|Vol. 17, No. 18||Feb. 5, 1998|
by Michael Peterson
Stop, I want to get off!" My daughter said those words to me while I was pushing her on one of those playground merry-go-rounds. The dizzying effect of whirling about made her feel queasy, and getting off the merry-go-round was just what the doctor ordered.
For many of us, our lives are similar to that merry-go-round. Between job demands, family responsibilities and community involvements, there seems to be no end to that merry-go-round ride. By the end of the day we are mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted. Simply stated, we are stressed out.
Even though many of us know we are on that ride, for anyone to make recommendations that we get off may be missing the point that the ride is a matter of necessity rather than choice.
"Of course, I know I am stressed, but given the circumstances I don't have much leeway" is a common response.
Others might ask, "Are you telling me I have to quit my job, or not take care of a sick relative, or exercise? Who has time for that?"
The choices are not easy, and in many ways our lives are so complex that simplistic solutions are not necessarily the right ones. So what can we do?
Given the complexity of stress, perhaps one effective method is to briefly take a different perspective- that is, to look at life from its endpoint rather than from today.
Simply stated, we each can address the issue of how we would like to be remembered by others after we have died. To do this, write down 10 different descriptive words that define how you would like to be remembered (researcher, mother, teacher, electrician, etc.).
Be sure to analyze all aspects of life (work, family, community, religion, etc.) as well as areas that you may want to develop (artist, writer, etc.). Once the list is completed, rank them from 1 to 10.
Now, take a look at the first ranking and ask:
"Am I satisfied with how I am currently performing this role?"
"Am I spending an adequate amount of time on this for me right now?"
"Do I need or want to spend more/ less time on this?"
Do this for each of the 10 descriptors and remember that this is a self-appraisal, and it does not imply that you should be currently addressing all 10 items. Rather, the exercise serves to illuminate which are the most important things in your life, and how you should spend your time. Conflict and stress occur when our value system is not in sync with how we are actually spending our time.
If a person values family above work, yet he or she spends the majority of time on work-related pursuits, that person will be in conflict with his or her value system, and stress will result. The key is to make decisions as to what each of us needs to commit to and what each of us needs to surrender, based on our own value system.
This exercise is an effective way to look at how we manage our time, and how to try to slow down that merry-go-round.
Michael Peterson is director of the Employee Wellness Center. For more information on stress management workshops and seminars, contact the Employee Wellness Center at 831-8388.