Thursday, April 23, 2009

Do You Live Your Life in Bullets?

You’ve seen bullet formatting - they show up everywhere; those little abbreviated lines creating a quick and easily skimmed list of the most important highlights of information. But are we living our lives in this abbreviated form as well? Are we losing the ability to stop and smell the roses?

We tend to live our lives in the fast lane, squeezing as much in a day as we can. We power walk, power lunch, have power meetings, and power our way through the day until we collapse and have to power nap before moving on to the next item on our busy agenda.

My blogs recently have revolved around the recession and how it has affected our general mental health. With these added stressors of layoffs, rising prices, and dwindling opportunities it is more important than ever to protect the mental health of ourselves and our loved ones.
This is often hard to do when we feel the need to push ourselves even harder to beat out the next round of layoffs or take on that second job to keep the house out of foreclosure. Patience flies out the window. When we speed up our own personal production, we tend to get frustrated by those who are still running at normal speed.

Here are a few warning signs of living life in bullet format:

You find yourself getting short with coworkers who take their time in getting to the point

You grumble as you speed around people in the “slow lane” of hallways just as you do on the roadways as you calculate which would be faster, the elevator or the stairs

Everyone but you is working in slow motion

You are moving at such a fast pace that quality work takes a back seat to just getting the job done so that you can move on to the next four or five jobs on your list

You begin to lose the ability to successfully multitask and prioritize, and feel the need to speed up even more to compensate

You take this sped-up version of yourself home to your family and expect them to bullet their time with you as well

You find it hard to unwind and let go of the hyper speed you have achieved

You forget to smile

Your caffeine consumption skyrockets; at the end of the day you always feel you need one more drink

What can you do if too many of these examples describe you? A friend or loved one shouting, “slow down” seems too simple a fix, but it may be just that simple. Slowing down won’t fix the amount of work you have to do and it won’t pay the mortgage. But it could save your life.
We all know behavioral and physical health are linked. Unhappy, over-stressed people tend to live shorter lives than their counterparts. So in the midst of the hyper-fast, bulleted life you lead, don’t forget to schedule time for you.

Ways to rewrite the bullets of your life:

Take time to notice those around you. Are you wearing that same pinched look of stress you see in others? Relax your face and try on a smile. Compliment that person and watch as they startle out of hyper speed.

Schedule time for meditation. You don’t need a special place or special equipment to get started. Just close your eyes and breathe deeply and evenly for 2 minutes. Concentrate on how far you can expand your lungs, and how slowly you can inhale and exhale. Steal a few of these moments for yourself throughout the day. If you prefer guided instructions, check out Soft Belly Meditation, a free four minute guided breathing relaxation meditation exercise available over the internet.

Pause for a moment to appreciate the little things in your life: You may find the little things are really what’s important to you! BE in the moment. Stop and just do one thing at a time!

After work, take the time to reconnect with the special people in your life. Say “Hi” to your neighbor across the backyard fence. Reconnect with the lost art of the long-winded yarn Grandpa’s across the country made famous. And above all, take time to smell the roses while they are still in bloom.


Anonymous said...

[Take time to notice those around you. Are you wearing that same pinched look of stress you see in others? Relax your face and try on a smile. Compliment that person and watch as they startle out of hyper speed.]
I love this one! I can just see someone startling out of hyperspeed. Ping! You have just saved someone else from the bullet
I do this alot and I don't even realize it until I'm startled out of it and then realize I just blew past coworkers and didn't even make eye contact let alone say hi. No wonder we're all grumpy. We're too busy to be nice to each other anymore.

Anonymous said...

I do this. I didn't even know it had a name. I work so hard at work. I can't relax to breath two minutes like you said cause i'm always behind. It's so bad that I go home and crash. I can't even talk to anyone cause I don't have the energy. My apartment is a mess cause I can't do the laundry or vacuum. I haven't had sheets on my bed for a month cause I don't have the energy to put them on from the last time i washed them. It's like the bullet life at work take everything out of me and ihave nothing left. I will try your breathing and smile thing, maybe it will help.

Joseph A. Banken, MA, PhD said...

These comments are great!

I appreciate the reminder that we do some of these things without even realizing that we are doing so. So many times, I keep my head down and don't make eye-contact, as I in too big of a hurry to be on my way. I can catch myself just going through the motions of life...just like the bullet life.

It only takes a few minutes to do the deep breathing exercise in the link. You will be surprised about how much this will help, even after just doing it a couple of times. It takes even less time to do some of the other things mentioned here. With the validation here, I know that I can make improvements.

Thanks for the comments!

With these tips, I will strive to do better.