This post follows on from my series on understanding and managing Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) (and general stress and burnout) from a psychological and lifestyle perspective. My last post
focused on how to simplify life.
This post focuses on time management. Yes, that coveted ability that most likely eludes you if you are a person who suffers from AFS or high degrees of stress. To be fair, I think in this day and age there are very few people who don’t go to battle with time, and those that don’t probably live in a cottage off the grid somewhere, rearing chickens and milking their own cows. However, if you are a person who has suffered from AFS or burnout then I suspect you are very familiar with the sense of urgency and overwhelm that accompanies this state of being.
The adrenals physiologically provide the fuel to get us going and to assist us to cope in times of urgency and stress. Unfortunately, as you may have read in a previous post, this concept of coping is generally an illusion as is often related to a need to feel in control and, consequently, safe. Often those who experience high degrees of stress have very active (and very possibly depleted) adrenals and also tend to create a lot of their own stress. This is caused by a tendency to feel a sense of overwhelm and urgency, resulting in a great deal of DOING (and not much relaxing) in order to feel in control again – and so a vicious cycle ensues.
So while assessing how much of the doing is actually necessary, as well as simplifying, can be very beneficial, adding some conscious time management could really do the trick.
This starts off with PLANNING. Planning takes time so inevitably it does not happen. The result is winging it and responding from moment to moment and crises to crises, instead of being proactive and creating a space in which to respond in a more healthy way.
Planning can involve sitting with your diary on a Sunday night and looking at what needs to be done during the week and when it can happen. The most important concern here is to be realistic. In my genetic makeup is an amazing ability to believe I can multitask and be super-efficient and thus spread myself too thin, attempting to get too much done, or to go to too many places, in a set period of time. The result is obviously huge stress and much rushing about, with an ever-growing urgency. I have had to learn to look at the time available and be realistic about what I can REALLY fit in (taking into account that when kids are involved one needs to put aside at least an hour for tantrums, retrieving lost things and general chaos that can occur when least expected!) Very often in life there are these added possibilities that must be considered. Planning also involves planning in advance when ‘me-time’ will happen and honouring that. If a yoga session or meditation has been diarised this is as important as a client meeting.
This leads me to the next point which is PRIORITISING. You have to become the priority. Very often people who struggle with burnout are those who give too much or don’t know how to say no. Prioritising the self can take some getting used to and may require dealing with factors like fear of being seen as selfish, a bad person etc. Sometimes people cannot put themselves first as they cannot let go of the control they have when caring for others e.g. children or elderly parents. Please remember you cannot give to anyone if you have nothing to give. You HAVE to look after yourself first. If you really battle with putting yourself first please go and see someone who can help you explore it further and shift the pattern.
Prioritising also involves looking at what really needs to be done. I know that I have a tendency to think that everything is important and I cannot rest until it is all done. I have lately become more aware of this and the fact is that I then never really stop. Whenever I have had free time I have tended to simply fill it with something else, as that to-do list never really ends. So here’s the trick (and this may be a real challenge)…force yourself to just sit down and take mini breaks. If there is 15 minutes between meetings/appointments do not do any DOING. Rather sit down and focus on your breathing or simply look out the window and observe your surroundings. Refuel while being. Secondly, (and this was even more difficult for me!) learn to leave things incomplete. You do not have to keep at something until it is finished. You can come back to it later after a break!
This leads to being able to COMPARTMENTALISE. Plan your time so you work when you work and you play when you play. If you are attempting to complete a task at home and the kids call you to look at something put aside what you are doing (and this includes your mobile) and give them 100% attention. Don’t waste precious energy being torn between your children and the task you were completing. You can also do mental compartmentalizing in terms of lists. Make sure you have a regular to-do list going and whenever something comes up immediately put it on the list. Don’t try to hold it in your head as that takes up energy too.
Time management has long been a challenge for me and now I am trying to simply have a different relationship with time i.e. changing my perception of time. When I find myself caught up in that place of urgency and overwhelm, while the natural instinct is to up the urgency and haste, I force myself to slow down. I do this in the areas of driving, walking and eating. It actually causes my whole perception of time to slow down and I tend to be more focussed and achieve more.
The other day I caught myself shifting from overwhelm about my to-do list to a place of thinking “It’s really not that important – it will all get done in time”. What an amazing shift that has been for me and it’s about time!!