Rushing from one job to the next, often working for three employers each day and getting one day off from work over the course of one or two months, I lived out of my car, mostly. This was my life eight years ago, and even when I was able to work fewer jobs, somehow my life stayed just as busy. I didn’t know how to stop trying to do it all. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about stress reduction when life is busy.
Something had to change.
Slowing down is just as important as (possibly even more important than) exercise for your overall wellbeing.
A Busy Life in a Constant State of Stress
Seriously. Stop trying to do it all. I can’t stress enough how important stress reduction is when life gets busy and you feel like there’s no time for it.
Honestly, it’s difficult to remember a time in my life before chronic stress. My parents were divorced when I was two years old, and I spent my childhood and teenage years in a parenting plan that put me away from home every other weekend. I missed out on friends’ birthday parties and family get-togethers on both sides of my family because they would be scheduled for the opposite parent’s weekend.
Holidays alternated from year to year, and once I was old enough to drive, I decided it was easier just to see everyone on Thanksgiving and Christmas to avoid upset and conflict. That was pretty stressful too.
By this time, I also already had two after-school jobs, maintained my honor-roll level grades at school, and participated in extra-curricular activities while keeping up with an active social life.
By the time I graduated from college, I was working a full-time job plus three part-time jobs and maintaining a 4.0 GPA. The full-time job was a teaching position in the toddler class of a Montessori school, which included planning hours in addition to the rest of my work.
Looking back, I’m still not sure how I did all that.
No End in Sight
Eventually, I whittled my way down to one well-paying full-time position with paid time off (including holidays), and medical benefits. This is the 9-5 I’m still working today.
But life was far from simple, even then.
I still had a complicated family life, a ton of friends to keep up with, and I was dating.
When Hubs and I got married, we jumped in with both feet to even more stress. Within two months of our wedding, we’d bought and moved into our house, and begun a remodel process on the little mother-in-law house on our property for my in-laws to move into. They moved in a year later, but that year in between was spent helping them get moved out of the house they’d lived in for over 30 years (and it was an hour away from where we live).
One week after they moved in, my father-in-law went into the hospital and didn’t come home for the year and seven months until he passed. Most of that hospitalization was in a hospital an hour away from our home.
With all of this going on, I still couldn’t stop trying to do it all.
I’ve mentioned before that I began counseling shortly before our wedding. It turned out to be such a blessing in my life to already have an established relationship with my counselor by the time my father-in-law was hospitalized.
To have somewhere to go and just talk about all the stress I was under and try to work toward some solutions to relieve it without judgement was a miracle for me.
Stress Reduction – Trying Too Hard
By the time I reached my breaking point, I was trying so hard to reduce the stress in my life, it was actually adding to my stress.
I usually cried every day, and would spend every spare minute I had trying to take deep breaths, journal or take a bath. But, while I was doing all these stress-relieving activities, I was stressing over the fact that they weren’t reducing my stress, and that valuable time was being wasted that I could be getting things done around the house.
Finding Balance and True Stress Reduction
Looking back, and knowing what I know now, I would have handled a lot of things differently. But, I’m here now with a fresh perspective, and I’m fiercely protective of my time.
I make a point to lead less of a busy life so stress reduction comes more naturally.
After years and years of living in a constant state of high-stress, I’ve enjoyed the past few months of living more quietly. I like spending an hour or two in the evenings drinking chamomile tea and unwinding, and I like keeping one day each weekend free to just be home.
I still plan and prep meals and I still get things done, but my down-time has become my top priority.
Protect Your Down-Time
It took my teenage years and most of my twenties to learn how to slow down, but I think going through those stressful times gave me a greater appreciation for the quieter times in life.
Don’t be afraid to say “no.” Never shy away from slowing things down. Protect your down-time with everything you’ve got.
Rest is so incredibly important for your body, your mind and your soul, so do everything in your power to ensure that you get the rest you so desperately need.
What can you say “no” to right now?
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