Beep, beep, beep!
Your alarm clock taunts you in the wee hours. You plan to start your day with a cup of coffee and some quiet time, but the dog is begging to go out and you forgot to make your kids’ lunch for school.
You hurry to walk the dog and assemble quick lunches and realize it’s time to wake the kids for school.
Missing shoes and incomplete homework manifests stress for everyone in the room. Everyone has to rush out the door just to barely make it to school and work on time.
You arrive at work to find a full plate of tasks awaiting you. A last minute meeting consumes time you didn't have in your schedule and projects are left incomplete for the day.
You pick up the kids and their soccer cleats and run out the door to practice, stopping for drive-thru dinner on the way. You go straight from your son's soccer practice to your daughter's gymnastics lesson.
Everyone is exhausted and drained from the day, but homework and showers still need to happen before bedtime.
Does your life resemble any part of that story?
If so, you’re likely part of the 75% of Americans who have experienced at least one symptom of stress in the past month.
Since April is Stress Awareness Month, we want to help identify the things that cause stress in our lives and what to do with them.
Let’s look at two major areas in which we tend to over-schedule.
1. Over-scheduling kids' activities
We have such good intentions for our kids’ personal growth, yet sometimes we push their schedules too far which can have a negative effect on true fruitfulness.
Extra-curricular activities enable our kids to make friends, explore talents, and may provide extra physical fitness. However, if our kids’ schedules are so packed with these structured activities, they are robbed of free play.
Unstructured play develops self-direction and executive function, which will help our little ones grow into successful adults.
These executive function skills include deciding what to play and planning an activity, solving problems when toy parts are missing, and regulating his or her own thoughts and actions. These skills will help in the business world and with leading a family of their own someday.
Education.com states that over-scheduling can make children feel like the focus is on the activities instead of on their individuality. Their experts state that families with this type of over-scheduling tend to increase the chances of anxiety-related disorders and depression in both kids and parents.
Again, scheduling activities for our children is done with the best intentions and an appropriate amount of activities are beneficial. It’s also important to note that you don't have to eliminate activities, but it can benefit everyone if you can cut back.
Allow for a couple evenings each week to have family time and free play. This will build both relationships and enhance young minds.
2. Over-scheduling our own lives
It’s great that we make achievement goals at work, volunteer at church, attempt to work out regularly, and have a vibrant social life. But if all of these things feel like a chore squeezed into our schedule instead of enriching our lives and the lives of those around us, we may need to make adjustments.
If you are physically spent, it is hard to be emotionally available to others. This carries over to our work, relationships, and service.
What are some warning signs of overscheduling?
- Increased stress levels
- Missed deadlines
- Unclear or undefined priorities
- Frustration and a short temper
- Damaged relationships,
- Lack of a consistent quiet time
If you are struggling with these symptoms due to an over-booked schedule, you can start to make changes to restore balance to your life.
Try these steps:
- Track how you actually spend your time for one week
- Prioritize – pray over unnecessary tasks and chart priorities
- Say No – no one has time to do it all; only say yes when it fits into your priorities
- Delegate and outsource – It can be scary to release control, but this step can help you to be more productive in less time
- Schedule white space into your day to account for unexpected tasks
- Pray with your children about which activities they will choose
- Avoid multitasking – focus on the task at hand, turning off notifications on your phone and email to eliminate distractions
An effective method to help you decide on and prioritize tasks is to utilize the Eisenhower Matrix, illustrated in this graphic and fully explained in this video.
Another way to reduce stress levels is to make sure you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults age 18-64 should average 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
And it’s not just the amount of sleep we get that’s important, but the quality of our sleep as well. There are certainly a myriad of things that can not only interrupt our sleep, but keep us from falling asleep fast as well.
God cares how we use our time; ask for wisdom and He will help direct you in setting these priorities (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Make sure to plan quiet time with Him each day. If you can schedule this time in the morning, submit your day’s agenda to Him and allow Him to set your daily priorities.
Enrich your life and your family’s by establishing balance in your weekly schedule. Add value to those around you by staying emotionally available in those unexpected times. Keep that white space in your work schedule to eliminate the rush of stress when unanticipated items are added to your plate. Above all, pray for wisdom in the prioritizing of tasks and the elimination of unnecessary events.