Our lives are often so busy that instead of intentionally choosing to bring balance into our day, we try to “fit it all in” (often in an effort to please others). Scheduling activities too closely together throughout the day and through the week can create an inner landscape of stress that can then spill out externally. This may result in not building enough time in between activities for the “unexpected mini occurrences” that may evolve, such as a running into a traffic jam, bumping into an old acquaintance or needing to refuel at the gas station.
Each time we have a perception that we may be late, we experience a rush of stress hormones, including a release of adrenaline and cortisol. This activation of our nervous system can cause our brain to perceive moments throughout our day as threatening, which can in turn set our anxiety baseline higher than normal. This increase in our anxiety baseline makes it easier for our nervous system to get dysregulated more easily and more quickly, which can then have a snowball effect, leading to irritability, frustration, fatigue, anxiety and depression. (Wow! That is a lot of negative consequences for being an overscheduler!)
By paring down a few activities and building more of a buffer into our daily schedule, we can have more opportunity for experiencing the day in a calmer state. We then won’t be cursing at every red traffic light that we encounter (or attempting to beat that red traffic light) when we don’t feel short on time.
Enlisting the help of others is another way you might be able to manage your schedule more appropriately. Using carpools for the kiddos or having one partner pick up dinner on the way home from work can ease each person’s workload, creating more space in the schedule.
Reevaluating the value each activity engenders that you place on your schedule can be another way you can build more space between activities in your day and in your week. If the activity you are pursuing does not fulfill a value that is important to you and your family, it may be a good idea to pass.
By no longer being an “overscheduler”, you are creating more opportunities for you and your family to notice positive moments throughout your day, which can lead to more happiness, better health and a more peaceful life overall. Shanna Farmer, MFT, Assistant Director of the Anxiety and Depression Center.