself more time and space in your life right now? What will this take on your part? What will the benefits be? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog here.
PHOTO (cc): Flickr / procsilas