Q. I feel pressured by time. The more pressured I feel the more stressed I become. My friends seem to be able to relax and enjoy life yet still keep their homes in order, feed their families, have a career and even do volunteer work. Why can’t I? How can I learn to not feel so pressured by time?
A. Many of your friends may feel as pressured as you do. Busyness and “hurry sickness” is epidemic in our culture. Studies show that the average American sleeps two and a half hours less and works ten hours more than those of fifty years ago. The many technological advances which we enjoy - computers, TVs, cell phones, DVDs, access to others via e-mail, vast amounts of information on the Internet, and an array of labor saving devices create more complexity in our lives than ever before.
Even our cell phones take our time and attention. We are intrigued with the games, distracted by messages coming in and hooked on the latest Facebook post. All of these activities cut into family time, sleep time, restful time. Every new technology changes the way we live.
We long for simplicity yet we enjoy the luxuries we have. As a result we live in constant overdrive. We pride ourselves on being able to “multi-task” - which means we try to do two or three things at once. Our culture has convinced us that “down time” is wasted. Most disturbingly, when we feel such time pressure we may see our family members and friends as obstacles that slow us down rather than as the loves of our life; the people who care for us and will always be there for us. Our hurried world glorifies productivity and even workaholism as the price of achieving our ambitions. As a result our relationships suffer and our health and well being suffer.
So what is the answer? How can you solve your problem of time pressure and hurry sickness? We all need to examine our priorities and decide what’s really important in life. We need to realize we can’t do everything. We need to set boundaries on our time based on our priorities.
We should be able to work hard and yet still have time to play with our children, eat meals as a family, take naps, read a book, get enough sleep. We need to trim our schedules to make time for rest and relaxation. We can turn off our phones during dinner - or even beyond! We can reduce the number of activities in which we and our children are involved. We can learn to say no.
Our attitudes, beliefs and thoughts can contribute to feeling pressured by time. Are your expectations of yourself too ambitious? Pare them down. Don’t rush, breath deeply, relax. Think positively and realistically about what you can accomplish. Let go of perfectionistic expectations.
Carve out some alone time for prayer. Use routine activities, such as your morning shower, a coffee break or a lunch hour alone as times to pray rather than as times to worry. Take your mind off work and express gratitude for the blessings in your life. Exercise times can also be used for times of solitude and relaxation.
Take time off. Purposely waste time. Enjoy your weekends. Take vacations. Hurrying through each day is less rewarding than slowing down and accomplishing less. You will feel better, your family will be happier and your immune system will improve.
For more ideas on how to simplify your activities check out one or two of these books: When the Game is Over It All GoesBack in the Box by John Ortberg, Simplify Your Life byH. Norman Wright, Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, and Margins by Richard A. Swenson.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 NLT