Let’s Work on Reducing Stress and Chaos in Our Lives

“If chaos is a necessary step in the organization of one’s universe,
then I was well on my way.”
― Wendelin Van DraanenFlipped

Stress and chaos are a fact of life. A little bit is good and keeps us alert and allows us to master our challenges in life. But too much of it can destroy our mental and physical health. Our challenge is to achieve the right balance by controlling what we can and accepting the challenge of what we can’t. Let’s look at a few ways to reduce the stress and chaos in lives that are within our control.

Starting the day off right

Many of us sabotage our day by starting it with stress and chaos that is of our own making. Here are a few things that have helped me start a new day with a positive outlook and environment that sets the stage for a more productive, less stressful and a better organized day in which peace and calmness have a chance.

As it turns out, having a less stressful and chaotic day starts the night before by:

  • Having the kids clothes and shoes selected and put together. Doing this eliminates the chaos created by having to put together the “just right” outfit for the day. It also helps by not having to actually find the left shoe that is mysteriously missing or discovering that Amanda’s shirt has a hole in it that needs to be repaired forcing us to find an alternative that is acceptable to Amanda.
  • Having everyone’s lunch (or money for lunch) ready for when they walk out the door.
  • Having all items needed for work (laptop, keys, umbrella) or school (homework) placed near the door and ready to be picked up when we leave the house.
  • Getting to bed at a time that will allow us to get the amount of sleep we need to be alert and productive tomorrow.

To assure that we’re not under immediate stress in the morning, let’s get up 30 minutes earlier than we absolutely need to. This allows us to do our morning tasks under relaxed conditions and gives us time to handle any unexpected “emergency” tasks without immediately putting us in a time crunch.

If you are anything like me, an established morning routine lays the groundwork for having a less stressful and chaotic day. We don’t have to think about what we need to do — we just do it by habit. Having a routine is more energy and mental efficient and less time consuming.

For work, school or home

To make sure we aren’t running around in circles getting little accomplished, our day needs to be organized. This is best accomplished by using a daily planner that includes an appointment calendar, to-do-list, and a memo area. This daily planner can be a physical book, computer software or a phone app. It doesn’t make any difference the tool we use because the important thing is to utilize a system that will actually be used.

If we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that we spend far too much time just looking for things we need like a note we wrote yesterday, our keys, a book, Timmy’s homework or whatever. To reduce this loss of time and energy, we need to establish a “rule of law” that everything has its place and everything is in its place when not being used elsewhere.

Let’s de-clutter our schedules. The majority of us take on more commitments than we can reasonably handle and do well. We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings by saying no to their request for help. Consequently, our schedules are full doing activities we don’t want to do and have no interest in. While we need to honor our current commitments, we also need to stop committing ourselves to activities that don’t bring happiness and fulfillment to our lives.

There are tasks that we hate to do but need to be done. Let’s quit procrastinating. If the task needs to be done, let’s do it and get it off our mind and schedule. The sooner we start, the sooner it’ll be done.

When we get all stressed out and overcome with chaos, let’s take a 10 – 15 minute break to just clear our heads, get a fresh outlook and relax a little bit so we can better handle what caused us to become so upset. Rarely do we make sound decisions and take appropriate actions when we are stressed.

What things do you do to overcome stress and chaos?

Be the Reason

“Be the reason someone smiles.
Be the reason someone feels loved
and believes in the goodness in people.”
― Roy T. Bennett

Life Under Change
Quotes that inspire, motivate and challenge us.

Life Lessons From Peasants

I retired in 2012 and moved to Ecuador from the United States. Ecuador is in South America and is a small (about the size of Colorado in the U.S.) poor country. Since I live in Cuenca, the third largest city with the highest per capita income in the country, I am insulated from much of the ravages of poverty that exists in the country. Yet, real poverty is always just around the corner.

There are three life lessons I witnessed from the peasants that humbled me to the point of tears many times after moving here.

Happiness and contentment

When my wife and I moved here in 2012, our house was just being completed. The foreman for the construction crew lived in a construction shack across from our house with his wife. The foreman and his wife had lived there for over four years while homes were being built in the subdivision. The shack had no water, electricity, bathroom or kitchen facilities. The shack was constructed of used timber. The cracks and holes in the walls were covered in fiber board from used boxes. The washing was done by hand every Saturday morning … rain or shine. Meals were cooked over an open fire outside the shack.

Even under these living conditions, we never saw them without a smile. We never heard an angry word. We never witnessed any attitude or behavior other than happiness and contentment.

This is not an isolated situation. It is the norm throughout the country and is especially prominent in the rural, most impoverished areas in the country.

Lesson: Money and material possessions aren’t the root source of happiness and contentment.

The country that smiles

Ecuador is known as “the country that smiles” and it’s true. It has to be one of the top places in the world where a smile and friendliness is normal — even in the large cities. People are always offering a helping hand to my wife and I even though we are gringos that are still learning the customs and language. Though we live in a city with thousands of other expats from the U.S., Canada and Europe, the vast majority of our friends are Ecuadorean.

Lesson: Some countries and populations actually welcome — in speech and actions — immigrants.

Sharing and caring

Since we live in a poor country, beggars are commonplace. One of my very first observations was that most middle class and upper class people frequently shun the beggars while the poor always give a little bit of money to them … even if they need to cross the street to do it. It may only be a quarter buts it’s a quarter given by someone who is poor and in dire need themselves. Nothing in my life has ever touched me like this. After eight years of living here, I still tear-up when I see this.

The peasants take care of other peasants in time of need without fanfare or publicity. No glory or public acknowledgement is sought or accepted. It’s simply a matter of sharing and caring for those in need.

Lesson: But for fate of where I was born, live and social class I was born to, I could be the beggar on street in dire need of help, compassion and empathy. Whether we admit it or not, we need each other.

Have you had life experiences in living with the poor that impacted your life? I would like to hear about it.

Be Kind

“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.”
Og Mandino

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Make Every Day Count

Photo by Hu Chen on Unsplash

Play hard, work hard, love hard. . . .The bottom line for me is to live life to the fullest in the here-and-now instead of a hoped-for hereafter, and make every day count in some meaningful way and do something—no matter how small it is—to make the world a better place.
Michael Shermer

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Beware When Fighting Monsters

“Beware that, when fighting monsters,
you yourself do not become a monster…
for when you gaze long into the abyss,
the abyss gazes also into you.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

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Thoreau on Simplicity

“I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit. When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all encumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms. So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run. ”
Henry David Thoreau

Life Under Change
Quotes that inspire, motivate and challenge us.