If you feel stuck, stressed, and like you’re spinning your wheels, you’re doing it wrong.
There’s no question that our culture is busier than ever as we chase after success at the expense of our sanity.
Unfortunately, this does nothing but leave us feeling unsettled, unsatisfied, and unsuccessful — the exact opposite of what we’re working so hard toward. But because we haven’t achieved the results we want “yet,” we mistakenly think that working harder is the answer.
And in a world where busy is a badge of honor and it’s a competition to see who feels more exhausted at the end of the day, we’ve become obsessed with being busy, thinking that if we’re not “doing something” to move forward toward our goals, then we’re sliding backward.
We’ve convinced ourselves that hustling harder is the only way to get what we want out of life. And that’s frustrating, because there’s only 24 hours in a day to get it all done, and no matter how hard we work, there’s always something left on that to-do list.
As a Stress Expert and Business Strategist for high-achieving women, I see it all too often: we chase after “success” at our own expense.
In fact my own wakeup call came two days after coming home from my honeymoon, when I was diagnosed with cancer. I was just 25 years old.
This was not how I expected to start my journey as an entrepreneur, but it’s exactly where my story starts, bc as I sat there in that cold, sterile exam room, THAT was the moment I realized that life is too short. That’s when I decided to quit burning myself out, feeling like I had to choose between having success or having a life I truly loved, and figure out how to have both.
I learned first-hand that my endless pursuit of success had come at a cost. Not the cost of late nights at my desk or the discipline it took to stay focused and get “just one more thing” scratched off my to-do list, no. The price I paid for my success was my health, my friendships, my relationships, and all of the other things that truly mattered to me.
So I chose to walk away from my fast-paced career and seek out the answer to WHY stress and overwhelm happen in the first place.
And while the answer goes much deeper than “not enough time in the day” or “doing more self-care,” it’s a good place to start.
Because too often, we find ourselves running in circles on the hamster wheel in an endless chase toward success and we’re not sure how to step off. It feels easier to just keep running, so we do.
And what’s even scarier is that we know we should be taking better care of ourselves, but we don’t. In fact, in a recent study done by the American Psychological Association, 7 out of 10 women surveyed reported that they believe managing stress is important, but said they had no idea how to do so.
We search for solutions to fix the problem, but come up short, because most of your typical “self-care” practices like beauty rituals or journaling and meditation only help with part of the issue. And worse, even though practices like these can at times offer some relief, most people fail to do them because they “don’t have enough time.”
This is why I recommend self-care practices that are unique and different: ones that allow you to create more breathing room in your day without needing to find “extra time” to practice them.
Here are 4 go-to practices to spark your creativity and find more “me time” in your day:
1. Spend the first and last hours of your day off your phone to build in personal breathing room at the start and end of your day
Did you know? Every time you check our phone, your body gives you a shot of adrenaline. That adrenaline feels good in the moment, but then your body gets used to that adrenaline, so it needs more and more to keep those good feels flowing. This leads to checking your phone more and more to get more hits of that adrenaline.
THAT’s when we get into really scary territory, because for every shot of adrenaline your body produces, it takes 5 – 30 minutes to recover. As Americans we check our phones as much as 150x a day…which means from a stress perspective, your body can’t recover!
This is critical to understand, because when you’re keyed-up like this, of course you’re going to go through your day feeling anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed! Add some caffeine to that and you become a strung-out adrenaline-junkie who spends the day totally distracted, because you’re focused on your next “hit.” (For more on this, check out the interview I did on this fascinating topic here)
Spending the first and last hours of your day off your phone gives you the space to start and end your day in peace. A few suggestions to help you transition to this practice:
- Keep it on Do Not Disturb for the first hour of your day. (I promise, there’s nothing so important going on that you’ll miss out on.) Give your family members and your kids’ school an alternate number to reach you (house phone, anyone?)
- If you find you have a really bad case of FOMO, go into your phone settings and customize a DND message to automatically reply to any texts that might come in during that hour.
Start today. Give it time for this to become second nature, and celebrate when it does — I promise you it will! If 1 hour feels like a lot, work your way up to it in 15 min increments.
2. Get outside of your comfort zone and mix up your environment.
Doing this on a regular basis sparks your creative juices and gets the inspiration flowing by getting you out of your normal routine. This can be as simple as taking a walk around the block, trying a new workout class, or ordering something off the menu that you wouldn’t usually order. Test your “spirit of adventure” and find ways to mix up your environment. Even working from a coffee shop if you typically work from home can give you a fresh outlook and a new perspective, without taking much energy or effort on your part.
3. Create a gratitude timer.
One of the biggest complaints I hear from my clients is that they struggle to stay present and live in the moment. And I get it, because for years I felt like whenever I sat there trying to embody whatever it meant to be “present,” I failed miserably. Worse, I’d feel guilty because my endless to-do list wouldn’t stop begging for my attention. But one day all of that changed, because I learned that if you’re spending your energy on what happened in the past or what “might” happen in the future, it keeps you from pouring that energy into what’s right here, right now.
That’s when I started making the effort to notice where I was spending my energy in every moment, and in the process I discovered a simple way to stay present and live in THIS moment. ⠀⠀
I call my secret “The Gratitude Timer,” and here’s how you can set yours up in 3 simple steps:
- create a new alarm on your phone
- in the space where it says “alarm” edit the text to read “What Am I Grateful For Right Now?”
- set it to go off 3x a day, every day
Then whenever your timer goes off, stop what you’re doing and send up a prayer of gratitude for whatever is in front of you. Maybe it’s the cup of coffee you just poured, or the mess your kid left for you to clean up. Maybe it’s the pile of laundry you have to fold, because it means the clothes are washed (win) and that you have people in your house to share your life with. ⠀⠀⠀⠀
Whatever is in front of you when your timer goes off – give thanks for that. It’ll help you stay present, lead with a grateful heart, and open the door to happiness in your life.
4. Read 10 pages of a good book every day.
With this simple hack, you’ll never say “I don’t have time to read” again! The average book is around 200 pages long. Let’s do the math: if you read 10 pages x 365 days a year, that’s 3650 pages. Divide that by the average number of pages per book (/ 200) that’s almost two books a month, which means with this simple practice, you’ll be able to read over 18 books in one year’s time! Imagine what you’ll learn from this simple practice, plus reading is relaxing and nourishing.
You’ll finally get to all those books that you’ve been wanting to read for so long, now that you have a simple system to help you do it.
It’s that simple. These 4 easy practices don’t require much time on your part, but they will pay off in dividends for your emotional, physical, and mental health.
Pick one to implement today.
It’s time to Stress LESS and Live MORE.