By Dr. Ladd Carlston

Do you feel like you need more “balance”.  Do you feel pulled in too many directions?

That feeling in your chest or stomach, or that tightness in your shoulders is the stress of wanting to do it all, but not having enough time in the day.  That much desired balance in your life only happens if you have clarity on what is most important and the focus to make it happen.

Look at your actions and how you spend your time each day.  Does it reflect your priorities?  Odds are you’re spending time on something that really isn’t high priority and it’s resulting in you getting to the end of the day and being dissatisfied.  Yikes.

So here’s the deal.  When you’re stressed, the part of your brain that helps you prioritize and see the consequences of your current actions doesn’t function very well.

mom stressHere are some suggestions:

1. Take a breather.   When you’re stressed, your breath becomes more shallow.  Pausing to catch your breath from the race of life is essential and can restore much needed perspective on what you’re facing.

You know the feeling – you’re frantically looking for something and then you find it was right in front of you the whole time.  If you’re stressed, that’s how you’re leading your life – missing pieces that will make things easier if you would just become aware that they’re there.

If you think you’re too busy to take a breather for a few minutes or you find that when you do you can’t stop your racing thoughts – you REALLY need to slow down or you’ll look up one day and wonder what happened.

2. Close those open loops. Researchers say that keeping a to-do list on your mind or having too many things that are undone not only zaps your brainpower, but can make you anxious, forgetful, and indecisive.  The solution?  Write things down.

Odds are that you’re keeping too much on your brain.  Think about your house, your car, your finances, work, etc.  There are things in each one of those categories that need doing and it’s impossible to keep it all in your head.

Here’s the deal – if you spent time right now going through all those categories and writing what you had to do down, it would free up energy for you to have more willpower to focus on what’s most important to you.  There are tons of research about this.

3. Energize your prefrontal cortex. What leads to the discrepancy between what you SAY you want to focus on and what you really end up doing is the lack of brainpower to see and make the right choice.

The specific area of your brain that is in charge of how you spend your time during the day is called the prefrontal cortex. There are different ways that have been used over the centuries to bring energy and blood-flow to this critical area of the brain.  Below are two different options – one that you can do on your own and the one I’ve developed as  a new alternative at my practice.

relaxAn exercise that you can do on your own:

  • Start by simply carving out 5 minutes of your day morning or night to sit in a quiet undisturbed place.  Have your spouse be “on watch” for the kids or do whatever you have to do to be undisturbed.
  • Next sit comfortably and focus on your breathing.  Thoughts will come to your mind which is okay, but just bring your focus back to your breathing and make sure you take a few deep breaths during that 5 minutes. Continually bring your focus back to your breath.
  • Gradually increase the time to 30 minutes.

Part of a 45 minute session in my practice is a hands-on technique to clear physical stress and energize the prefrontal cortex.  In short, this portion of the session is a combination of breathing techniques, meditation, acupressure, and massage all in a 45 minute session.

After a few sessions, people gain more focus and clarity on what they need to be doing and get in action with their relationships, health, organization.  Things are changing in dramatic ways for them!

Whichever of the above options you choose, DO SOMETHING to be able to spend time doing what’s most important.