Tuesday, August 23, 2011

5P's to Avoid Back-to-School (or any) Burnout

It’s that time of year when the start of the school year forces even more activities upon many of us. Whether you are a parent, college student, professor, employer or employee this time of year can be stressful. I have used these five tips to  maintain a healthy mind, body, career and spirit this time of year.

1. Prioritize. Create a "to-do" list. Place your list in priority order. Try to focus on completing the top three to five things on your list each day. From studying to errands to exercise, list those things which must be done by or on a specific date to keep your life in order. Recent research indicates that concept of multitasking is a myth. The human brain focuses on concepts sequentially, one at a time. Read the book, "Brain Rules," by John Medina, it will transform your thinking on multi-tasking. If you have more than twenty things on your priority list, face it you can only do so much each day--so at least fifteen of the items on your list may not get done. You are not a failure, you just have too many priorities. I have learned a new word: "No." I can say it graciously and without guilt. I can only be good to others when I am also good to myself. Keep reading...

2. Plan.  To stay organized, keep a calendar that supports your "to-do" list.  It can be paper or electronic, whatever works for you or your family. It will reduce your stress level when you can see what is coming up in your day, week or month. If you are trying to organize a group of people, make sure the calendar is centrally accessible. You and any others involved should be able to see upcoming events or big tasks that require you or them to make decisions or complete an assignment. Include events or activities that require your time or that of anyone else you need to make things happen. Make sure you communicate what is expected or ask what is expected of you-- if unclear. Set aside a time of day to check email Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin each day, place it on your calendar so you don't get lost in social media for hours on end. Include exercise and relaxation time on your calendar too. Update the calendar diligently. Based on your priorities, highlight those things you must do to keep your life in order versus things that are done out of guilt or obligation.

3. Purge.  At the end of each week remove or check off those items on your list that are completely done.  It helps to be able to physically see your accomplishments are completed if you draw a line through them or place a check mark next to them. If you did not complete all the items on your "to-do" list, carry them over and move them up the priority list. Get rid of stacks of mail, papers or clothes you no longer wear that clutter your physical space. A clean work or living environment lends itself to clear thinking. Politely avoid toxic conversations and people. It tends to drain you emotionally and physically. Don't waste time gossiping and talking negatively about others. My favorite Eleanor Roosevelt quote is,"Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people." What (or who) are the topics of most of your conversations? Let go of anger, backbiting and gossip. There so much more to life.

4. Play. Find what’s right and enjoyable for you by trying different physical activities. Then make exercise a part of your lifestyle not an occasional event. Before starting any fitness program, be sure to check with your physician. Move intentionally at least 5 times per week.  Be sure to include a combination of cardio, strength/weight training and stretching in your workouts. Cardio simply means that you elevate your heart rate by walking briskly (unable to talk on the cell phone), running, riding a bike or playing tennis. Strength training involves using free weights, machines or resistance bands to build muscle and prevent osteoporosis. Everyone reacts to exercise differently. Be consistent. While many of us don't have time to prepare fabulous home cooked meals every night, it's important to make wise food choices no matter how busy you are. Practically every fast food restaurant now has something on its menu that is considered low calorie. Avoid the super size mentality even if you eat poorly. Drink lots of water to fight fatigue and eat more foods that come from the earth. Take care of your body, it houses the mind and spirit.

5. Pray. Reflect on the items on your list and determine if you are doing things out of guilt, responsibility or because you actually have to do them. Does your list align with what you value? Does your list align with your goals? If not, learn to say no and give yourself only to things you are truly called to do. Set aside at least 30 minutes a day for prayer or thoughtful meditation. Listen to joyful music, read a devotion or motivational quote to start your day. Rest. Be still and know that it's okay to do nothing. Yes, you can find the time for nothingness...make it a priority, add it to your calendar if you must.

You are uniquely and wonderfully made. But we are not designed to do everything. As Dr. Phil would say, "How's that working for you?" If it's not working for you, Plan, Prioritize, Purge, Play and Pray to start this school year off intentionally, peacefully and with a lot less stress.
Thoughts? Leave your comments below...