Today I judged the Miami Herald Silver Knight contest for high school seniors. One of the students I interviewed had Chinese parents -- her father is a doctor and her mother has doctorate degree in psychology. The student, a high school senior, had dozens of activities on her resume, really time consuming activities such as working in a medical lab 20 hours a week, playing violin in a youth orchestra and tutoring students in math. She did this all while getting straight As in 17 AP courses.
"How do you do it all?" I asked her. "My parents raised me to be busy all the time doing the things I love to do," she replied. She said this matter of fact without appearing the least bit stressed, despite all the demands on her time.
Look around and you will see that most Americans have a lot to learn. We may be accomplishing as much as this young girl, but we're completely stressed about it. People are stressed about such things as “deadlines,” “traffic,” “over-commitment,” “not enough time,” "difficult bosses" and “dealing with stupid people.”
Many of us are too stressed to take vacation. The latest survey commissioned by Alamo Rent A Car found that "vacation shaming" or being made to feel a sense of shame or guilt from co-workers for taking a vacation has become prevalent in the American workplace.
"We've created this kind of work martyr culture," said Cait DeBaun, spokeswoman for the U.S. Travel Association's "Project: Time Off." The number of vacation days American workers take annually has fallen steadily since about the dot-com era..."
Meanwhile, we walk around completely stressed while we are at work. Only about a third of employees are happy on the job, according to a Gallup and the Families and Work Institute study. The study also showed that more than half of workers felt overworked or overwhelmed at least some of the time.
Now, let's look a little further....We aren't taking all our vacation so that's stressing us out, we're stressed when we're at work, and we're definitely stressed when we're commuting back and forth to work. So, what about at home? Are we stressed at home?
A study from the Council on Contemporary Families found people are actually more stressed at home than at work. Three Penn State researchers measured people’s cortisol, which is a stress marker, while they were at work and while they were at home and found it higher home.
Ugh...we can't go on like this. We have to lower our stress levels.
Here are my top 7 suggestions:
- Get moving. Every time you find your stress level on the rise, get up and move. You can stretch, run in place, dance, or walk around the office or building. Just try to get your blood and endorphins flowing.
- Think positive. It's inevitable that something during your day is going to go wrong, or not as planned. You can take the sting out of these negative events by focusing on what’s great in your lives.
- Say no. Be polite but firm: Explain to others (even your manager) that you are overcommitted and that you must say no.
- Gift yourself time. Plan time in your day for fun, creativity and socializing. Even if it's just five minutes.
- Shake it off. Life is hectic. People are busy. You can choose to let small things stress you out, or you can let the little things go and tell yourself we deserve to live a happy, contented life. Focus on what you can control and shake off what you can't.
- Make a list. I bet you can think of a million stress-relieving, calm-inducing activities when you don't need them. Keep a list in your car, on your phone or in your office to refer to when you need to get back in balance.
- Set your alarm. It's up to us to establish a clear time to go home or set times after which we don't check email. Even if you have a difficult boss or client, it's up to you to set your limits.
Do you feel like you're living your life more stressed than your parents lived theirs? Do you think job stress and the stress of trying to strike a work life balance is inevitable, or do you think we can learn to manage our stress better than we are now?