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30 Day Challenge for Overscheduled / Overstressed Adults

Much publicity has been made in recent years about the dangers of overscheduling (and the resulting overstressing) of our children. Books such as “The Over-Scheduled Child” (2001) by Dr. Alvin Rosenfield, MD, child and adolescent psychiatrist and former Head of Child Psychiatry at Stanford University; “The Pressured Child” (2005) by Dr. Michael Thompson, clinical psychologist; and “The Hurried Child” (2001) written by David Elkind, PhD, professor of Child Development at Tufts University, all document the issues surrounding the phenomenon of this generation of parents and their children who have become “more frenzied than ever”, so much so that some areas of the country are now offering Yoga classes and structured stress-reduction classes for children as young as three (3) years old to help them deal with all their stress from their crazy schedules! (Kirchheimer, 2004)
If it’s bad for our children, it cannot be good for us adults! In her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection” (2010), Brene’ Brown states, “We are a nation of exhausted and over stress adults raising over-scheduled children.” We use our spare time to desperately search for joy and meaning in our lives. We think accomplishments and acquisitions will bring joy and meaning, but that pursuit could be the very thing that’s keeping us so tired and afraid to slow down”. Many even wear their busyness like a badge of honor, you probably know someone like this: who has-to-tell-you-everything-they-have-to-do-today-and-how-important-it-is-and-how-exhausted-they-are-and-how-late-they-have-to-work-after-all-the-important-errands-they-will-run-and-they-are-soooo-tired and then, add a big yawn for emphasis at the end of their monologue.

I used to work with someone like that, observing her used to exhaust me. Sadly, one time I was driving her daughter and my daughter home from a school activity and I overheard my coworker’s daughter say to my daughter, You’’re so lucky your mom’s around. My mom is always gone working and always tired. I wish she was around more.” (Remember, she and I had the same job, same responsibilities….) Pretty insightful and sobering words from a 15 year old.
Psychotherapist Stephanie Sarkis, PhD reminds us, “Being that busy and stressed out is a choice. No one is forcing you to take on all of these responsibilities and activities. Sometimes it seems that being overscheduled is almost a status symbol – ‘Look at all of these things I do’”(2011). So, what are we adults going to do? Are you willing to take a CHALLENGE? A mindfulness challenge for 30 days?
Mindfulness is defined as, ‘the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment to moment’ (Kabat-Zinn 2003, p. 145). The practice of mindfulness has been shown to markedly decrease the incidence of major depression, decrease symptoms of anxiety and increase overall quality of life (Chambers, 2015). Mindfulness has also been demonstrated to be a predictor of resiliency and hopefulness (Chamberlain, et al, 2016), resiliency being defined as “‘the ability of a person to recover, rebound, bounce back, adjust or even thrive following misfortune, change or adversity’ and resilience describes an individual’s, ‘ability to succeed, to live and to develop in a positive way despite the stress or adversity that would normally involve the real possibility of a negative outcome”. Chamberlain, et al’s research furthter demonstrates that individuals who practice mindfulness have “greater self-compassion…stress resilience, psychological empowerment [and] There is evidence that personal resilience helps buffer the negative impact of stress in intrinsically challenging situations” (213).
My CHALLENGE for you is to practice mindfulness by putting down your phone, your tablet, your laptop, your whatever, for a day and JUST BE. One day per week. Go for a walk. Sit outside. Read a “real” book (you know, the old fashioned kind with paper). Spend time with your family or friends, or by yourself without technology, just for a day each week for 30 days.
Psychotherapist Stephanie Sarkis asks: “Is what you are so stressed out about (and overscheduled with) really worth it? Is what you are doing really contributing to your well-being? Are they helping you towards your life goals? Do you even know what your life goals are anymore?”
My challenge to you is that as you go unplugged and practice mindfulness for at least 1 day per week for 30 days, you will be able to slow down your life enough to get into focus what really matters most to you. You may find that what you have been focusing on is not what matters most to you after all. Slowing down and paying attention on purpose to the world around you, being mindful of what you have already in your life may allow you to find joy, meaning, and purpose and direction you have been looking for.
Let me know how the CHALLENGE goes!

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