“Asking for help does not mean that we are weak or incompetent. It usually indicates an advanced level of honesty and intelligence.” ~Anne Wilson Schaef, author
A couple of months ago, I made a decision that has dramatically reduced my level of stress.
I sought help.
I hired a helper who happens to be a good friend. That makes it really nice, but even if she weren't my friend, I would still be beside myself with joy that I made this decision.
Have you ever noticed how reticent we are to seek help?
Maybe it's our American notion of independence — “I can manage this myself.” And sure, we probably can. But at what cost? For me it was my peace of mind and a sense that things were spinning out of control. Many of the things I could do, I wasn't doing. And my heart was palpitating.
As my business has grown, I have ever-increasing responsibilities with my work. That's a good thing because I love what I do. I'm drawn to my work like a bee to honey, sometimes at the expense of other things that need to be done.
I've tried to be mindful of creating balance between work, time with my family and friends, exercise, and down-time. I've virtually stopped watching TV, surfing the net (other than for research for my work), shopping, or reading magazines.
In my perfect world, my time would be spent . . .
- writing, coaching, teaching (my work)
- doing things with and for my kids
- socializing with my friends
- eating out on occasion at places I can get great food and a nice glass of wine
- exercising (rebounding, walking, hiking, biking)
- reading great books
- traveling and having new adventures
- learning new skills
- enjoying cultural activities (theater, dance, music)
- spending time outside and in nature for relaxation
I do enjoy these activities quite often, but there are always other life demands that encroach on my time. Sometimes these other things monopolize so much of my time that I feel agitated and out-of-sorts.
It's a conundrum.
If I ignore these unwanted tasks, I feel stressed and anxious.
If I address all of them, I feel frustrated that my precious time is being misspent.
I know and accept there are things we must do to keep our lives running. There are always dishes to wash, laundry, meals to prepare, kids to drive, appointments to go to, etc. And I try to bring a sense of mindfulness and joy to these tasks.
But there are some other dreaded tasks and responsibilities that pile up and stare at me with accusing eyes until I deal with them. These are the tasks that reproduce like bunnies and make me hyperventilate because I can never seem to stay on top of them.
The tasks I dread and avoid (even though the avoidance creates more stress!!) are not rocket science projects, but I simply don't like them. Even when I try to be mindful and bless them and look for the good in them, they just feel like drudgery.
For me these include . . .
- paying bills
- filing things
- sorting through mail and deciding what's important
- calling and dealing with the insurance company, the phone company, the cable company, and any of the other companies that put you on hold or force you to talk to a machine
- contacting service and repair people to do something at my house
- waiting for the service and repair people who say they'll arrive sometime between 8:00 am and midnight, and they actually arrive at 12:01 after you've waited all day for them
- figuring out problems with my computer
- dealing with taxes and financial planning
So now my friend Jodi comes over on Wednesdays and deals with all of those things for me. And I pay her. It is one of the best financial decisions I've ever made.
It is one of the ridiculously simple ways to reduce stress. Now I can focus more of my time and attention on things that are important to me.
It truly feels like a weight has been lifted off of me.
When I first considered hiring Jodi, I was reticent to spend the money on things I could do myself. It felt indulgent and unnecessary. But I've discovered how truly necessary having this support is to me.
It is necessary to having the kind of life I wish to have.
It is necessary for my peace of mind.
It is necessary for my self-care.
It is necessary in releasing the notion that I must do it all.
It is necessary in reinforcing my values around money and what's important to spend it on.
Jodi is good at what she does, and she enjoys it. Work that is drudgery for me is a piece of cake for her. And she gets great satisfaction in providing such a useful service for me. It is a win-win situation.
So what about your dreaded tasks?
Are you one who feels you must do it all? Do you feel guilty or uncomfortable asking for help?
Or maybe the notion of spending money for something you could do yourself feels indulgent, like it did for me.
So take a moment and try this little exercise. Grab a pen and paper.
- Write down all of the tasks, projects, or obligations that you just can't stand — or that you simply tolerate.
- Pick one or two that are causing you the most anxiety or stress. If they simply disappeared off your plate and were magically handled, how would that feel for you? Close your eyes for a minute and really imagine your state of mind if you no longer had to deal with those tasks.
- Now think about what you would do with that time. But you can't fill it with another dreaded task. What would you do with the time that you enjoy doing? How would it feel to spend your time doing something you enjoy, knowing that the dreaded task is handled?
- What if 80-90% of your time was spent on things you enjoy doing rather than things you are obligated to do? How would that reduce stress and your general attitude about life?
I realize not everyone can afford to hire assistance for all of the tasks they don't like to do. Or at least, you may think you can't afford it right now. But I'd like to challenge that notion and invite you to look at your life choices and spending habits a bit differently.
Living your best life requires that YOU design your life the way you want it to be. This doesn't mean you can have or do everything. But it does mean that most of your time is spent engaged in activities that bring you joy, contentment, meaning, and passion.
You must choose those activities carefully and be willing to let go of other things that steal your precious time. Sometimes you even have to choose between two or more things you enjoy so that you reap the full benefit of one particular experience.
In essence, this means paring your life down to the most important elements and then releasing or delegating the rest.
- If you can hire a helper to handle some of your dreaded tasks, then do it! It will allow you to do more of what you love and reduce your stress and anxiety.
- If you can't afford it, consider asking for more help from your family members or exchange services with a friend. Or cut back on discretionary spending to save money to hire help.
- Simplify your life to the extent that some of these tasks become obsolete. Why spend time dealing with things that don't serve you or your enjoyment of life if you don't have to?
Most importantly, remember that asking for help doesn't imply you are weak, incapable, spoiled, or lazy. It suggests you are making a conscious choice about how you want to spend your precious time on this planet. And it means you respect your mental and emotional health enough that you refuse to allow yourself to become overwhelmed.
How have you asked for help in the past to reduce your stress and overwhelm? Please share your tips in the comments.