Do you feel stressed and worn thin all the time? Here are 5 effective ways to say “goodbye” to the hamster wheel and become a calm, joyful person again.
Imagine you could look at your to-do list without your blood pressure rising.
Imagine you could take breaks for family time without feeling like you were neglecting something urgent.
Imagine you could handle interruptions in your day with grace instead of panic and grouchiness.
Imagine you could look forward to the calendar season ahead and not feel suffocated by your schedule.
Doesn’t that sound amazing?
Most of us are so used to feeling stressed, worn thin, and overwhelmed that it’s hard to imagine not feeling that way. Without knowing exactly how or when it happened, we’ve become frazzled, out-of-breath adults who always answer the “how are you?” question with an emphatic “way too busy!”
I used to think the pressure of the rat race only applied to people with corporate jobs, but a few years post college shot down that notion for good. Many homemakers dwell in an almost permanent state of overwhelm and burnout, and it makes me sad.
I think we can do better than this.
Overwhelm and burnout do not have to be our norm. We can get out of the hamster wheel cycle and saunter through life with class and curiosity. I firmly believe that. Even better, by our own tranquility we can help those around us to experience a less frenetic pace as well.
A Google search will pull up thousands of suggestions for feeling less stressed and managing your time better. Unfortunately, a lot of those tips won’t fit your situation. Or worse, they’re trite and they don’t really help.
Instead, allow me to give you a few actionable habits that you can apply to your life to get results. They work for me, and they can be helpful for a variety of situations, even if your schedule looks different from mine.
If you want to do something about your never-ending cycle of busyness and stress, implement these five habits and see how things change!
5 Ways to Feel Less Stressed and Overwhelmed
1. Use the internet less than your current amount.
The fastest way to get relief from the hamster wheel? Take an instant retreat from the internet’s onslaught of ideas, information, and to-dos.
It doesn’t matter if you’re typically connected for one hour a day or five–whatever your normal amount is, make it less.
Start by taking a brief internet detox for a day or two. Don’t go online. Instead, put time into other homemaking tasks, or choose a self care activity to help you refresh.
Then, choose how you’re going to be intentional about long-term internet use. For instance, I’ve found that it’s extremely healthy to have at least one day a week where I plan to be offline. When you are online, make it a goal to demarcate your time. Instead of pingponging between business (answering emails) and pleasure (looking at a Facebook photo album), get online for either one activity or the other per session. Give yourself office hours to work–and then only work. If you need a break, don’t open a browser tab and get lost in Instagramland. Instead, take an actual break and make yourself a smoothie or circumnavigate your back yard.
By the same token, set aside online time that’s purely for recreation. Enjoy an hour on Sunday afternoon just to catch up with your favourite blogs or use social media. Follow this mantra: work while you work, play while you play!
2. Spend more time at home.
I think one huge reason why we feel stressed all the time is because we’re always on the go. We don’t spend enough time just being at home, and when we are home we’re still buzzing around like crazy and feeling stressed.
So how can you stay home more, and enjoy being there?
First ask yourself: Is my home becoming too utilitarian?
Is your home a haven, a peaceful and energizing center where you stay to recharge? Or is it just a place to drop off groceries, collect gear for the next activity, and “crash” so you can launch into the fray again?
If you want to be a calm and collected person in your daily life, your home base needs to be refreshing. Get it to that place by figuring out what makes a good atmosphere. Reevaluate all of your belongings, (here’s a handbook to help you), and take housework seriously.
Once you turn your home into a haven, collect the return on your investment by spending time there! To do that, you’re going to have to schedule less. You’re going to have to plan on being home more often, and you’re going to have to help your children to be home, too! But it’s worth it. When home becomes a retreat rather than a crazy crossroads, you’ll be equipped to handle the day to day minutia that formerly sent you into a tailspin.
3. Never agree to anything right away
The next time you’re faced with an invitation, request, or new responsibility, don’t accept on the spur of the moment. Our impulse to please combined with an overly-optimistic idea of what we can handle tends to get us overcommited–constantly.
Everyone’s schedule and priorities are different, so there’s no golden number of commitments you should keep to. But changing the way you respond to requests can help you determine this balance for yourself. Let your default response be “let me think about it.” Then, give yourself space to consider your schedule as a whole and to reconnoiter with your spouse if need be.
Cultivating this habit will prevent you from regretting your “yeses”–and make you a better participant to the things you do agree to.
4. Fill yourself with things that are simple, calm, and beautiful
Humans have this habit of being imitative, and often they don’t realize they’re doing it. If you feed your mind and heart with hectic, stressful things, you’re going to take on those characteristics yourself. On the flip side, if you fill and surround yourself with things that are edifying and life giving, you will become a calmer person who in turn inspires others.
Do an audit of the things you watch, read, listen to, and talk about. Do they reflect the kind of person you want to be?
I’ve been tuned into this effect while re-reading my favourite L. M. Montgomery books over the past couple years. The language and imagery in her books are gorgeous, and I love the simple, rooted way of life they convey. Reading the Anne of Green Gables series was balm for my soul. In fact, it helped me re-evaluate my own priorities and the goals I’m working towards.
Seek out the good and the beautiful and the admirable. Immerse yourself in it. Jettison the negative things that drag you down.
Of course, not everything you consume has to have the same flavour. But if you have a steady diet of things that are banal, violent, or don’t represent the worldview you value then don’t be surprised if that manifests in your feelings of stress and discontent.
Another way to surround yourself with the beautiful and simple? Take notice of the everyday pleasures that are already around you!
5. When you give, give fully
We assume that giving of ourselves is always draining, but I’ve found that if you give the right way, the opposite is true. When you overcommit, you end up begrudging the time spent–or you’re incredibly distracted. So try never to give your time, attention, and energy thoughtlessly. Instead, give selectively but intentionally. When you do, you’ll find yourself more refreshed, energized, and fulfilled.
When you’re with someone, be all there. Whether you’re taking a leisurely dinner with friends or a quick twenty-minute playtime with your kids, be fully present and silence the to-dos that call for your attention. Enjoy the moment with all your senses. Listen to the person you’re with.
By giving you these suggestions I don’t want to add to your to-do list. These aren’t new things you have to check off or stress over. Familiarize yourself with these points and implement them over time. Your life can be full, but it doesn’t have to feel stretched!
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like reading 8 Things Intentional Homemakers Do Every Day, and this post on How to Create Margin in Your Life for a Simpler Schedule.