It’s a chaotic life we live. We work long hours at a frantic pace, sometimes “too busy” to take time for ordinary—and very real—needs, like food and sleep and pleasant company.
We’re surrounded by noise. Modern life can be a cacophony. Traffic honks, rumbles, and sometimes even screeches in every direction. A steady whine of printers and copiers and ringing telephones are just the norm in many workplaces. Even the most charming voices become grating when you’re listening to them all day long.
Another kind of background noise also prevails in our everyday living. Newspapers, magazines, and all-news TV and radio channels announce one disaster, abuse, and scandal after another, a near-constant stream of heartache. And it’s all punctuated with advertising, telling us at every turn that we “should” look, feel, or do better than we are.
Too much, too much! Really, no wonder we sometimes feel that undercurrent of stress swelling into a wave of hopelessness and desperation.
Please don’t give up. You can’t always turn down the volume, and not one of us can solve all the world’s problems. But we can shape our own outlook to capture and appreciate the more uplifting, inspiring side of life.
- Put your goals in perspective.
Whether we’re acting in our professional capacity, within our families, or in our communities, we have responsibilities we feel obligated to uphold. That’s not a bad thing. Let’s face it: Without goals, most of us wouldn’t accomplish much.
But sometimes, our focus on a solitary objective becomes far too intense. We get so wrapped up in what we “should” be achieving that our perceptions become skewed. The goal at hand takes on mammoth proportions. We begin to berate ourselves for every hesitation or misstep along the way. We keep grinding toward the prize despite signs of physical exhaustion—slumping shoulders and aching back, anyone?—as well as the effects of emotional overwhelm.
Hyperfocus is all too common in our driven, demanding world. But tunnel vision is counterproductive and exhausting. If one goal has taken precedence over all else in your world, it’s past time to disconnect.
The good news is that keeping things in perspective can be as simple as taking regular breaks.
Short breaks in the daily routine are so very beneficial. Refresh and enliven your senses with a simple change in environment: Leave the room, take a brisk walk around the block, or listen to some music. Stretch, refuel, and rehydrate. Allow your body as well as your mind time to recover before you get back to business.
And don’t forget the bigger picture. If you’re feeling discouraged and depleted almost immediately after returning from a good break—or if even the thought of going back is enough to make your stress level spike—perhaps a bigger change is in order. Redefining your goal? Moving to a better location? Hiring extra help? Career switch? Changing paths when your long-term happiness and wellness are at stake isn’t wrong.
- Power down devices to power up optimism.
Even when our own lives are going well, modern communications systems deliver nonstop anxiety. Our cellphones keep us on edge with severe weather warnings and Amber Alerts. Our social media feeds serve up images of impossible standards that frequently invite self-judgment. Advertisers invade our email and text-messaging, imploring us to do more, be more, spend more… Such a barrage can make a person feel small, hopeless, and utterly without control.
But wait—you are NOT powerless. In fact, you have a literal “Power” button at your fingertips.
Please, at the end of the day, shut off your electronic tethers and enjoy more personal connections. Share tea and conversation with a friend, or do a puzzle or game with family members. Join a freeing, deep-breathing yoga or tai chi session. Spend an hour curled up with a book in the sanctuary of your own home, or…
Time away from electronic stimulation brings down stress, steadies emotions, and stills mile-an-hour thoughts. And don’t worry, you’re not missing out. Our fast, frenzied outside world will still be there the next time you power up.
- Embrace what matters to YOU.
Humans are hardwired to help, but many women find a dark side to being supportive. When we celebrate a loved one’s success or mark a friend’s milestone, we may then question why we haven’t seen similar achievements in our own lives.
Stop. Recognize that each of us has a unique set of talents, concerns, motivations, and interests. What pleases or inspires your sister or colleague will not necessarily have the same effect on you—and that makes it a poor choice as your personal goal. Don’t go there.
I’d like to suggest that if you find yourself drifting toward a negative, self-critical mood whenever you acknowledge another person’s success, that’s a sign that you’ve been over-serving. You owe yourself some time out and a little self-care.
What brings YOU contentment or fires YOUR imagination? Do it! Recognizing the value of what matters to you most is never selfish. Make space for your own aspirations. Embrace your joys wholeheartedly, in your own way.
When I feel the tide of the world’s negativity turning in my direction, I remind myself that the universe “has my back.” Yes, we experience sadness and disappointment—but the positive half of the balance is where the real power lies. We can find so much hope and love, discovery and adventure, quiet kindness and out-loud laughter right here for the taking. Go ahead—reach out and grab it!