In our “crazy busy” culture that keeps moving faster and faster each day, most of us want to:
o Get more done
o Be more productive
o Get rid of stress and anxiety
o Generally “toughen up” (to do more of all of the above)
We get in an endless loop of more To-Do’s and multi-tasking. It all seems to result in more stress, less sleep and less sense of accomplishment.
Is there anything that can be done to reduce all that stress and get off the hamster wheel?
Do the Opposite
It’s quite ironic that your solution is actually the opposite of what you think it should be. The ironic solutions are sometimes quite obvious. Other times we chalk up the ironic solutions as ridiculous and avoid trying them.
Problem: Want more productivity and want to accomplish more?
Ironic Solution: Learn how to develop a slow gear
Instead of constantly focusing on speeding up, doing more, and checking things off the list…slow down. Disengage from technology and to-do lists and future-oriented thinking for a little while each day.
You will become more present and focused when you return to the work at hand. Your mind needs time to process all the inputs (i.e. stress) of the day. With a quieter mind and a state of mindfulness, you will naturally become more productive. Ironically, it happens more easily when we slow down than when we frantically try harder to be more productive.
Problem: Want to get more done in a day?
Ironic Solution: Sleep more
Not getting enough sleep can cause:
• lack of mental clarity
• reduced executive functioning in the brain leading to:
o poor decision-making
o poor prioritization
o poor analytical ability
• forgetfulness or memory loss
• brain fog
• reduced time management skill
• reduced productivity
• reduced focus
• depression (worsens all of the above symptoms)
• anxiety (worsens all of the above symptoms)
It’s easy to see how staying up later to get more done simply does not work in the long run. Ironically, doing that repeatedly will lead to getting much less done in a day (along with increased frustration).
Problem: Want to stop procrastinating on something?
Ironic Solution: Stop avoiding it and go face it
This sounds so obvious that it can sound irritating. Here are examples of some very common situations that cause anxiety and are often avoided:
• driving, especially on the freeway or during rush hour
• public speaking
• social events where you might be judged or be put on the spot
• new situations (creating fear of the unknown)
• crowded situations where you might feel “trapped”
The more we find something uncomfortable, the more we avoid it. Yet avoidance is the worst strategy. The situation will continue to have power over you the more you avoid it.
The ironic solution in psychology terms is called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) or Exposure therapy. ERP is a part of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). It provides a very safe and systematic way to face those things that feel like demons. With avoidance, the demons always live on.
Problem: Want to be stronger and tougher in times of stress?
Ironic Solution: Learn and practice self-compassion
Do the opposite of what your inner critic says. Stop being so hard on yourself and demanding that you just “buck up” and “get over” the difficult and stressful parts of life.
An article in the Washington Post titled “Be Kinder to Yourself” explores this concept of self-compassion. It talks about a 2017 study that found that people who have higher levels of self-compassion tend to handle stress better. Other research confirms this.
So, ironically, being kinder and gentler to yourself actually does make you stronger in the face of stress. Self-compassion makes it easier to move through stress. Practice quieting your inner drill sergeant.