“Yeah, ‘fabulous life’… I’m a senior partner at KPMG with three kids, two dogs, two homes, and one husband who I never see. My life is an ongoing parade of client meetings, shuttling the kids around, orchestrating domestic help, traveling for work, entertaining, and trying to maintain some semblance of sanity. For me, money isn’t the issue—time is. I never seem to have enough of it. I have everything I ever wanted but no time to enjoy any of it. I’m ready for a breakdown. The stress is too much for me.”
“Stress isn’t about your schedule,” I say. “It’s about your state of mind.”
Believe it or not, managing your stress level is about controlling your mind, not your schedule.
We let the details of our lives govern the state of our minds.
Then, we wonder why we are left completely overwhelmed by the very achievements we’ve worked so hard for.
“You love the life you’ve created for yourself. You’re a people person,” I say. “You love being with your family and friends and meeting new people. You also love parties and entertaining, right?”
“Definitely,” she says.
“So, correct me if I’m wrong, but your life seems to be a composition of all of that, no? So why then wouldn’t it bring you any joy?”
“Because I don’t have any time to enjoy it. That’s the problem,” she snaps back.
“Yes, but that’s not a problem of your current state of life. It’s a problem of your current state of mind,” I tell her.
“How’s that again?” she asks.
Everything we spend so much time working for becomes the enemy once we actually get it.
Everything we’ve ever wanted—the spouse, the house, the kids and the career—can very quickly turn against us if we don’t learn to manage our mind over managing our schedule.
Stress is a choice.
Your life and your schedule unfold exactly the way you expect it to. We all have busy lives—the hope is that our lives remain full and fulfilling not stressful and overwhelming. But the difference between both states of mind isn’t the schedule itself; it’s one’s perception. Think about it: Your life doesn’t have to be a source of stress, but the way you mentally label it will be.
I say to her, “Recognize that you love your life, and it is truly fulfilling. Ask yourself: Why you would choose to disregard all the joy each moment brings in favor of stressing over the actual schedule itself?”
In reality, everything always gets done. That’s a fact. But it’ll either get done effortlessly with grace and ease or it’ll get done frenetically with stress and anxiety. It’s all in the label you attach to it. Your perception ultimately affects your state of mind.
“But if you don’t have the time to do everything you love, how can you find the joy in it? I feel like I’m forever chasing my tail,” my client says.
“You have the time. You are just not understanding how time works,” I say to her. “Let me explain.”
We are a time-impoverished society. No one seems to have enough of it, and many of our stress-related issues are born out of our time constraints. But what we don’t realize is that we are in complete control of our perception of time. Here’s the secret:
Time can be manipulated.
The only aspect of time that matters is the present moment. When you understand this, you have ultimate power over time. You can manipulate the present moment so it will yield more time.
When you are in the present moment, time expands and you get more of it.
Think about it: When you are sitting in a doctor’s office staring at the clock on the wall, 15 minutes can feel like an hour because you’re intensely present in that moment. You realize how long 15 minutes really is. You’re focused on nothing else but having to sit there and wait. You’re fully in the present moment. Your mind is focused; it’s not being projected into a future moment. You can do more in the present moment because all your resources are fully present, so time appears to expand.
But when you are sitting at lunch with a colleague and allowing your mind to constantly project you out of that moment and into a future moment… “Oh, I have to get to that meeting by 2:00 pm, I have to pick up the kids at 3:30 pm, I have to drop off the dry cleaning before Wednesday, and I need to confirm dinner with the Parsons for Saturday night…” Now you are no longer grounded in the present moment; you have projected yourself into a future moment. Since you are not present in this moment anymore, you don’t have the resources to maximize this moment’s potential. Your resources are now being projected out of this moment into a future moment, so you never have enough time in this moment to complete anything.
When you are living in a future moment, you are chasing time.
Spending your time thinking about future moments means you are chasing time. And if you’re chasing time, you’ll never feel like you have enough of it and stress will ensue.
Don’t chase time. Don’t project yourself into a future moment. Stay in this moment. It’s the only moment that matters and the only moment that will allow you to maximize the time you have.
Stress isn’t about your schedule. It is about your state of mind as you make your way through that schedule. The more you learn how to control your mind by controlling your perception of time, the more you will feel at ease with your life and the more time you’ll find to live and enjoy it.
Here are three tips to help you control your state of mind and your stress level:
- If it isn’t right in front of you, it doesn’t matter. You don’t need to manage the future right now—it isn’t here yet. The only moment that demands any action from you is the present moment. Of course, you should make future plans accordingly, but don’t live your life in that future space. Learn to lay out a structure for the future and let it go. Don’t continually project yourself into that future state. You can’t live what isn’t here yet. The future will get here when it gets here. When it does, you’ll be ready to walk it. Until then, if it isn’t right in front of you, it isn’t on your plate yet.
- Practice manipulating time. Learn to be intensely present in the moment. Focus your energy on exactly where you are. Notice everything about the present moment. What’s happening? Who’s speaking? What’s going on in the background? When you apply all your resources in this moment, you will feel calm and centered. You will find that time expands in this space. You will have more time because all your energy is in this moment. The more control you exercise over the present moment, the more efficient and joyful your life becomes. Learn to work this moment, and it will forever work for you.
- Remember that the devil is in the details. Learn to look at the bigger picture of your life. Notice how much you have accomplished and how far you’ve come. Notice when you have what you want in your life and practice gratitude for that. When you see the bigger picture, there is always room for enjoyment and fulfillment. But if you prefer to focus on the mundane, you will get lost in the details of stress. Your life and your happiness don’t exist in the details. Details are a necessary evil to deliver the beauty of the bigger picture. Don’t lose sight of the big picture in favor of obsessing over the details. The details always get done, but the devil is hiding in them and you don’t need to hang with him. He’ll just stress you out.
Based in New York City, Donnalynn is the Author of “Life Lessons, Everything You Ever Wished You Had Learned in Kindergarten.” She is also a Certified Intuitive Life Coach, Inspirational Blogger (etherealwellness.wordpress.com), writer and speaker. Her work has been featured in Glamour, the iHeart Radio Network and Princeton Television. Her website is ethereal-wellness.com. You can follower her on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.