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Scheduling In Some Personal Time Is Essential To Individual And Marital Health

The fact that men still get more personal time than women is just one reason Dave McGinn thinks we all need to take leisure more seriously

The fighting between Gillian Rowinski and her husband went on for years. It was always the same fight, time after time.

“I would be doing too many things because I’d be either overcommitted or trying to do too much stuff. He would be relaxing playing a video game or reading a book or having a beer. I would look at him and get super resentful,” says Rowinski, who lives in Vancouver and has three children. “I would just blow up. ‘You never help me! I do everything around here! You do nothing.'”

Her husband would point out that he had, in fact, done a number of chores, it was just that she hadn’t noticed. “And then we would have this big argument and I would probably cry,” said Rowinski, who works in human resources.

What Rowinski eventually realized was that she wasn’t upset that her husband hadn’t done the dishes – she was upset that he had figured out a way to find time to relax, and she hadn’t. She needed her own free time.

It’s a familiar story to most couples raising young children. Between work and kids and taking care of the house, it is hard enough to deal with all the responsibilities bearing down, let alone find the time to take a walk or go out for dinner with friends.

Family therapists say a lack of individual free time is one of the most prominent complaints they encounter, and couples who ignore the problem for too long risk seeing their marriages end over it. But even small changes can vastly improve each person’s happiness and the overall quality of a marriage.

“It’s likely to surface quite at the beginning, at the outset of our sessions,” says Michal Regev, a Vancouver-based marriage and family therapist. It’s a ubiquitous struggle for her clients, one that can cause frustration, resentment and anger.

“We all need to recharge, especially when we are giving a lot to others in our family, at work and to others outside of our family who need our help,” Regev says. “Many people complain about feeling exhausted and depleted. The high-paced, high-speed lifestyle of today’s world may leave little room for individual time.”

That seems to hold true particularly for Canadians. Last month, Canada was ranked the fourth-worst country out of 37 around the world for work-life balance in a report released by Expert Market, a British-based company that compares business products and products. The report, which analyzed OECD and World Bank data, based its rankings on average annual hours worked by parents, the number of paid leave days in each country and the total paid leave available to mothers and fathers.

Not that Canadian parents needed evidence: Everyone knows that e-mail and other pressures make it much harder to leave work behind at the office than it was for earlier generations. And, according to Statistics Canada, 58 per cent of couples with young children were employed outside the home in 2015, which squeezes personal time even more.

“After having our son, everything changed,” says Agatha Smykot, who lives in Calgary with her husband and their one-year-old. “No more free time. It basically became non-existent.”

Regev says that women complain about the lack of free time more than men, which isn’t surprising, since the most recent data from Statistics Canada shows that women continue to do more childcare and housework than men.

In 2010, women spent an average of 50.1 hours a week caring for children, compared with 24.4 hours spent by men. And while men put in an average of 8.3 hours a week on domestic work, that is still much less than the 13.8 hours women put in taking care of the house.

“Sometimes I hear spouses say, ‘I was playing soccer five times a week when we met, so what do you expect? I love playing soccer. I need it for my mental health,'” Regev says. “Well, good. But what about your spouse?” As Smykot and her husband began arguing constantly, she even went out looking for her own apartment.

Like so many problems in a marriage, the lack of free time can only be solved through open and honest communication, says Dr. Jane Greer, author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. The New York-based psychotherapist and radio host advises people to first figure out how much free time they need to feel sane, then talk to their partners about what’s realistic for both of them.

“Let your partner know this amount and emphasize how it’s important emotionally and physically. Go over the list of responsibilities so that each person knows what needs to get done in the meantime,” Greer says. “Make sure it’s balanced.”

A couple of months ago, Smykot and her husband sat down to talk. She told him she had had enough, and they decided to fit free time for both of them into their schedules.

“That means Tuesdays and Thursdays, he’s responsible for picking up our son from daycare and then starting dinner and getting him fed,” she says. They also alternate putting their son to bed and taking the dog out for a walk. And Smykot recently joined a neighbourhood association to engage herself socially.

“Since we’ve allocated free time for each one of us, things just got exponentially better,” she says.

Rowinksi had a similar conversation with her husband a year ago. Their solution meant changes for the entire family – including no working in the evenings, and trying not to overschedule their kids. Weekends are totally for family.

“If I’m not running from one thing to the next I’m happier, I’m more calm, I’m a better parent,” Rowinski says. She still doesn’t have endless amounts of free time, maybe an hour every other evening. But that’s an hour she spends doing something she enjoys – and reading a book is much more satisfying than arguing.

DAVE MCGINN   OCTOBER 11, 2017
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6 Steps to Stress Less and Stay Motivated

Stress. It’s that slap-in-the-face feeling you get when there are too many demands, too many people to please, and too little time to get it all done.

This is not a pleasant or productive state to be in.

Sure, a little stress can be motivating and even energizing, but even working best under pressure has its limits. Eventually, it becomes physically, mentally, and emotionally draining.

When you reach that point, you don’t want to do anything. You’re tense, on edge, and mentally blocked.

If you’ve hit your stress limit, here’s a quick checklist to keep yourself calm and moving on:

1. Remember that you are enough.

When you’re stuck in not-good-enough mode, it can feel like you’re always doing something wrong. This only makes a stressful situation worse.

It’s a vicious cycle, and soon all you seem to see are your flaws. You feel weak and defeated. You lose motivation, energy, and creativity, and you’re convinced that you can’t cut it.

What if this time you remembered that you are enough? What would you do differently when things get tough?

You have nothing but stress to lose by trying.

2. Put on your own mask first.

You can’t do anything unless you are taking care of yourself. It’s nearly impossible to think clearly and stay motivated when you aren’t fueling, resting, and recharging your body and mind.

When your gut reaction to stress is hunkering down and pushing harder to get through it, it usually means doing less of the things that improve your mood and outlook on the situation. This might work for a little while, but eventually you get burned out.

Break the cycle by handling stress strategically. Ask yourself what one thing you could change about your self-care to help you through this stressful time. Give it the time it deserves as you test out that change.

Your body, mind, and productivity will thank you for it.

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3. Let go of

No matter where you are in life, “should” and “supposed to” usually end in stress. This self-talk adds pain to an already upsetting situation.

This may surprise you, but “should” also helps you solve problems a lot less than you might think. Rather than facing a problem head-on as it is, it gets you frustrated about what it is not. This gets you nowhere fast.

Relieve your stress and keep up your motivation by making the move from should to solution. Ask what you can do about the situation as it is right now.

 4. Let go of comparison and competition.

Comparison and competition can be motivating when the conditions are right, but they sure can backfire. They can put you under constant pressure and make it feel like your entire worth as a person hinges on keeping up. When this goes too far, it’s defeating, not inspiring.

Having the drive to excel isn’t the problem here. The problems come when you focus more about the outcome than the process of getting there. When you can’t celebrate the small victories, be kind to yourself in the face of failure, or remember your unique strengths, you have the perfect conditions for losing motivation and feeling stressed.

If this sounds familiar, give yourself a time-out to think about what makes you who you are, what is meaningful to you, and what else you could be doing with your time and energy if you got off the hamster wheel of comparison/competition.

5. Reevaluate your expectations.

When you’re stressed, reevaluating expectations can feel a little too much like settling, so remember this: adapting your expectations to meet reality is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of intelligence! Sometimes the most effective way to stay on track is to pivot and try again with a fresh perspective.

You could tell yourself that you should have been able to meet your expectations exactly as they were, but life rarely plays by those rules. Rather than arguing with life about it, take a moment to adjust. Shift your perspective by taking the situation as it is and coming up with your best plan from there.

6. Slow down.

Stress can happen when you get ahead of yourself and take on too much at once.
It isn’t that you’re not capable of doing these things but that the combination of things, timing, and circumstances right now is just not working for you.

The result? Overwhelm. Indecision. Paralysis.

To slow down, focus on what’s right in front of you. Where are you today? What’s going to work right here?

Think of it as doing what works rather than trying to do everything all at once. Set small goals that fit into the bigger picture, and celebrate as you reach them. It’s so much more effective (and motivating) that way.

JUNE 5, 2016      BY LESLIE ROMERO RALPH
Leslie shows working moms how to bust those superwoman myths 
and bring back the balance and joy with her signature blend of real-life positive psychology tips 
and guilt-free meditations at A Year of Happy. .


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14 Things Pressure-less People Do (and You Can, Too)

An active imagination helps. So does a confident stride.

Posted Aug 06, 2015      Hendrie Weisinger Ph.D. Hendrie Weisinger Ph.D.       Thicken Your Skin

I’ve studied how pressure affects performance, and the best way to manage it, for more than 20 years. I’ve interviewed elite athletes, Navy SEALs, entrepreneurs, ER doctors and nurses, hedge fund managers, air traffic controllers, and others who perform their best in pressure moments more often than not. These individuals do not “rise to the occasion,” as conventional thinking instructs; rather they do their best by depressurizing—lessening the pressure of the moment.

Here are 14 things these pressure-less people do to optimize performance:

1. They apply a positive mindset.

Pressure-less individuals perceive their pressure moments—situations in which they have something at stake and the outcome is dependent on their performance—using words like opportunity, challenge, and fun. This allows them to approach the moment with confidence instead of trepidation.

2. They believe they get second chances.

Pressure-less people believe that no matter how important the presentation, sales call, audition, game or match, other opportunities will come their way. Because they believe this, they can relax and avoid “do or die” thinking that intensifies pressure feelings.

3. They are control freaks.

Pressure-less people stay focused on what they can control in the moment. This allows them to avoid distracting and worrisome thoughts that distort their thinking and disrupt their performance.

4. They practice a mindset of excellence.

Pressure-less people realize it heightens pressure to always try to be Number One or to beat the competition. They know it is unrealistic to think you can always be Top Dog. Instead, their mindset is to focus on developing their own excellence. Being their personal best is more important than beating others, so competitive pressures are lessened.

5. They use positive imagination.

Pressure-less individuals consciously imagine themselves in all sorts of successful situations. Scoring a winning touchdown, being a Hollywood star, curing cancer, contributing to world peace—these might border on fantasy but they serve the function of creating positive feelings and emotions, like confidence and enthusiasm, two enemies of pressure.

6. They share pressure feelings.

To make sure they don’t burst from pressure, pressure-less people disclose their feelings of pressure with others. They have learned, unlike those that bottle up their feelings, that sharing stressful feelings helps alleviate them and, more often than not, helps generate solutions to tackle the pressures they are facing.

confidence

7. They avoid distraction.

Whether it’s taking a test, interviewing for a job, making a putt, or making a critical decision, pressure-less people stay focused on the task. Rather than become anxious about the outcome of a negative performance, they stay in the moment so their memory, attention, and judgment are not comprised. They do this in a variety of ways, such as tuning into their senses and remembering that their mission is to do their best.

8. They walk like a champ.

Pressure-less people already know what science now touts as neurological fact: Your posture and gait affect how you feel. Pressure-less people have some Marine in them—they stand up straight and walk with a confident swagger.

9. They celebrate micro successes.

Pressure-less people boost their confidence by recognizing their small successes and by doing so, fuel their enthusiasm and belief that they will accomplish their goal—two factors that reduce feelings of pressure and keep them motivated. They implement this strategy by being process-oriented, not outcome oriented. For example, according to their logic, a success is a good interview; continually having good interviews will eventually land a job.

10. They regulate their arousal.

Pressure-less people keep themselves calm so they never panic in a pressure moment, not even when an unexpected glitch occurs. Consciously tuning to their breathing in the moment and practicing disciplines such as relaxation training, yoga, and meditation on a weekly—if not daily—basis provides them with the skill of keeping their heart from zooming and butterflies out of their stomach.

11. They prepare for the worse.

Pressure-less people can think on their feet because they are in the habit of anticipating possible glitches that might occur. They solve these glitches before they arise and mentally rehearse scenarios to practice their execution, paying particular attention to the consequences of their response and how they will continue to respond. If and when the glitch occurs, the pressure-less person still feels in control and is able to attend to task completion.

12. They flashback their successes.

Pressure-less people experience less pressure because they know they have been successful in similar situations. In a pressure moment, they frequently flashback on a specific time they performed well under pressure. That visual image, and the positive thoughts it evokes, surges confidence within them and relaxes them, too.

13. They affirm their worth.

Pressure-less people experience less pressure because they feel they have value even if they fail in the moment. This feeling prevents them from being “overly attached” to the outcome—a pressure intensifier. Pressure-less people frequently remind themselves of their positive attributes that are independent of their job. Doing so prevents them from defining their worth in how they perform. Pressure-less people frequently remind their children that they are great kids and that they are proud of them independent of how well they perform in school or other activities. Their kids feel less pressure, too.

14. They march to their own beat.

Pressure-less people use their own values and interests to navigate their lives. They are more concerned with living up to their own expectations and following their own dreams than trying to please others, a source of pressure for most.