Q: I'm constantly overwhelmed with all there is to do. Is there any way to make myself feel less stressed?
A: One of the best ways that I'm aware of to feel less stressed about all there "is" to do in your life is to spend a few moments each day thinking about all you "don't" have to do in your life. Doing so, doesn't discount how busy most of us are, and it certainly doesn't make any of the busyness "go away," but it does have a profound impact on one's perspective.
Here's an example of how this idea works in daily life. This morning I woke up and walked into my home office. I turned on my computer and there were a zillion new messages. I checked my voicemail and it was full! There was a pile of papers, my desk was a mess, and, immediately, my mind went to all I had to do. However, before launching into any of it, I sat quietly, closed my eyes and had an inner conversation that went something like this.
"Today I don't have to struggle to find food for my family; I simply have to go to the grocery store. I don't have to walk to the store because I own a car. I don't have to live with the tremendous burdens -- physical, financial and mental -- that so many millions of people do. I have comfortable clothes, wonderful friends and people to love. And although I often take them for granted, I am very grateful for the conveniences of modern life. They make my life much easier than it would otherwise be. I am, without question, among the luckiest people on this Earth."
Taking those 10 or 20 seconds to put my "busyness" into perspective may be a "small change," but it really does make a big difference in the way I feel all day.
Don't sweat the taxes
Q: I am afraid of doing my taxes! Next year, I plan to hire an accountant to help me prepare, but I don't want to spend my entire rebate on the expert's fee. How to you suggest I get started . . . and get over the worrying about it?
A: This is a great question that goes far beyond the realm of preparing our taxes, which we all just finished. Whenever we "think" about all we have to do, we have the potential of overwhelming ourselves. The specifics don't really matter. We could be thinking about cleaning our home or garage, facing a day with the twins, a tough project at work, or whatever. But let's get back to taxes. The best strategy here is to clear your mind completely about taxes. Don't think about last year and how difficult it was, or about how long you think it's going to take this year. Instead, set aside a pre-determined period of time, say two hours and get started. For the next two hours (or it could be one hour), simply start getting organized. Sort through your files. Call your accountant, if necessary, to find out what he or she wants from you.
Put things into categories, but do all of this without a single thought about how much you hate taxes, or the government, or tax season. Just allow yourself to get started and develop your system for the year. Then, when your time is up, put your things in a place where you will remember, and forget about it. Look at your calendar and plan another time. Don't think about it as a big deal. It's really not.
I know people who can do their entire taxes in a few hours who complain all year about it, and others who need months of time and several CPA's to manage the complex issues, but who never give it a second thought. It's all a mind-set. Just remember, it can be easier than you think.
Richard Carlson is the author of "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff." E-mail comments or questions to EasierThanYouThinkdontsweat.com.