Quick: You woke up late out of bed. The dog jumped the fence. You just know you’re going to be late for work. And if you’re late for work, you have to stay late, and then you’ll have to rush to the meeting with your grad school group after, and you’ll have to cancel dinner with your friend, and that blog post definitely won’t be up by morning. The domino effect means your day is ruined, and it’s not even 7:15 AM!
Just how and the heck do you prevent one (or two or three) wrong move(s) from impacting the rest of your day?
Today’s “time tip” is just one of the ways I manage to handle a stressful, busy schedule. Er, maybe not even a schedule (because that implies more organization than I normally employ).
For me, it’s this, on the way to work:
And I do it again on the drive back home.
I sing. LOUDLY. I dance in the driver’s seat (#cardanceparty, anyone?). I don’t concern myself with whether or not I catch the attention of the drivers around me in traffic. No shame at all, y’all (I never actually use that word, but it rhymes). I just turn up the volume, play a song I can’t stop listening to (right now, it’s this or this or this or this, those videos maybe NSFW but worth listening to!), and just sing. For 45 minutes in each direction to and from work (or wherever else I have to get to during the day), I feel completely relaxed.
Atlanta traffic is a real pain for a lot of people. But it usually doesn’t bother me. I don’t really know what my horn sounds like. I find driving (and belting it out, diva style) to be one of the most relaxing activities in my normal week. There are a lot of people who experience road rage. I’m not really one of them (unless you’re sitting at a green light on the 65 mph highway, trying to turn left, and not in the turn lane, jerk).
Maybe singing in the car isn’t your style. Doesn’t have to be. All you need to do is:
- Find something in your normal, everyday routine that you do alone (the alone part, even for extroverts like me, is still important for shutting your brain off as much as possible).
- Make sure it’s an activity that require very little active thought. Things like laundry, driving, dishes, mowing the lawn, and showering are mundane enough activities that you can be alert doing them (notice I’m not saying you should sleep at the wheel, here), but not stressed.
- Ignore all forms of communication with the outside world. No calling, texting, tweeting, etc. Disconnect for a few minutes, people! Listening to music through the phone is technically what I’m doing (I use Spotify for my playlists), but I’m still putting the phone down.
- Find a way to maximize your enjoyment out of it. Maybe do a Cameron Diaz butt wiggle while loading the dishwasher. Maybe simply take your lunch outside. Just be you for a few minutes.
Technically, there’s a term for this type of stress mechanism. It’s called “avoidance coping.” In the strictest of definitions, avoidance coping is where you deliberately ignore a stressful situation. And that’s pretty much what I’m doing. I’m not finding a way to fix one of the many problems going on during they day. But does that always means it’s a bad thing? In my opinion, not necessarily. Sure, the other problems I’m not thinking about at the time are still there, waiting to be dealt with. Point is, I have (thankfully) found a mundane activity that I actually find relaxing. It allows me to turn off during specific points of the day and recharge. Gosh, do I sound like a battery, or what? But it’s just like what sleeping does for your body. It’s a break for my brain and allows me to mentally switch from home to work, from work to school, and school to home again. By taking small, insignificant breaks throughout the day, I don’t feel nearly as rushed. I am less prone to rash thoughts and decisions. I am more focused when I do get back to the more stressful stuff. And my attitude when I begin the next activity is much more pleasant (especially when responding to emails).
And just forewarning ya. You Instagrammers are going to start seeing this #cardanceparty action soon in video. I apologize ahead of time for my obvious shortcomings (both in car dancing and in singing).