Reduce Stress by Creating Personal Downtime

Do you ever feel like you’re running from one commitment to another after work, without the hope of ever catching up with your schedule? At the end of the day, do you regret not getting to do that one thing you really wanted to do? Being perpetually overscheduled is a bad feeling, and when unexpected responsibilities arising to add to your already full load, it can tip the scale and harm your work performance. If you’re concerned about on-the-job success, part of your solution may be to better manage what happens on your lunch break and before or after work!

Here’s a summary of 5 steps from Aviva Patz to help us craft a more fulfilling life and lighten the load in areas where we’re serving other people at our own expense.

1) Figure out what’s dragging you down. Some activities are nonnegotiable, such as paying bills, so don’t count those. For one week, using a scale of 1-10, rate the negotiable activities you do every day, with 1 being the least meaningful, enjoyable or rewarding, and 10 being the most. For each activity, ask yourself whether you feel energized or drained when it’s over.

2) For the activities you rated 1-2, delete them from your schedule! It may mean saying no to someone, or more tactfully, telling them the activity isn’t your speed. If you need time to think, say that you’ll check your calendar and get back to them, or offer an alternative solution that still meets the need but on your own terms. Or share a concrete reason why you just can’t help someone–but be prepared for their efforts to talk you into it anyway!

3) For the activities you rated 3-5, try digging deeper into your own true motives. Sometimes we do things based on a personal priority or strength. You may discover that the activity provides meaning or expresses a value that’s important to you, such as helping a friend or giving yourself the opportunity to shine. Recognizing its worth may make the task feel less burdensome to you.

4) For activities rated 6-8, make it your goal to aim for OK. For instance, instead of giving a perfect report to your boss a whole week late, settle for a report that’s just fine, turned in on time. Or buy appetizers at Costco for that party, instead of cooking something from scratch.

5) Make time for activities you rated 9-10, and don’t feel guilty about doing them! These will see you through the more tedious obligations in your life and make your day feel lighter and fuller.

Need to relieve stress at work? Try these exercises you can do at your desk!

Reference: Mission Possible: Downtime This Summer! by Aviva Patz published in Health.com 6/2012.

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