Overwhelmed woman
Photo: Creatas/Thinkstock
Constantly checking your BlackBerry. Waiting for your next e-mail. Getting to work early and staying way too late—sound familiar? It's important to you to work hard in order to get ahead in life, but ask yourself this: Are you actually too busy for your own health and well-being? Find out how to re-evaluate what your needs and wants are...and what can wait until later.
How often do you find yourself feeling rushed, pressed for time, hurried, stressed or overwhelmed? While feeling as though you don't have enough time or your life is overwhelming is not a new phenomenon for most people, it seems to be getting to an epidemic level in our culture, particularly because you find yourself "plugged in" all the time, with laptops, cell phones, BlackBerrys and iPhones.

Sadly, you may allow yourself to be a victim of your schedule, your communication devices, your co-workers, your clients, your families and the other demands and responsibilities of your life. And while many of these things are important and many of them do need your attention, you often forget that you're the one who set up your life this way and allow yourself to get stressed out, overwhelmed and caught up in your never-ending to-do lists.

I was at a workshop in San Francisco recently, put on by Hay House, the publishing company founded by author and teacher Louise Hay. Hay, who wrote the best-selling book You Can Heal Your Life about 25 years ago, is a pioneer in the world of personal development and mind-body connection. She is a wise soul and teaches people to love and care for themselves in an authentic way. It was an honor to connect with her at this event.

On the final day of the workshop, I asked her if she was planning to fly home (to San Diego, just an hour's flight from San Francisco) that evening. She said: "Oh no, Mike, I would never do that to myself." Her response, while simple, floored me. I thought to myself, "Wow, that is a great example of honoring and caring for yourself." Then I thought, "I could use more of that."

I often pack my schedule with so many tasks, activities, events and deadlines, it becomes hard for me to breathe, enjoy what I'm doing or really bring the best of myself to a particular activity, event or interaction. I then feel like a victim of my crazy schedule; I have a built-in excuse for why I don't show up for others, and I also don't have to take full responsibility for my results or actions. ("What do you want from me? Do you have any idea how much I have going on right now?") Can you relate to this?

This "I'm too busy" or "I'm overwhelmed" story that you run is a lie that you keep telling yourself and others. Ultimately, you end up believing the lie and allowing it to run your life. But here's how you can prove it's not true: Whenever anything serious happens (you get sick, someone else gets sick, someone dies or anything else occurs that is severe enough to stop you in your tracks), all of the important stuff you have to get done gets put on the back burner. You realize how relatively unimportant most of it really is.

    3 ways to give yourself the time and space you need

    Mike Robbins
    Photo: Courtesy of Mike Robbins
    What if you could see, remember and live with this awareness without something serious happening? What if you could take more control of your life, your time and your schedule? What would life look like and feel like if you gave yourself more time and space?

    For many people, the idea of giving themselves more time and space can seem like a foreign concept or something out of their control. However, if you allow yourself to imagine it or to think back to times in the past when you felt like you had more time and space, you can become inspired, excited and even relaxed by this idea.

    So how do you do it? Well, there are lots of ideas, techniques and tips you've learned over the years to create more time and space for yourself. The problem is that when you start to feel stressed out and overwhelmed, you fall back into unhealthy habits and patterns in your life that you learned as survival skills (which don't usually support your growth or deepen your capacity for peace).

    Here are a few things to think about and practice as you look to expand your ability to have more time and space in your life:
    • Notice your relationship to time, your schedule and your commitments. How do you relate to time? How do you feel about your schedule? Do you feel victimized by your commitments at home, at work and in general? The more honest you can be with yourself about your feelings, the more you're able to alter them (if that's something you would like to do). You may have an odd or disempowered relationship to time. Just listen to some of the weird things people say—"Time flies." "I never have enough time to do what I want to do." "Where did the time go?" These and other statements, thoughts and beliefs put you in the role of victim as it relates to time and your commitments.

    • Start saying "no" to things. This one can be tough. As life coach and author Cheryl Richardson says, "If it's not an absolute 'yes,' then it's a 'no.'" You often need some support or feedback from others when it comes to this one. But being able to say "no" to requests and invitations you get is an important aspect of giving yourself more time and space. And, looking at the many things you have on your plate right now and being able to take off some responsibilities (by disengaging from them), is also essential. This is not about being flaky or irresponsible; it's about being authentic about what you're willing and able to do, and what you're not. Many times, your "disease to please" causes you to say "yes" to things you really need to say "no" to.

    • Give yourself more time than you think you need. Packing your days, weeks, schedules and to-do lists with too many things sets you up to fail. In many cases, you don't even realize how long it will take for you to complete simple tasks or activities. As I continue to learn, trying to do too many things in a short amount of time has a negative impact on the task itself, on anyone else involved in it with me and on my own sense of well-being and peace in the process. What if you gave yourself more than enough time to complete projects, get places and take care of things? Imagine what it would feel like for you and those around you. Imagine how much more creative, passionate, excited and effective you could be in the process.

    Get support, feedback and coaching for this from others you trust, people who know you and those who seem like they have a relative sense of peace in their own lives. You don't have to figure this out on your own. The world around you is speeding up all the time. The expectations and demands on you can seem unreasonable (and often are). However, when you remember that you are the author of your life's book and you get to dictate how you operate, feel and show up in life, you no longer have to be a victim of time, your schedule and all that you have to do. When you're willing and courageous enough to give yourself more time and space, your life can transform.

    Mike Robbins is a best-selling author, sought-after motivational keynote speaker and personal growth expert who works with people and groups of all kinds. Robbins is the author of the best-selling books Focus on the Good Stuff and Be Yourself: Everyone Else Is Already Taken. He and his work have been featured on ABC News and in Forbes, Ladies Home Journal, Self and many other publications.

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