Reduce stress: allow yourself time off-demands

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This is Part 3 of a 4-part blog to help you reduce stress in your life.  You can read the previous parts before this one, or read Part 3 first – there is no special order, just go with what feels right for you.  

Inner space wanted.  Clients often tell me how crowded their head space feels: demands, expectations, overwhelming schedules – too much.  So they multitask more, trying to be “more productive”, and forgetting completely that life is never measured by how many things you’ve crossed off your to-do list.  On your deathbed, you won’t remember how good you were at your to-do list; you’ll remember not seeing enough of your family, neglecting good times you could have had with friends, the fun outings you didn’t take, the travels you skipped… All because of your quest to complete perfectly your to-do list before you took time for life.  Sad, don’t you think?  Today is not coming back.

Life is not defined by your to-do list.  And it’s not a race to who gets to the end first.  Yet for many people I know, life is just that.  They’ll take a break when every item has been checked off their list, which means “never”, since there is always more to do…  Life doesn’t stop; your to-do list keeps regenerating itself, so what do you do?  You keep going, trying to do more and more.  But wait.  There is no end.  So what about a break before you work yourself into the ground?

Take a break today and feel alive.  Spend more time hanging out with your kids or friends.  Cut back on to-do items, or put them on hold.  Simplify your life.  Make your expectations real – not crazy demanding.  Living is about you feeling alive – not exhausted, depleted and half-done.  Alive.

Make your life matter.  Walk in a garden or a beautiful park.  Swim across a lake.  Pet a dog.  Feed the ducks or the squirrels.  Dance with your two-year old.  Sketch or draw.  Make time for life. It’s not coming back as a reward after you’ve completed that crazy to-do list of yours.  Take life seriously. It’s not waiting. It’s not coming back.  It’s NOW.

This is what I remind myself daily.  Life is about feeling alive, moment by moment, and immersing myself in those moments.  To me, it means allowing myself time off to slow down and stop doing, to breathe in all the beauty that life offers.  And I need to remind myself every single day, so I don’t forget that life matters more than to-do lists.  So here are a few suggestions for relaxing, restorative time off-demands every day.

  1. Take 30 minutes when you get home for a restorative break, instead of rushing from work to make dinner and start evening chores.  If you have a family, let them know you want to try something new.  Take time alone to rest and relax: have a relaxing shower, change into comfy clothes, then either lie down for 10-15 minutes with your feet up; or sit with tea, water or wine.  Listen to soft music or read a few pages in a good book.  No phone, no emails (that’s for later).  Make this your own relaxing moment.
  2. Step out for a “sniffing” walk.  If you have a dog, you know what a sniffing walk is: slow, smelling the day, no rush, explorative, enjoyable.  That’s all.  Try it for yourself.  Even 10 minutes of this works. Enjoy.
  3. Start a new tradition: European pre-dinner chat.  Use your living room (no TV, no phones please).  This is a pre-dinner relaxing 30-60 minutes to relax and for easy conversation: set out veggies and dip, sparkling water and wine.  Talk about the day, or upcoming weekend or holidays… Or play a board game. Or tic-tac-toe.  Easy.  No heated discussion.  No rush.  You’re also creating a more relaxed family culture… Nice.
  4. Share the load: once a week, exchange a few hours of parenthood with your partner (or hire a babysitter for an hour) to take time for yourself, for something relaxing and fun.  Meet a friend for a walk or drink; read or take time for your favourite hobby.  Anything that makes you feel that life is goo works.  Encourage your partner to do the same… It works for you, for him/her, for your family and for your relationship.

Let me know what you try and how it works for you – I’d love to hear!



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