Saturday, 1 March 2014

On 09:24 by Victoria Stanham in , ,    No comments
The academic (school) year begins, and in Uruguay that means the year sort of finally begins for everyone… (and it finishes “beginning” after Holy Week... don't ask... it's complicated).


What does that mean for many people (she-who-writes included)? 

Stress… stretched across several weeks.

What specific form of stress? 

Scheduling-stress.

Why does scheduling produce stress? 

Decisions, too many decisions, and not all depending solely on your preferences or your times.

If you have kids you know what I mean: juggling your schedule around your kids’ school and extracurricular activities, so that everyone (and that includes you) is where they have to be on time.

Do I have a solution that will remove all stress from this time of the year? 

Unfortunately, no. I’m afraid that, at least for the time being, I’ll have to accept it as part of Life.

Every beginning, (be it of the year, of a new project, of a new home, of a new member in the family… or whatever) will put stress on your system.

Why? 

Because we don’t yet have routines (i.e. habits) around it. It’s a new stimulus that’s challenging our status-quo, our current equilibrium point. All our previously carefully planned systems and routines are put on their heads, everything is up for grabs, and whatever wasn’t seriously rooted in our being, will be gone with the winds of change.

At those times, we’ll bank heavily on our deeper, more ingrained, habits… those we don’t have to think about at all because they’re firmly rooted in our self-definition. If you’re a smoker, you’ll smoke more, if you’re a worrier, you’ll worry more, if you’re a binge-eater, you’ll binge more.

Why? 

Once again, decision fatigue. While trying to deal with the stress-factor, all our mental energy is used up, and there’s no self-regulatory power left for other areas. You’re too tired to cook a healthy meal (unless eating healthy is so ingrained in you that you can’t imagine not doing it) so you end up eating out, or calling for a pizza. You’re too tired to keep up your exercise routine (unless exercising is something you can’t imagine living without), so you fall off the bandwagon. Get the picture?

What to do about it? 

To begin with, don’t try to change too many things at once. Choose only 2… and deal with each according to its characteristics.

There’s already one area that needs your attention, is the highest stress inducing stimuli, and dealing with it depends solely on you (i.e. nobody else can arrange your schedule for you). That change-inducing stimulus comes from outside of you, from your context. The amount of stress it generates will depend on your personality and the characteristics of your own particular context (i.e. how many balls you’re juggling at one single time).

These types of changes are the urgent (but not always or necessarily important) type. They spring up on you unawares, and there’s not much you can do to anticipate their consequences. For example: arranging schedules at the beginning of the school year.



The second area of change is that stressor which you have placed upon yourself, in order to improve your conditions (your health, your posture, your finances, your relationships, etc.). 

These are the types of change that are important, they produce long-term satisfaction. But since they don’t always seem urgent (which doesn’t mean they’re not), they tend to get postponed until the latest crisis is dealt with (by which time a new crisis may well have popped up on the radar… such is life).




How can you keep that second, life-bettering-change going when Life throws a curve ball of scheduling-frenzy your way? 

Get help that will enable you to create change-inducing routines.

Help of this type comes in many guises, depending on the type of change you’re dealing with: a group, a friend, a class, a therapist, a teacher, a coach, a cook, a nanny (Get the picture?). 

The important point is getting some of the decision-angst off your shoulders, delegating some of the decisions onto someone else who is better prepared to shoulder the hugest bulk of the burden… so that you can concentrate on the essentials.

This is why we take lessons, join classes, go to gyms, join meditation groups, enroll in courses, etc. What we want is the results and the joy of doing something for our benefit… with only as much thinking and decisions as we can currently handle, and so avoid being completely swallowed up and paralysed by them.

For example, when you start taking lessons in some form of dance, it’s already hard enough to grapple with the learning itself, with being a complete beginner all over again. It’s plenty hard to know which foot to place where, in what sequence, to get the timing, the rhythm, the feel, etc. You don’t want to also be deciding which music to play, what step to learn today that will build up on your previously learned step, how to find a suitable venue and time for your learning period, etc.

Going to a teacher for lessons (be it an individual lesson or a group lesson) takes away all that responsibility off your un-prepared shoulders: your job is to be student and learn the dance (the essential point)… the rest, your teacher can take care of, that’s what she’s prepared to do.

Undergoing your change-effort in good company helps you remain motivated throughout the process (despite the scheduling-frenzy or other external stressors).

It puts order in your life by creating a routine that you can follow (e.g. lessons are Mondays at 2pm. Period), which takes a away many energy-swallowing decisions you’d otherwise need to be making. This means you have energy for the actual change. It also helps you create a habit of change: it puts the steps in order, it gives you the time and space to practice, it challenges you to take yourself to the next level of achievement.

So what are you waiting for? 

Life won’t stop sending you curve balls. Perhaps, what you need to learn is how to bat them without even flinching, with grace, elegance, and a smile. 

So, go! Find yourself a teacher! Become a Master of Change.


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Image credits:

"Back To School" by samarttiw /freedigitalphotos.net

"New Life Or Old Life" by mrpuen  /freedigitalphotos.net

"Man Sleeping On The Couch" by artur84  /freedigitalphotos.net

"Urgent Stamp" by Stuart Miles /freedigitalphotos.net

"Important Stamp" by Stuart Miles /freedigitalphotos.net

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