How can we stop everyday stress from getting us down? After all, we’ve all been through a tough time recently. Working from home and home schooling in recent times have led to a lot of stressed mothers, fathers and children. It’s time to relax, take your time and say goodbye to stress. Long-term stress can be very damaging to our health. But how do we get off the hamster wheel? How do we successfully juggle all the claims on our time?
These days it feels like we never have enough time, a fact which is making us feel more and more frazzled. We often talk about time management, which is supposed to be the solution to all our problems. “Slowing down” is another new trend that has been around for a while, and which is meant to help us cope with our everyday lives.
There are tons of tips on the Internet, such as doing a digital detox, getting enough sleep, practising breathing meditation, meditating while walking, chanting mantras, ensuring you have a balanced diet, taking a break or simply doing nothing, exercising, being mindful and living in the moment.
In order to deal with time pressure, we are advised to remain calm, set priorities, manage conflicts and make decisions. Learn to say no to relieve pressure on yourself and give yourself more time, write a to-do list so you can work with your goals in mind, say goodbye to perfectionism.
The thing about time
This all sounds great, but how are you supposed to implement it in your everyday life? Who has time for all of this?! Everyone wants more time for themselves, for family and friends. Our use of language reflects our real relationship with time.
We manage it, enjoy it, save it, invest it and speed it up. Sometimes we use it wisely, sometimes we squander it. We waste it, we cheat it and sometimes we even kill it. And no doubt you can come up with more time idioms that we use every day.
Thorsten Giersch, Editor-in-Chief for Business at Verlagsgruppe Handelsblatt and Managing Director for Digital at planet c, once described very nicely how restlessness came into our lives: “The very first murder in history was about how people spend their time: the hard-working farmer Cain kills his brother Abel, the idle shepherd. An angry God sends Cain into the diaspora: “You shall be a restless wanderer on the Earth”, God says to Cain in Genesis 4:12. And thus restlessness entered our lives”. And it’s been with us ever since, and it seems like there’s nothing we can do to get rid of it. This is why we’re always chasing after time.
Perhaps a little idleness would help. Idleness is healthy, and a gift that can be learned. People who have a reputation for being lazy in fact often have no leisure time at all. But true laziness is healthy. Praise be to laziness. The talent of being able to do nothing. Idleness has had a miserable reputation for half an eternity – it’s high time we changed that.
What do we mean by time anyway?
Let’s take a look at Wikipedia: “Probably the most striking characteristic of time is the fact that we always seem to be in this wonderful place which we call the present and which seems to be moving inexorably from the past towards the future. This phenomenon is also known as the flow of time. (…) In ancient times, the philosophers Heraclitus, Plato, Aristotle and Augustine (among others) dealt with the concept of time, while modern thinkers who have considered the subject include Newton, Leibniz, Kant, Heidegger and Bergson.”
The fact is, we never have enough time to do what we want or need to do. This has to end. Time has become a rapidly melting raw material; day after day we need an extra hour or more. This triggers stress and inner disquiet.
The lack of time has long ceased to be a work issue that only affects business owners, managing directors or executives. In a recent survey by the German Federation of Trade Unions, a good half of all employees stated that they suffered from it. According to a representative survey, 80 percent of Germans find their life stressful. Many complain of constant pressure and a lack of time.
And how do we react to this situation? We speed up, we race through life, our forward movement becomes a constant hectic marathon, just to gain a minute here or an hour there. In other words, we try to escape the rush by doing things more quickly. That’s never going to work.
Do we just have too much to do?
Karlheinz A. Geißler, Professor of Business Education, has been researching the subject of time for years. He told Cosmopolitan: “There is no way that we have less time than previous generations. In terms of lifetime, we live longer than any generation before us. If we feel rushed all the time, it’s simply because we have too much to do.”
We can only escape the hamster wheel if we take it easy, for example by cutting down on deadlines or, where possible, simply doing away with them altogether. Always take time for breaks, no matter how much you have to do. Close the office door as a way of signalling that you want to be left undisturbed for half an hour in order to work your way through the bare essentials.
Structure your working day and, at the end of the day, write down the tasks that you have completed. Think about what you can do today, what you can do tomorrow, what you can do before the end of the week and what can you delegate. If you are always trying to do everything at once, simultaneously sending emails, making calls, working on presentations and completing Internet research, if you’re always available outside of the office because you always have your phone and your laptop with you, sooner or later you will burn yourself out.
Physical activity counteracts all forms of stress and restlessness and helps us to go through life in a more relaxed manner. When you’ve spent the whole day at your desk, your body longs for movement. Exercise is the ideal way to compensate for this. Exercise breaks down the stress hormone cortisol and stimulates the increased production of happiness hormones such as endorphins and serotonin.
You mind and body can only come to rest when your stress hormones are in balance. It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you do: running, cycling, jogging or just taking a walk through nature – any type of movement is good for your physical and mental health. And if you have a garden, even better. Not only does gardening calm your nerves, at the moment you can also enjoy a wide variety of flowers.
After phases of great concentration, the body and mind need a rest phase, and yoga is perfect for this. Yoga is a helpful remedy for stress and has an effect on your body at all levels. According to a study by the Boston University School of Medicine, during yoga our bodies release the calming messenger substance GABA. The yin (the passive, feminine principle in yoga) is strengthened in the body, and this creates relaxation and calm.
Wellness is a particularly effective means of finding peace and counteracting stress. A short spa break works wonders to compensate for the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Whether it’s just a spa day, a weekend break or an entire holiday devoted to relaxation, wellness helps the body to regenerate.
It’s not just our body that needs to rest, however; our brain needs rest too. Neuroscientist Imke Kirste from the Duke University Medical Centre was able to show in a 2015 study that when there is complete silence, the brain forms new cells in the hippocampus – a region that is important for memory and learning.
Our advice: simply take more time and allow yourself more rest!