Time-Suckers: How to Turn the Tables on Demanding People and Circumstances

stress management

It’s an interesting irony, I think, that in our modern day and age of convenience and streamlining, we are under more stress than ever before. If asked, I think most of us could agree that our ancestors endured true hardship, including immigrating to a new land, travelling under uncomfortable and even dangerous conditions, surviving diseases that sometimes had no cure and simply putting food on the table every day. And yet no one spoke of “stress” or being overwhelmed. Being “stressed-out” is a relatively new term, incorporated into our cultural vernacular only in the last half-century or so.

So what is the difference between then and now? Why are our heart disease rates increasing and our sense of overall wellbeing declining? I think the answer lies within. It is we who perceive our circumstances to be unjustly difficult. We have become so accustomed to certain areas of our lives being convenient that when real challenges come our way, and the demands on our time pile up, we feel unprepared to adequately handle them. Coupled with rising expectations to achieve more and more (because we have so many nifty gadgets and conveniences that allow us to), the stress escalates. Our physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing suffers and we wonder what the purpose of all of it is.

Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is much beloved for the wisdom and humor she imparted in her writing. In her book, You Learn By Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life, she devotes a chapter to “The Uses of Time”, and the keys to finding contentment in an exceedingly busy world.

“We have all the time there is. The problem is: How shall we make the best use of it? There are three ways in which I have been able to solve that problem: first, by achieving an inner calm so that I can work undisturbed by what goes on around me; second, by concentrating on the thing in hand; third, by arranging a routine pattern for my days that allots certain activities to certain hours, planning in advance for everything that must be done, but at the same time remaining flexible enough to allow for the unexpected. There is a fourth point which, perhaps, plays a considerable part in the use of my time. I try to maintain a general pattern of good health so that I have the best use of my energy whenever I need it…

First of my own personal requirements is inner calm. This, I think, is an essential. One of the secrets of using your time well is to gain a certain ability to maintain peace within yourself so that much can go on around you and you can stay calm inside…

I have learned that the ability to attain this inner calm, regardless of outside turmoil, is a kind of strength. It saves an immense amount of wear and tear on the nervous system. In the oasis of peace you are better able to cope with the noisy and conflicting demands of young children [or co-workers or deadlines] without irritation or impatience.”

Cultivating this spirit of calm takes discipline and focus, but the payoffs far exceed a nose-to-the-grindstone mentality of merely surviving the task at hand. It is through this perspective that joy can creep back into your daily activities.

Of course, it will never be perfect. As Mrs. Roosevelt admits after recounting instances in which her plans to manage her time with others most efficiently simply failed: “Even with planning, no one ever has much defense against the time wasters.”

About the Author

Meredith Watkins, M.A., MFT A CA-licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with years of experience specializing in individual therapy, Christian therapy, parenting, relationship, and women’s issues, Meredith currently has a private practice in Carlsbad, CA. Ultimately, her desire is to help her clients manage their own feelings and issues more effectively, creating space for joy and fulfilment in their relationships and lives. Learn more at www.meredithwatkins.net.

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