In last week’s post, I explained why stress and sleep don’t go together, and suggested one effective tool for reducing your workload and lowering stress. If you did the exercise, good for you! You’re on your way to less stress and better sleep.
If you didn’t do it, I get it. Life is busy – who wants to take on another task? But to lower stress and improve sleep, you need to carve out some time to make a few changes.
Here are some common objections to doing the exercise I suggested, and my responses:
“I don’t have time to complete the exercise.”
If you feel you don’t have time to do this exercise, then you need to do it more than anyone. If something will lower your stress, and help you sleep better, then why wouldn’t you make the time to do it?“
But everything is important.”
Everything may be important, but it can’t all be equally important. Some things are more important than others. It’s vital to know what you value most, and in what order you value it, in order to know what to keep and what to cut. This may take some thinking.
You are also limited by time. You cannot take on fifty hobbies, have a hundred close friends and work ten jobs. So choose the things you enjoy the most and which are of highest value to you at this time in your life. This may change over time, so you can adjust, but now you must cut.
I have worked with many stressed-out clients and every time they experimented with cutting things out they never regretted it and didn’t miss the things they eliminated. They felt relief and wondered why they hadn’t done it sooner. As a result, they had less stress and more time and energy to enjoy what was most important.
“But I have high standards for myself.”
If you feel you must do everything “perfectly,” always be the best, be a veritable superman or superwoman, and anything that falls short of this is failure, then you have set unreasonably high standards for yourself.
A human being can only do so much. You only have so much time and energy. If you try to fight this, it will create an enormous amount of stress, which will lower your performance and efficiency (not to mention your enjoyment of life), and negatively impact your sleep.
Standards are contextual, based on many factors (your time, energy, knowledge, competing values, goals, etc.). Being selective about what you take on and working smarter, not harder, will help you be your best while also keeping stress at bay.
The goal should be enjoyment of life and attaining the things most important to you, not trying to meet some unrealistic perfection.
“But I don’t want to upset anyone.”
One of the most powerful skills for lowering stress is the ability to say “no” to others. This is a required skill for anyone who wants to manage their time and stress. You simply cannot do everything people ask you to do and it’s up to you to set the boundary.
This applies to both your work and personal life, to your boss/co-workers, as well as your friends/family.
Again, you only have so much time and energy. This means you have to be very selective about where you spend it, which means knowing what’s most important to you. Ideally, most of your time and energy should go to your most important values.
What stops most people from saying “no” is the fear of upsetting others or concern they will think badly of you.
For the people who actually respect and value you, this won’t be the case. Reasonable people understand that you have limited time and resources and a life outside of them and will understand. They may be initially disappointed, but they will get over it and find someone else to ask (or do it themselves).
Most people respect individuals who value themselves enough to set boundaries and don’t respect those who are doormats or people pleasers.
Think about when you have asked someone for help on a work project or invited a friend to a party and they said no. Did you think badly of them? My guess is you understood, even if initially disappointed, and it did not affect your relationship.
But what if they do resent it or think badly of you? Then you should ask yourself if this is a worthwhile friend, relative or co-worker. If they always expect you to do everything they ask, then they aren’t respecting your time or values. If so, this may be an area to do some cutting.