Tag Archive | stress

Procrastination Lessons

Happy Thankful Thursday everyone!  It has been so long since I’ve written a Thankful Thursday post.  I’m still practicing being grateful though, and with November 1st in just two days, it is a good time to focus on it even more!  Today I’m thankful that I’ve had this blog for one full year!  I love my blog, and I’m so glad I started writing it.  I’m also thankful for some lessons that I learned as a result of my own procrastination a  few weeks ago.  I’ve been wanting to share them, and today is the perfect day to do that!  So here goes….

Every year on the first day of school, after my family leaves the house I have to pause for a moment and enjoy the quiet.  I love my family, but I love quiet and stillness too – and I just don’t get a lot of that during the summer.

This year was no different.  The house was perfectly quiet and perfectly still for quite awhile because my youngest one slept in a bit that first day.  It was lovely…

…until the telephone rang.

My husband was calling to tell me that my daughter’s school had not received a record of her vaccinations and that she was not supposed to be in school without it.  However, he also said that the school’s phones were down, so I couldn’t just have the doctor’s office fax them over.  So I had to call the doctor’s office, get my little one ready, pick up the record, and drive them over to school.  Since I live 20 minutes away, and my daughter is not very fast when it comes to getting ready or at running errands, this was not a quick process.  When I got to the school I learned that my daughter had not been allowed to attend class and instead was sitting in the Principle’s office, just waiting for me to arrive.

You can imagine that I felt pretty bad.  Yes it would have been better for everyone if the phone had been working, but I had received a letter a few weeks before school started telling me they didn’t have those records and needed them before the first day.  I could have (and should have) taken care of it prior to the first day of school, making the non-working phones a non-issue, but I just put it off for one day, and then another and another.  Then the doctor’s office was closed for the weekend, and suddenly it was the first day of school.  Yeah – talk about mommy guilt.

But it was OK – my daughter got through it and so did the school officials.  Even though it was stressful in the moment, as far as I can tell, we were all able to move on from my mistake pretty quickly.

However – the next day I learned of another thing that I had procrastinated over the summer.  I won’t go into detail, because it would be difficult to explain everything adequately.  But I will say the consequence was a certain amount of confusion, embarrassment, and wasted money.  And it was all 100% my fault – once again due to my procrastination.

Especially at the height of confusion and frustration, I had a very difficult time forgiving myself.  If only I had someone else to blame or could just chalk it up to “that’s just the way things go sometimes.”  But no, it was my own doing (or rather, not doing).

That evening when I was home, my stress level reached it’s peak, and all I could do was cry.  Recently I’ve been making a bigger effort to turn to the scriptures when I feel unhappy or stressed, and so when I had a chance, this is what I chose to do.  I just started reading from where I was (Mosiah 26), not looking for anything in particular, but as I read I felt the message was personalized just for me.  Here is what I learned:

  1. The Lord will forgive us as many times as we choose to repent (Mosiah 26:30).  I was mad at myself because procrastinating important things is a habit for me, which means I’m guilty of it over and over and over again!  But I could see here, that the Lord wasn’t holding that against me, and that he would continue to forgive me.  In fact, I felt in my heart that He had already forgiven me of both of these instances!
  2. I am required to forgive everyone, including myself! (Mosiah 26:31).   To me forgiveness doesn’t mean going into denial and pretending a mistake wasn’t made.  But rather it means letting go of the anger, blame, and other negative thoughts and words that seem to always appear along with the mistake.  And I truly believe that when the Lord says that He requires us to forgive everyone, that He means ourselves as well.
  3. I should “give thanks in all things” (Mosiah 26:39).  Give thanks in ALL things?!  Here I was, feeling like this moment in my life was the worst thing ever, and I’m supposed give thanks!  Except luckily I was starting to feel a little better from my earlier reading, and so I was able to do it.  I said a silent prayer thanking my Heavenly Father for the experience and the lessons I was learning from it.  And guess what?  My stress nearly melted away!  I felt so much better!  I could see that while it was something that needed to be dealt with, it was really not the end of the world.
  4. Replace my fear with faith (Elder M. Russell Ballard).  At this point I had switched my reading over to talks from General Conference.  The talk I was reading was about missionary work, and again chosen simply because I was reading them in order.  But when I read the words, “…by replacing our fear with real faith,” I knew they applied to my situation too!  My anxiety was a result of fear – fear of embarrassment, fear of inconveniencing others, fear of wasting money that was in short supply – but I could choose to have faith instead!  At this point I realized that I was not alone; I did not have to solve the problem I had created all by myself, but instead could rely on the Lord to help me through it.

And now, about two months later, I can honestly say that He did help us.  Just about everything has been resolved; and the situation is behind us. But the lessons remain, and I’ve found myself using these strategies in other stressful situations as well.  After-all, as much as I would like the lesson to have been to never procrastinate or make any similar mistake again, I’m getting better, but I’m not there yet.

procrastination

{click here for image source}

What are some positive ways you have learned to cope with mistakes? 

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Why my 2014 Goals are not S.M.A.R.T.

You’ve probably heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals before.  These are goals that are defined as being:

  • Specific
  • Measuarable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

So, let’s take a look at my 2014 goals.*

1.  Take better care of my health.  I read on another blog that the three pillars of health are sleep, exercise, and proper diet.  Also, good emotional health is important to me.

2.  Manage my time better by procrastinating less and being a little more organized in my approach to my work.

3.  Declutter my home and get organized!!  I would like in the year 2014 to reduce the visible clutter in my home by means of throwing away, putting away, or in some cases creating homes for things where one is currently non-existent.

4.  “Be of good cheer” more!

5.  Listen to my family better.

I feel like these goals are attainable, relevant to my needs and my life, and the time frame I have specified is 1 year.  I also feel like for the most part they are specific, and clearly defined (though some are more-so than others).  So, they are pretty close.  But, they are definitely not measurable.  On each one the only thing I have said is that I want to be better than I am now.  Exactly how does one measure that?

They don’t – and I’m glad.  I’ve learned time and time again that when I set measurable goals, that I fail at them (see this post and this one, and this one too if you don’t believe me!!).  Even if I improve over where I was, I still fail at the goal.

And, I don’t like that feeling.

What I do like is celebrating small steps towards improvement.  I originally set these goals based on my feelings.  (i.e. I felt dissatisfied about myself in these areas).  So, on December 31, 2014, I will be measuring whether I kept them based on the progress that I personally feel I have made.

Does that make sense?  It does to me, and it takes so much pressure off of myself to simply say that by the end of the year I want to be better than I was at the beginning!  Now, that’s attainable, and in my opinion, that’s also very SMART!

*Note: I copied and pasted the goals, but deleted some explanations as to why I want to do them in order to make them less wordy.

One Source of Negative Emotions (in regards to work)

In this post from two days ago I spoke of how I cried when I didn’t do the weekly review like I said I would.  While I feel a little silly admitting that, I think that it was a good way to explain the negative emotions that I feel when I don’t follow through with schedules I create for myself.  In all reality the tears weren’t just about one weekly review that I failed to do.  It was simply one more example of myself saying that I would do one thing, and then actually doing something else – and I felt bad about myself as a result.

In his book, David Allen speaks of these negative emotions.  He tells that when people initially go through his process of collecting and processing their “stuff,” that they tend to feel some negative things.  Here are some of the words he uses to describe these feelings – “overwhelm, panic, frustration, fatigue, and disgust.”  I would say these describe very well my own feelings concerning my work, and that these are the feelings that led me to set thetime management goal in the first place.

David Allen does a great job of explaining the source of these negative emotions.  On page 226-227 of his book, he says this:

“Where do the not-so-good feelings come from?  Too much to do?  No, there’s always too much to do.  If you felt bad simply because there was more to do than you could do, you’d never get rid of that feeling.  Having too much to do is not the source of the negative feeling.  It comes from a different place.

“How have you felt when someone broke an agreement with you?  Told you they would meet you Thursday at 4:00pm and never showed or called?  How did that feel?  Frustrating, I imagine.  The price people pay when they break agreements in the world is the disintegration of trust in the relationship – a negative consequence.

“But what are all those things in your in-basket?  Agreements you’ve made with yourself.  Your negative feelings are simply the result of breaking those agreements – they’re the symptoms of disintegrated self-trust.  If you tell yourself to draft a strategic plan, when you don’t do it, you’ll feel bad.  Tell yourself to get organized, and if you fail to, welcome to guilt and frustration.  Resolve to spend more time with your kids and don’t – voila! anxious and overwhelmed.

“If the negative feelings come from broken agreements, you have three options for dealing with them and eliminating the negative consequences.

  1. Don’t make the agreement
  2. Complete the agreement
  3. Renegotiate the agreement

“All of these can work to get rid of the unpleasant feelings.”

When I was praying about what to do in my situation, I really wasn’t thinking of these three choices.  But some time after I received the prompting that “I needed to stop trying to put my life in a box” I remembered them.  I could see what a simple and amazing solution this really could be – to stop making agreements with myself to complete routines and schedules that I clearly do not want to keep.  I have to say that, even though it has been just a little while since I let go of trying to be so structured, that already I feel so much more relaxed in my work!

Another concept to think about is the proper use of the calendar.  In the “Getting Things Done” system, the calendar is only to be used for “time specific tasks” and “day-specific tasks” (i.e. appointments).  Lots of people write stuff on their calendars that don’t absolutely have to be done on that day or at that time.  According to Mr. Allen, doing this causes internal confusion.  Our brains know that we don’t really have to do it that day, so we start skipping stuff that we see written there, potentially causing us to miss something that really does have to be done at a specific time.

Even though I do not actually write my routines or schedules that I create on the calendar, I do tend to treat them the same way – requiring in my own mind that something be done on a specific day or time, when in reality it doesn’t have to be done then.  My brain knows this, and responds by putting up resistance.  So that’s another point in favor of letting go of the self-created schedules.

But you may be asking, what about the “Weekly Review?”  I’ve been giving this some thought; I really do like the system Mr. Allen describes.  He recommends using a calendar and action lists instead of schedules, which provide structure and flexibility simultaneously.  His “weekly review” really is the only thing he suggests that falls outside of this.  So, for now I’m still trying to do it on Mondays (but not at any specified time).  I still don’t love it, and I’m working out some of the kinks; but I haven’t decided (at least at this point) to completely abandon it.

 

Time Management (as explained in the Psychology textbook!)

In reading my husband’s Psychology* textbook a few weeks ago (I wrote about that here), I came across a section about “Time Management” which I thought was interesting.  It is found at the very end of the chapter titled “Stress and Adjustment.”  The introduction to this section stated:

For most people, in school as well as out, time management is the most difficult aspect of adjustment.  Most of us have problems managing our time.  We tend to put things off (procrastination) and wait until the last minute to do them.  We often miss deadlines and then have to hurry to get back on schedule.  We spend much of our time on unimportant things.  We don’t have a schedule and we don’t know what goals are most important.  In this last section, we discuss how to improve adjustment by learning how to manage time effectively.

Wow, I can definitely identify with the author’s description!  One thing that I found interesting was the idea that stress is reduced by good time management (and increased by the lack there-of!).  This has definitely been my motivation recently to gain better control of my own use of time.  So, I took some notes from the Psychology textbook.  Here they are!

Problems Most People Have With Time Management

  • Procrastination
  • Missing deadlines, then hurrying to get back on schedule
  • Spending too much time on unimportant things
  • No schedule
  • Don’t know which goals are most important
  • Over-commitment

Why Worry About Time Management?

  • We all have the same amount of time
  • We cannot acquire any more time than we already have
  • Using time wisely helps stress to be low

Steps to Better Time Management

  1. Be motivated to manage our time.  Commitment is essential!
  2. Be fully aware of how we currently use our time (maybe track every half hour for a week)
  3. Establish daily goals, write them down, and check them off when complete
  4. Examine the behavior that will lead to our goals
  5. Group similar tasks
  6. Use spare time in between tasks to study, read, or relax rather than worry
  7. Learn how to say “no” when we can’t adequately fill a request b/c of lack of time
  8. Learn how to delegate when appropriate

Overcoming Procrastination

  • Reasons include: fear, lack of motivation, interruptions, and general stress
  • Divide a large task into small steps and begin with the easiest one.  Continue to complete small tasks until the large one is manageable.

Evaluate our Time Management Program

  • Are we spending too much time on low priority goals?
  • Be flexible and ready to modify our goals
  • The main goal is effective time management
  • “Efficiency is doing things right and effectiveness is doing the right things”
  • Give self lots of reinforcement
  • Leave time for relaxation

*Information taken from Psychology:  A Concise Introduction 2nd edition by Terry F. Pettijohn pg 297

Some Thoughts on Stress and Burnout

During the recent Christmas season I found myself feeling a bit depressed.  Supposedly that is not a rare thing to happen to people, as we all tend to feel a lot of pressure and stress at this time of year.  But still, I was surprised and bothered by the way I was feeling.  I had made efforts to simplify the season for our family, and my husband had been extra helpful this year, so I really did not have reason to feel a lot of extra stress.  And there wasn’t anything going particularly wrong that would warrant feeling depressed.  But, I had been feeling down off and on for a while for a few months, so I decided to talk to my husband about it.  My husband, who majored in Psychology in college and is now a Special Education teacher (specializing in emotional disturbance) pulled out his Psychology* textbook and asked if he could read some of it to me.  He started reading under the heading “Stress.”  This is what the book said:

Richard Lazarus and his colleagues argued that rather than major life change events, much stress is produced from the daily hassles that routinely annoy us.  Lazarus defined hassles as petty routine annoyances, aggravations, or frustrations such as driving in traffic, preparing meals, the pressure of time, financial problems, communications problems, and making decisions.

According to Lazarus, the major life events themselves do not directly cause stress as much as they create numerous minor hassles that contribute to the overall stress level. . . .

Hmm . . . daily hassles that routinely annoy us equals stress.  Ok, I realize that this is almost “like, duh!” but when I heard it I felt validated.  For a very long time I’ve identified as a major source of stress, both meal preparation and the pressure of time.  I mean, I complain over and over again to anyone who will be nice enough to listen, and to the point of sounding like a broken record.  So to have these listed in a Psychology Textbook was validating to me.  I wanted to say to everyone, “See?  These are real stressors!  I’m not just being a crazy complainer!”

Next my husband started reading in the section titled “Burnout” and read this:

We live in a society that constantly places demands on us.  While most of us feel that we are able to deal with stress adequately, many people are not aware that they are burning energy too fast.   Burnout is the depletion of our physical and mental resources.  It occurs when we have more energy going out than we do coming in.

The book went on to list several symptoms of burnout:

  • Exhaustion
  • Detachment
  • Boredom
  • Impatience (with others who can’t keep up)
  • Sense of omnipotence
  • Feeling unappreciated
  • Psychophysiological problems (such as ulcers, asthma, or heart problems)

So I started thinking, “maybe I am experiencing a mild case of burnout,” which could explain some of the depression I had been feeling.  I could definitely identify with some of the symptoms.  This was a new thought to me because I always had felt like burnout was a result of doing too much.  Once when I was in college, I felt like I experienced burnout, and everyone told me that I was “doing too much.”  So in my married life I’ve tried to be careful not to “overdo” (as much as feasibly possible), but I haven’t been so careful not to “over-stress.”  And this book says that “burnout” is a depletion of both physical and mental resources.  In other words, stress uses energy just like work does.   If more goes out than comes in, there is going to be a problem.

So, what to do?  Well, for me, in my New Year’s Resolutions, I have identified some important things.

  • Taking better care of my health is a good place to start, because that’s how we put energy into our bodies.  Proper sleep, diet, and exercise all perform that function.  Just like a bank account, if I deposit more energy, then I have more energy available to “spend!”
  • Reducing stress is another good plan, but the texbook also reminds people that stress is a fact of life and we cannot get rid of all of it.  I know there are some things I can do to manage my time and meal preparation a little better.  Procrastination and clutter are both common sources of stress for people, and if I succeed at improving in both of these areas this year, that should help.
  • Including activities that make me happy in my days can help too.  The book says, “It should be pointed out that Lazarus also found people had daily “uplifts” or satisfactions such as relating well with others, visiting, having enough money for something desired, listening to music, [etc].  Some research suggests that these uplifts might be able to counteract some of the effects of stress.”
  • Also focusing on my blessings can help.  This is similar to “including activities that make me happy,” but instead of seeking for happy things, I’m just taking the time to appreciate the good that I’m already experiencing.  So often good things happen to us, but in the day to day stress we don’t take the time to acknowledge or appreciate them.  Taking the time to focus on these positives can be another way to provide the daily uplifts that counteract stress.

These are a few ideas that I have.  What about you?  What do you do to handle stress and keep yourself from burning out?

*Please note that the text book I am quoting from is Psychology:  A Concise Introduction, 2nd edition by Terry F. Pettijohn.

If It Ain’t Broke, Then Don’t Fix It

Last week I wrote that I started up a “private blog (you can read about that here).”  I also wrote that I’ve been writing for years (on paper) as a way to handle my stress.  Well, guess what I did?  I CHANGED MY MIND!  I wrote down several “posts” on my private blog.  But remember my details about how I could erase what I wanted and keep what I wanted?  I started trying to do just that, and began to over-analyze my writing.  I thought this would reduce my stress, but it actually caused me more.  I also found a few times when I wanted to write something down, that the computer was not available (just like I predicted!), and this caused me stress too.  So, it only took me a few days of trying this to realize that writing down my feelings on the computer was not going to be helpful to me in the goal of relieving my stress.

So, I did the equivalent of throwing my papers away, which for me always seems to feel good, and I went into the blog and DELETED everything.  Then I went into the “trash” and PERMANENTLY DELETED everything again.  Then I felt much better.

I realized that I was trying to “fix” or at the very least “improve” a system that was working just fine the way it was!  So now, the question is, what will I do with my private blog that I’ve started?  I hate to just let it sit there.  I read on an article from WordPress’s “The Daily Post” that it can be good to use a private blog as a way to try out different settings (i.e. backgrounds, widgets, etc).  So I think I”ll do that.  I may even ask my son if he wants to (and then tell me what he learned), since he enjoys stuff like that.

Now, as a side-note, I am completely aware that I do not have to announce to the world details about my private blog, but I am doing this for a reason.  In an upcoming post, I plan to talk about how I write in private.  I’ve learned a few things in my life about communication and “self-talk” as it relates to our emotions.  How we describe a situation (even to our own selves) makes a big difference in the way we feel, and I want to share what I’ve learned!  So, if your interested, be sure to check back!

Why do I have 2 blogs?

(Update Feb 2014 – I wrote here that I discontinued writing on my private blog shortly after starting it; but I feel that this post does a good job of explaining how I use writing as a way to relieve stress.  Currently, I’m using pen and paper, just like I used to!)

This blog is fairly new; I just started it last week!  So why, then did I just yesterday start another one?  Well, I will tell you.  I decided that I wanted to a have private blog in addition to this public one.  My reason is, as you might guess,  for therapeutic purposes.  I want to have a place to write my thoughts freely without worrying about anyone’s opinion of them.  Makes sense, right?  So I almost just changed the settings on this blog to “private,” leaving me worry free.  Except a public blog is kind of thrapeutic too.  I realized, as I was thinking this over, that I need/want both.  My private blog can be where I vent or brainstorm solutions to problems I’m experiencing.  But my public blog can give me an opportunity to share things I’ve learned with others.  I like sharing things that I learn (most of us do!), and my hope is that someone who reads what I write might benefit from my experiences and insights.

This idea of writing to clear my thoughts is not new to me.  I’ve been doing it for a long time!  Years ago I struggled with depression.  I was very fortunate to have supportive people around me, and I was also very fortunate to be able to talk to someone at LDS Family Services (at the time they were called LDS Social Services).  Catherine, who was my counselor, had me writing and writing and writing some more.  I filled up several notebooks and I found it to be very helpful to get my thoughts onto paper so that I could see them.  And of course, she was there to talk with me about what I had written and give me new and helpful insights into my thoughts.  And so, I’ve continued on through the years (even though it has been a long time since that counseling), writing whenever I’ve felt stressed.  Usually I find that what I write falls into 3 categories.  And usually all three appear in one writing session.  They are:

  1. Things that I am unhappy about, but nothing needs to be done.  In a few days, these are likely to be forgotten.
  2. To Do’s that I need to take action on right away!  I’m always amazed at how often things that I need to do (and that I’ve been putting off) are in what I’m writing.
  3. Stuff that I do need to do something about (i.e. a child’s misbehavior) but I’m not exactly sure what yet.  Writing it down like this is great because I can clarify the problem, and then think through what is the best solution.  It’s not always a quick process, and the solution is not always clear.  But writing it down is a good way to get the process started!

I’ve always done this via pen & paper.  But the idea of taking the process to “blogland” is appealing to me for two different reasons:

  1. I can delete things I write.  See number one above?  I often find that after a few days, I don’t want to be reminded of those things any more.  They aren’t relevant, and it just makes me feel bad to read about them.  So, I usually throw my writings away.  Except, because it’s on paper, I have to throw it all away, even the “number 3” stuff.  (The number 2 stuff usually gets added to my To Do List).  So, on a private blog, I can delete (and keep) what I want, making it easier to clarify the problems that I need to solve.
  2. The blog makes my writings both neat and pretty!  My hand-written thoughts are never pretty.  I’m usually writing fast, just dumping my thoughts as quickly as I can.  But I can also type quickly, so I can still do that, and the result is more neatly written text!  Of course, this could be done in Microsoft Word too, but the blog format takes it one step further, putting my typed words onto an attractive background of my own choosing.  I like that.

One downside to doing it this way is that I do not always have access to the computer.  Other people use the computer too or maybe I’ll be somewhere other than home when I feel I want to write something.  So I won’t give up pen and paper writing completely!  But I think I’m going to benefit from both my private and public blogs.

What about you?  Do you write as a way of handling stress?  What else do you do that’s helpful?  Do you have or have you ever considered starting a blog (either private or public)?  Feel free to share in the comments section!