Stress, control, choice and time perception – including Mary Oliver Poem ‘The Summer Day’

Copyright 2015, Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015, Kay/wavesandpebbles

Here is the last section of my draft writing that I came across recently on self-development and life coaching.  For the remainder of sections, I have headings only so maybe I will do some more work on it.

Stressless < — > Calmness

I have had times in my life when I have suffered from stress, even having to take time off work. Those times were when there were numerous things going on in my life which added together resulted in my not being able to cope. I have since learnt to recognise my own signs for when I am getting stressed and take action to deal with this before it is too late. Too much stress can lead to anxiety and depression. By recognising the signs and taking action, a calmer and happier life can be yours.

Life coaching and increased self-awareness through reading self-development books has helped me deal with stress, anxiety and depression. The key to this is one word – CONTROL. Being in control or feeling in control. Once you feel out of control of situations, that is the danger zone. Another word that is important here is CHOICE. We all have choices, even if we don’t think we have. We can choose to do things differently any second, any minute, any hour of the day. We can choose to make small, almost insignificant, changes at any time.

We can choose to make life-changing decisions now, next week, next month or next year. It is our choice. Of course there are repercussions, so you have to weigh up whether you actually want to make that decision. But by taking control of situations, and making choices, you retain control and are able to feel calmer and less stressed, knowing that you have made a decision and that you are in control of your own life. Once you allow others or situations to take control, you can feel out of control and overwhelmed.

A valuable tool that I have gained through my life coach training is the Life Wheel, which can be adapted to use in any situation, and is a paper exercise that you can do for yourself taking in the whole picture of what is important or impacts on you and your life, then creates focus, exploration and action through small, achievable goals that are within your own gift of achieving – leading to a sense of regaining control over your life and the particular aspect you are focussing on. (if you are interested in this, a future post can address how to do the Life Wheel exercise and the different ways in which it can be applied)

Another BIG word that impacts immensely on stress – in competition with control, and perhaps in many cases, overtakes it – is TIME. ‘I don’t have enough time …’ ‘I am running out of time …’ ‘I have to get this done by …’ ‘Look at the time …’ ‘There is never enough time in the day …’ ‘I am always under pressure …’ ‘I never have time to relax and enjoy myself.’ ‘I never have enough time to do what I need to do.’

The first thing I did a long long time ago, that changed my relationship with time, was to stop wearing a watch. I noticed that one of my colleagues who was more laid back about things didn’t wear one and wondered how she managed. I decided to try for myself and have never looked back. … time is still there – not forgotten – but not drawing my attention every minute of every day.

How else did I change my relationship with time? By taking a more relaxed approach to my working day.  I start at varying times. Sometimes early, sometimes late. I appreciate that not everyone can do this, but many employers have become a lot more flexible, particularly with a need to cater for those with family commitments, and flexibility helps take the pressure off.

If time is really a big issue for you, and you never have enough time to do what you want, then maybe it would help to do a time analysis over a period of a week. Nothing too complicated, but something that would get you thinking about how you really spend your time. Take a few moments to write down what you spend your time on, both at home and at work. Is everything you do necessary? Do you do things because you want to do them, need to do them or feel you should do them? If the latter, what would happen if you didn’t do it? Would you feel guilty? Is it your responsibility? Does it really have to be done?

Remember it’s your life and you have choices over what you spend your lifetime doing. Think about it. Is there anything that you could either stop doing completely, spend less time on or get someone to help you with so that you could achieve it quicker, or even get someone to take over the job? When I was struggling working mum with a young child, we had a cleaner. Just 3 hours a week made so much difference. Having to downsize meant that I lost this wonderful luxury but if you can afford such help I thoroughly recommend it. (for some reason whilst typing this it has reminded me of a poem by Mary Oliver which I am now going to look up)

Gettting back to time, often I used to put pressure on myself for no reason. I was especially guilty in thinking I had to make the most of every waking moment, and that to stay in bed too long or sit around doing nothing was a waste of time. I can still sometimes go that way, but because I am aware of this, I remind myself and allow myself to enjoy having time just to chill out and relax, potter around and moodle. I thought this was a wonderful word when I came across it – moodling. Just doing things slowly, enjoying the process, thinking about anything but in a relaxed way. The practice of mindfulness (to be covered in a future post) is very beneficial if you are under pressure and find it difficult to switch off and do nothing. In my opinion, mindfulness is a form of meditation, as is going for a long walk on my own with no aim in mind and no distractions and letting thoughts drift in and out of my mind.

My relationship with time is so different now. In the initial stages of becoming more relaxed about time, even my choice of diary made a difference. If I could see the whole week at a glance, which I do find useful, I also used to see that there was not much time left before the week had even begun as there seemed to be so much already organised. I changed to one page a day, and time seemed immediately to extend itself. Now I am back to a week at a glance as I am able to be more relaxed and my diary no longer panics me.

There are a range of time management books out there but I think that the key to dealing with time issues is not how to manage time but how to change your relationship with time. It is the rest of life and creating balance that is the issue, not the amount of time itself. It is how you feel about time, as opposed to what it actually is. You can have the same amount of time to do the same thing, but one day you might feel that you don’t have enough time, you may feel rushed, stressed, tired. Another day you may feel relaxed and confident with no issues about getting the task completed in the time available. It is very much more about your perception of time than the amount of time actually available.

Sometimes I lump an amount of time all together, and become fearful when getting near the end of it. For example, over the weekend I think of it as a whole, and when it gets to Sunday late afternoon/early evening that that is the end of it. Yet in the week when returning home from work at teatime/early evening, I still think I have a whole evening ahead of me. Why cannot I think the same of Sunday evenings? I seem to have so much on my mind about the next day that it leads to time being wiped away.

Sometimes I stop and think. We are all living our own separate lives. We all start and end at different points. Yet we treat time as if we are all experiencing the same amount of time with the use of the 24 hour clock, 7-day week and 12 months in a year. We are all experiencing different moments of time in each of our individual lives. Why should we allow ourselves to be taken over by a universal approach to time? If we listen to the radio, we can’t get away from the fact that every hour we know when it is up when the news/weather/traffic info comes on. We get reminded to the minute of the exact time.’

Doing away with a universal approach would undoubtedly lead to chaos in the extreme but there needs to be a balance between living our own (time-limited) lives in the best way possible and fitting in with the demands cast upon us by a world dominated by time.

Note

I have checked out the poem by American poet Mary Oliver.  It is ‘The Summer Day’ also referred to as ‘The Grasshopper’.  The last lines are:

‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’

You might like to listen to Mary Oliver reading it.

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