Stressed at the Speed of Life?

Are you feeling stressed today? The pace of our daily lives is so overloaded with choices, decisions and must do’s that we can easily feel overwhelmed. We are influenced to different degrees by everything that is around us. The weather, the news, the traffic, our boss, our family obligations and responsibilities and all the options and choices we are bombarded with takes up brain bandwidth and contributes to our stress level. There are some things that are beyond our control, but there are also things that we can control, that can lessen the pressure or stress we feel. First, let’s figure out…

What’s Stressing You?

  • Communication happens 24/7
  • Online ordering done in one click
  • Less staff so more work – is it any wonder you feel like you can never do enough?
  • Less control over your own calendar
  • Unlimited choices
  • Distractions everywhere
  • Interruptions
  • Lack of boundaries around work and home time
  • Lack of sleep – have your hours of sleep decreased? That can cause difficulties with focus, working memory and other executive functioning skills needed throughout the day

What Can You Control?

Stress is defined as, “ a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” (Oxford). How can you reduce that tension?

  • Stop tolerating things that you do have control over. As mentioned in our July newsletter, change is hard but sometimes we don’t even recognize that we should or need to change something that is causing us stress simply because we don’t take the time to look at it. Is it fear of change, is it an old limiting belief that is no longer true or just a big “BUT” that gets in the way? ( I would do that but….).
  • You can say “NO”. This is a tough one because there are so many choices, but are you really making a choice going along because it is easier?
  • If you are frequently distracted by your phone, (it’s a quick dopamine hit) you have the power to decide how often you will check it. Keep a tally of each time you pick it up in one day and you will be surprised. Set a reasonable number of times to check it (if your job communicates that way, this might not be possible). Turn off the general notification sounds and pick specific tunes for text messages from important people that you don’t want to miss. Most notifications can be sent to your fitbit or smart watch, so you really won’t miss them. You are also less likely to be distracted if your phone is not nearby. Also, you can set up the “Do Not Disturb” for an evening free of “squirrel!”
  • Interruptions from people can be politely deferred for a short time if you are in the middle of something. If you allow the interruption, know that it may take you 50% longer to complete your task and you may make more errors (Brain Rules by John Medina p. 87) If interrupted by your own thoughts, write it down and get back to work rather than running off to do that “one” thing.
  • Stop multitasking – you are actually switching between things and losing attention to details and adding time onto each task
  • Declutter – that’s right, clutter can increase your stress. Click here for more insight.
  • Create a simple, nightly reset plan to prepare for the next day and start fresh
  • Lessen the strain on your memory by setting specific days for certain tasks. A basic week plan might have a laundry, grocery, bills, cleaning and/or decluttering day.
  • Take time to take care of yourself. Exercise, eat healthy, get enough sleep and reduce the stress you can control with clear boundaries.

A stressed brain does not think as easily as a non-stressed brain and learning can become more difficult. We all know the health impacts of chronic stress. For those with a neurodivergent brain, you may need to work harder at controlling your environment to make it work FOR you and not AGAINST you.

Taking time to look at what you can control and doing something about it, can really make a difference. The world is stressed enough, do we really need to allow it to impact our health and our homes?

Please share your strategies on my Facebook page.

Set Three and Be Free: End Multitasking

Got Papers?

Learn how to

Tackle and Tame Your Papers

Thursday, March 19, 2009

At 7pm

Norwell Middle School Community Room

328 Main Street (Rte 123)

Norwell, Ma  02061


Design a system that will keep your papers under control once and for all. Never pay a late fee again or miss an invitation with this action center that keeps action items up front and gets them done.  Come join us for this free presentation. Call for more information: (781) 659-0513.




Are you “crazy” busy all day and then come home exhausted wondering what did you actually accomplish today?

            No matter where you work or what you do you are exposed to the “instantness” of technology. The cellphone rings, the email dings and the fax hums. People want information or solutions instantly and often that means interrupting others, including you, to get it. You could spend an entire day responding to emails, phone calls or interruptions and never get a single thing crossed off your to do list. Sure, you may be accomplishing a great deal but is it the important stuff or just the “urgent” (louder, more in your face type)? 

            The facts are in from several studies indicating that we not only lose time when multitasking but also efficiency and mental capabilities. Some estimates indicate 20-40% decrease in our IQ when truly multitasking. If that is interfering with our ability to get things done then it’s no surprise that we often feel that nothing significant gets done. So the first step is to determine what is important. Usually we wait until some deadline or time limit (usually imposed by another) puts pressure on us to complete the task before we force ourselves to focus long enough to complete it. Needless to say this adds stress to our lives and possibly to others that we need to get information or help from when they are forced to adhere to our time table.

            So, determine what is important before you start each day. Be realistic and list only 3 tasks that you deem important. If only those three things were done, would you go home happy feeling like a success?

            Next find a block of time in the morning that you can work on the first task. Do not check your email before starting on this task. Julie Morgenstern, an organizing expert has written, “Never Check Email in the Morning” with lots of tips on how to be more effective at work. During this block of time which can be as short as 20 minutes or as long as 90 minutes, turn off audible notifications and do not answer the phone, or check email. Each time you switch between tasks you lose your focus and studies indicate it takes 15-25 minutes to regain that same amount of focus.

            Lastly, if you are interrupted or must stop unexpectedly, then write yourself a note explaining what your next step is. This will decrease the amount of time it takes you to get back into the “flow”. Continue with each task until completed, then check email or return phone calls. This puts you in control and not technology in control. Dr. Edward Hallowell suggests that, “…despite our belief that we cannot control how much we’re overloaded, we can. “We need to recreate boundaries,” he said. “That means training yourself not to look at your BlackBerry every 20 seconds, or turning off your cellphone.”

            There is no way to escape the onslaught of technology unless you make active choices. Start today and list your three most important, manageable tasks for tomorrow’s success. There, I finished my first task for today by publishing this blog. Next up the treadmill and then visiting a sick friend. Wishing you a successful day that you control. Let me know how you do.