Stress Management: Tool #1 – Time Management
It’s probably no surprise that one of the greatest sources of stress in a person’s life is his or her schedule. What may surprise you, though, is that God has much to say about how we spend our time. “For everything there is a season,’ says Ecclesiastes 3:1, ‘and a time for every matter under heaven.” Luke 12:25 admonishes, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (NIV). Worry is a product of stress (Hanna, 2017), and it is not only not productive, but often slows us down and makes us less effective. Mark 4:19 admonishes that “the worries of this life . . . come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (emphasis added). I don’t know about you, but I want to be fruitful, and be a good steward of the time I’ve been given: Whitney (2014) points out that if a person is, as Scripture teaches, accountable for how she uses her talents (Matthew 14:25-30), and her words (Matthew 12:36), it is reasonable to expect that she will also be held accountable for time unwisely spent!
Before we can implement other stress management techniques available to us, we need to make room in our schedule. Yes, yes, I can hear you now, my friend: ‘WHAT?! Angela! That’s the problem!! I don’t have any TIME!’ I know, I know. And this is where many folks quickly get stuck and give up hope of being able to effectively manage their stress. (Which, of course, often leads to a sense of failure, self-deprecation, and . . . more stress!)
Clinton and Hawkins (2009) advise that people must “Stop majoring in minor things,” and that we should “decide what is important and live for that.” I say amen to that! This means prioritizing the things that are commanding our time, and learning to say “no.” Yes, I know . . . it can be really hard. Even those of us who practice it often occasionally come up against a necessary “no” that gives us heartburn; but trust me – it’s better to say “no” than to add more stress! We simply must confront and overcome our guilt feelings about saying “no” to good things that take away from the best things.
Many of us have difficulty accepting our limitations, but we do, in fact, have them and we are wise to recognize and accept them. This means we have to develop and maintain healthy boundaries. Even the National Institutes of Mental Health stress the importance of setting priorities and boundaries, in part by learning to say no to things that overwhelm our schedules! For help with this (in addition to contacting your friendly, helpful stress and time management coach) I highly recommend the book Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (1992, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
It is imperative for us to master our calendars in order to be able to intentionally create space for implementing any or all of the other stress management techniques available to us, several of which will be addressed here in upcoming posts.
Need permission to say, “no” and to start eliminating life-draining activities so you can put more life-giving experiences on your schedule? Here it is: I’m giving you permission to reclaim the time that God has given you, so you can become healthier and less stressed out!
Need more detailed, one-on-one help managing your schedule, determining what should stay and what should be weeded out? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org – it can be done!