A world we cannot shut off
Living as adults in the 21st century comes with a lot of blessings but somehow, we feel so overwhelmed. A middle class European lives better today than the kings and queens of a few centuries ago. But despite this, modern life seems to be a struggle, including how our world cannot shut off. As The Guardian summarises, “Our human limitations – our finite energy and need for sleep, the number of hours in a day – remain the same as ever. Yet for reasons both technological and economic, the pressure to do more keeps ratcheting up”. We have 24/7 access to internet, and with it all that is connected to it, including for many, their work. This means that as you lie in your bed, ready to fall asleep, you may get an email from your boss asking you about an urgent matter for the following days presentation. It’s true that we have the option to shut our phone off. But despite this, we all know that we must maintain a level of responsiveness to meet society’s expectations and yet keep a life and work balance.
Balancing life and work?
Work/life balance has become the centre of attention in the news. The quick rise of technology has meant that we didn’t have time to integrate it into our lives in a healthy manner. Instead, it has been forced upon us, and we’re meant to keep up. Sink or swim. We’re only just beginning to see the dire consequences. From depression, to burn out or suicide, we are not lacking in struggles to overcome. That is why, before we reach our breaking point, it’s vital for us to take measures to keep our sanity in check. We must prioritise our well-being, now more than ever. That’s why we’ve decided to write out our tops tips on how to decrease your stress levels, whether you are a student or parent.
Chaos repellent, calm inducing tips
– Remember you are only human: Know how much sleep you need exactly to be at your optimal life performance, know which foods are good for your energy levels, respect your personal rhythms and know what time of day best suits you for your more challenging tasks. Know them, but more importantly act on them. Be responsible for your well-being.
– It will take longer than expected: The cognitive scientist, Douglas Hofstadter, states that tasks always take longer than you think. So, remember that “you just will underestimate how much time a task requires, even when you know that’s what you always do and try to plan accordingly”. Allowing yourself to incorporate your “buffer zone” time will greatly help to avoid feeling overloaded, and therefore allow you to stay realistically on top of your work. Don’t believe that time is flexible, or else your sleep and anxiety levels will suffer the consequences. Create an action plan of small and bigger tasks, number them if you must in priority and tick through a step at a time.
– Prioritise so as not to waste time on trivialities: Keep your to-do list to 5 essentials and then other details. Just like remembering to have a buffer zone, knowing what tasks should be taken care of first will help you keep your stress levels to a minimum.
– Trim the fat: Try to stay aware of unnecessary time consumers, especially when there’s no value in dragging it out. End things, like email conversations, feedback, and other interactions that won’t gain much value by being reiterated or followed up on. Make it clear to the person you’re communicating with that all the essential information has been said. And to have a nice day! Perhaps a smiley face too.
– Take the time to slow down: Even if it seems counter intuitive. It will in the end help increase productivity.
– Take a few moments at the end of each day to reflect: This will help you to remember the important parts of your day, as well as allow you to come up with solutions that may help you increase your efficiency and insights into your work and life.
It’s a year-round challenge.
Remember that these tips will help you year-round. There will always be periods of greater or lesser stress. The aim is to stay mindful of your health and stress level at all times. No matter what time of year, there are many things that can lead us to feeling overwhelmed. From Christmas and holiday periods with their festive dinners and gift buying to the spring seasons’ final exams, deadlines and summers with never ending weddings, we can be left totally overwhelmed. The goal isn’t to dread it, nor to endure it, but to find ways, gradually, to relieve your body and soul.
I hope some of these tips will help you navigate your intense periods of chaos, and help you bring a little well deserved serenity!
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