None of us strive, day in and day out, towards our goals only to end up backsliding and have them fall apart. That is what happens many times when an unplanned stressor hits our lives. These stressors can come through personal or family illnesses, job changes, moves, and even happy occasions such as weddings. The reality is that each of these, and so many not listed here, require an extra amount of energy. If we do not make adjustments to divvy out our energy appropriately, we can find our goals and most important areas of our lives placed on the back-burner. What can we do during these times of increased stress to stay focused on what is most important?
I have realized that I only have a certain amount of energy to use up each day. I have a limited amount of mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual energy. Much like allocating the 24 hours in each day, we also make decisions on how we disperse our energy. I feel the easiest of these to manage is our physical energy. I know that if I go on a long bike ride, I am not going to have much physical energy left to tackle my landscape project later that same day. I think as we learn more about ourselves, we naturally learn to manage our energies, but it is when stress hits, that it can become more challenging.
A mistake we can all make during these stressful times, is to think we can keep going at our current pace in all areas of our lives. Stress consumes energy, and a lot of it. Here are some things to keep in mind to help us make adjustments needed in order to stay focused on what is most important.
- Keep your “most important things” in front of you. I would recommend making a list and read it every day, if not more often. There is something powerful about starting your day reminding yourself of these good things.
- Be intentional about who and what gets your focus and energy. If you don’t take time to think about this, the things that scream the loudest will get your attention, and the quiet “most important things” will not. My friend, who has two boys in elementary school, said that her shower time is her thinking time. I give you permission to take a little bit longer shower to reflect on what areas are most important, what should get your attention that day and what areas you can cut back on until the stress subsides.
- Watch out for unhealthy comforts. We all have a default “comfort” we go to when stress hits. It may be food, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, etc. For me it is sleep. When stress hits, I get extremely tired because I can ignore the stress when I sleep. The problem with comfort is that it’s hard to stop once we have started. I get into the mindset that “I deserve” this comfort because of all the stress I am dealing with. Give yourself some grace, but realize that many times these comforts cause us to backslide. Allocate some energy towards resisting unhealthy comfort because it does take energy to say “no” to the unhealthy stuff and “yes” to what’s most important.
- Guard against unnecessary stress. There are two stressors that I have to watch out for. The first one is self-imposed deadlines or overcommitting. I love setting goals, and good goals, in my opinion, have associated deadlines. This is great until it creates unnecessary stress. There are times we have to take a step back and realize we are not going to meet our original deadline. It’s okay to adjust and extend the deadline for our own sanity. The second unnecessary stressor is taking on someone else’s problems. It is my desire to help other people and I do on a regular basis. I simply have to recognize that when I give my energy to someone else, it take energy away from something or someone else. I reference back to what is most important to me and decide from there.
- Prioritize yourself. I put this last because I knew that if I put this first, many of you would immediately stop reading. Am I right? This is one of those truths we all know, but struggle with. The better you take care of yourself, the better you can take care of others and stressful situations. When you prepare your “most important” list as recommended in #1, please put yourself as MOST IMPORTANT. We are stronger and better able to handle stress when we are rested, eating well, getting some exercise and taking time to think and plan.
How have you kept moving forward on your “most important” areas when stress has hit? I, along with my other readers, would love to hear what has worked for you. We are all in this together, trying to do the best we can. I would love to hear from you!
Here’s to staying focused on what is most important, even when life gets stressful!