Reclaiming Your Sanity

Are you a "checkaholic"? A deadline fanatic? The these tips from G. Gaynor McTigue, author of "Why Make Yourself Crazy? Strategies for a Stress-Free Life," can help you.

In the second installment of our three-part series on managing stress, McTigue offers these suggestions for making the most of your breaks, your leisure time and your mornings. But all of them have one thing in common: They can help preserve -- or reclaim -- your sanity.

  1. Don't be a "checkaholic." With the multimedia buffet we have at our disposal -- Internet, e-mail, voice mail, cell phones, Blackberries -- the temptation is to constantly check things. "Check the weather, check the time, check the markets, check your e-mail, check your hair, check your voice mail, check the news, check to see if your wallet is in your pocket," for example. While each "check" might only be a few seconds in duration, they add up over the course of a day, frittering away a good-sized chunk of productive time -- maybe even cutting into break time -- and further fueling your stress. "My advice is to ease up," McTigue says. "Things aren't going to fall apart when you're not looking. Resist the urge to receive constant, needless, monotonous updates. Use that time to take a legitimate break and relieve some stress."
  2. Eliminate meaningless deadlines. As if the deadlines we face on the job aren't enough, many of us impose arbitrary deadlines on ourselves in our leisure time, such as, "I have to weed the garden by this evening," McTigue explains. "Or I have to finish this book by this weekend." These deadlines create additional pressure and guilt if we fail to meet them. For those who only feel motivated if there's a deadline looming, McTigue contends that what they really need are goals. "Instead of a time-oriented goal, make it a different goal: 'I'm going to start on this project, and in a new and different way that makes it fun.'"
  3. Eliminate excessive or superfluous activities. Before you commit to coaching that Little League team, serving on that volunteer committee or playing on that intramural volleyball team, think about whether you can fit it into your schedule. Remember that "every activity has to be prepared for, gotten to and returned from." Also keep in mind that overscheduling can result in "schedule conflicts, lateness, mad dashes, no-shows and bruised feelings." (In other words: more stress.) "People put us on the spot or blindside us with the request, and they want an answer right away," McTigue says. "There's nothing wrong with telling them, 'Let me get back to you on this.' You can always delay the decision and not agree to anything right away until you figure out if you can do it."
  4. Wake up earlier. If every morning feels like a frantic, high-stress fire drill -- which sets a stressful tone for the rest of the day -- McTigue suggests getting up earlier. "It breaks the cycle of rushing where it starts -- in the morning," McTigue says. "It sets a composed, rational pace the entire day." If you're one of those people who loves that "extra 15 minutes of sleep in the morning," McTigue's advice is to get that extra sleep "on the other end." "Instead of watching the 11 o'clock news, watch the 10 o'clock news."
  5. One sport per child per season. If what you really need after a stressful day at work is some decompression time, and what you really get is "shuttling kids around like a madman" to various sporting events, then you're only adding to your stress. That's why McTigue advises parents to limit each child to a single sport per season. "A child's appetite for sports is bigger than their stomach," McTigue says. However innocuous that may seem, kids today are "overscheduled" and stressed out because of it. Overscheduling trickles down in the form of stress to parents as well as coaches, who often are left in the lurch when kids miss practices and games. Limiting each child to one sport per season allows the child to focus all of his or her energy on that particular sport. It also allows parents the opportunity to watch their children's games -- without having to sacrifice their sanity to get to them.

Tomorrow, we'll discuss stress-management strategies that can help you get through the week at work and help you feel like your home indeed is your castle

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