According to a new Michigan State University study headed by sociology professor Barbara Schneider, women are still considered more adept at multitasking than men, yet are also more stressed as a result. Compared to the 38.9 hours per week that men multitask, women shoulder more responsibility at home with a whopping 48.3 hours spent on getting multiple things done. While men experienced multitasking as more ‘pleasurable’, it had the opposite effect on women.

Why?

First, consider the  cultural norm. It’s expected that women get more done. So as we plow through our day (literally), we perceive things as not going fast enough. It is my guess that women suffer far greater stress due to the expectation of multitasking. Women are time-crunching warriors. To their detriment.

Second, research has shown women spend more time taking care of everyone else but themselves. A recent Forbes article reported on a study by the Captivate Network that states men are 25% more likely to take personal time throughout the work day, 35% more likely to take mini timeouts (yeah, you power of slowers!) and 7% more likely to take a walk than women.

The study also shows an imbalance in household chores. Women do more laundry, cooking, grocery shopping and cleaning than men.

So how can we introduce more slow? Women: listen up.

  • It’s time to ratchet down the expectation on yourselves that it has to get all done. Who said so?
  •  The sky will not fall if you leave some chores undone. If it really bothers you, delegate. Chances are there are other highly capable people in the house who can do it instead.
  • Take more timeouts. Please. A burned out worker is a useless one.
  • Take care of yourselves. That means taking a lunch away from your desk, saying ‘no’ and being smart about your resources, which is YOU! In fact, you are your best resource.

What slow moment will you allow yourself today?

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Slow Holiday

February 15, 2010

According to an American Time Use Survey graph, Americans spent 17 minutes a day relaxing and thinking. Today is President’s Day in the United States ~ now’s your chance! Forget the great sales at the local car dealership. Never mind the alluring slashed prices at the mall. Today is your day to  sit and merely think.

For many in Germany, today is a day to celebrate and turn off the thinking cap altogether. We are in full-blown Carneval season during which time it is normal to see merchants dressed as clowns or barmaids ~ today is Rosenmontag. The fun ends on Ash Wednesday, but for now, people in Cologne are joining the throngs of bystanders, nipping on flasks while waving to the parade marchers.

For me it is a day off with the kids at home for school break. I slept in, read some more of Twilight, and pondered how marvelous slow holidays feel. The kids aren’t really into Carneval either ~ they’d rather go sledding, read or play with their friends. We might watch some of the Olympics later on today when Vancouver wakes up; I might read some more. If we were in the US, we would certainly tip the statistics in favor of more relaxing and thinking.

Let’s bump those relaxing minutes up to twenty a day, people. Come on. What do you think? 🙂

Yesterday I had to navigate very icy roads to bring my son and his best friend to a Carnival party. It was stressful as people around me seemed to be driving at a normal speed while I was turtling along, sweating bullets.

Robert Butera offers great insights into why traffic jams are neutral and what we can do about our reactions to stressful events. It all begins with how we frame things.

Read on and enjoy!

Yoga Psychology on Stress Management

By Robert Butera, PhD

How do you face your daily challenges? How often do you feel subtle or extreme stress? Are you constantly reacting to your surroundings without awareness, or are you paying attention and discerning your choices?

Let’s take the universal example of traffic. What do you experience when you are stuck in a serious traffic jam? Often the answer to this question is some kind of negative emotion such as anger, frustration, or pressure. But what if you thought of the traffic jam as a small blessing that allowed you some unexpected time to reflect, relax, or enjoy some deep breathing? It is interesting to note that 20 people stuck in the same traffic jam will have 20 different reactions to the situation. This phenomenon offers a simple yet profound lesson – the traffic jam is simply a traffic jam. It is how we react to the traffic jam that creates and sustains unnecessary levels of stress in our daily lives.

This concept that everything is neutral is one of the primary underpinnings of traditional Yoga Psychology. It is a unique perspective, because when we contemplate this idea, we must ask ourselves: If everything is neutral, then why does stress exist? Yoga teachings tell us that anything that clouds our understanding of reality causes a corresponding amount of struggle in life. To understand how to have positive reactions to life requires us to understand the deeper reasons, values, beliefs, and life events that have shaped our approach to living and relating.

The traffic jam is really just a metaphor for any challenging situation we face throughout the course of the day. When we are emotional, it is hard to take a step back and see things as they truly are. Learned emotional responses trigger unaware reactions.  When we become aware of our triggers, take a deep breath, and review the situation, the possibility of emotional transformation arises. In those few moments, a situation that might normally bring stress into the mind/body can instead bring about a sense of equanimity.

Six Ways to Apply Yoga Psychology to Daily Life

Every time you recognize and understand a personal stress, there is an opportunity for positive change and personal growth to occur. Use stressors you identify as a way of learning more about yourself. Whatever you learn will be interesting!

This six-step process can be used any time, but for many, the end of the day (before falling asleep) is best. Even the busiest person has 5–10 minutes before bedtime to reflect on the events of the day.

  1. Think of one minor stress from the day – something as simple as traffic is better than a profound catastrophe.
  2. Think of the emotion you felt during that situation. Refrain from stating the cause of the emotion. Phrase the statement, “I felt (emotion) while I sat in the traffic.”
  3. Consider how the situation could be neutral. The traffic is just the traffic. It did not force you to have any specific emotion. You had the emotional reaction to the traffic. Some people like traffic, such as salaried workers who get a break. Notice how your perspective toward a neutral situation affects your emotional response.
  4. Understand your underlying belief pattern that creates your reaction to the situation. For example, “Traffic is annoying because I do not have enough time to spend with my children after working all day.” The issue to be understood is not the traffic but the fact that you feel as though you don’t have enough time.
  5. Re-evaluate how you can tailor your belief pattern in a fashion that allows you to have your deep values without evoking stress reactions. “I accept that working will alter my life with kids. However, this is my life and I will accept that children are raised by a village – and I trust my village.”
  6. Let your stressful situations be permitted. Let self-understanding be permitted. As you understand your situations, see yourself as a wise person and integrate the idea that all things are neutral, and you can reduce stress to a minimum.

As you work through these six steps and apply these lessons, remember that the easier part of the process is recognizing that all things are neutral and that you have the power to react without stress. The harder part of the process is accepting the pain that you find when you examine the “whys” of your reactions. Stay present with what you uncover, and use it as a learning tool to positively transform your experience of daily life.

* * * * *

Robert Butera PhD is author of The Pure Heart of Yoga: Ten Essential Steps to Personal Transformation (Llewellyn, $21.95), publisher of Yoga Living magazine, and director of The YogaLife Institute in Devon, Pennsylvania, where he trains yoga instructors as well as students. Visit www.pureheartofyoga.com for more information.

How to Get More Free Time

February 10, 2010

Free time doesn’t have to be expensive because it is indeed ‘free’. The first step to having more free time is to decouple your understanding of time as money. When thinking that time equals money, they treat time as if it were very expensive. In fact, ‘free time’ is the most valuable time you can spend.

Why?

Because when you take time off, you are more productive on the days you are ‘on’.

I’ll give you an example.

Instead of going to the gym to ‘workout’, I shoveled snow with my family. I was outside, got light exposure, and had a great time while doing something productive and helpful (the neighbors were happy, too, as we shoveled part of their driveway free). In the afternoon, my husband and I went to the gym for a visit to the sauna only. What a thought! It was a great way to spend our free time. An hour there gave us an extra hour in the evening of wakefulness because we were so relaxed.

How will you spend your free time today?

Leisure Time in the U.S.

Family Vacation

August 7, 2009

Air travel leaves me with a blend of thrill and fear. There’s something remarkably impossible about lifting people into the sky for a few hours, only to land safely on the other side of the world. When packing, I usually reach a point where I say “If I don’t have it by now, I don’t need it.” It’s a motto of mine I use for most every occasion that involves hunting and gathering.

The holidays is another time of year in which I engage in the “Done, not perfect” attitude. We can only get so much done, see so many people, wrap so many gifts.

Taking vacation to see family, like we are tomorrow, is no different. Everyone wants a bit of your time; it is a loving and joyous request that can sometimes pile up into a scheduling nightmare. We are challenged to learn to say ‘no’ with kindness, to set boundaries and to preserve the integrity of what vacation is all about ~ rest, relaxation and fun!

Take the power of slow wherever you go. I am reminded to do the same.

Power tools

June 2, 2009

Sunday is a day of rest like no other in Germany. A fairly traditional society, Germany observes more religious holidays than any other European country I know (with, perhaps, the exception of Spain). I live in Bavaria, which is the most conservative state in the nation. Hanging your wash on the Lord’s day is enough to get you expelled from the city walls. Or so I thought.

Last Sunday my husband and father-in-law attempted to finish the porch they had worked twelve hours to assemble the day before. Mind you, we were looking at not only a Sunday, but also a Monday holiday with great weather and a job to do. I grew increasingly concerned that we wouldn’t be able to get it done because of the no-noise law on Sundays and holidays.

My husband and father-in-law decided to bend the law a little and turn on the circular saw. Not once. Not twice. But three times. Now I would have turned a blind ear to the light knocking of the hammer. They were being really quiet. But when they whipped out the saw, I got nervous.

They’re gonna get us! I scowled and fretted about it for the rest of the day.

My in-laws suggested we apologize for the noise, which we did the next afternoon. Approaching whom I thought would be the most difficult neighbor to address, I gave her a kind smile, which she promptly returned. I power toolsapologized profusely for the noise and for breaking the day of rest. She sang my father-in-law’s praises, saying how helpful he had been while my husband and I were away for a week’s vacation. They had moved in to care for the kids, for the house, and, as it turns out, for the entire neighborhood.

“What’s a little noise? You had to do what you had to do. Take care now!” She grinned and gave a little wave.

I was stunned.

My father-in-law had quietly laid the groundwork, chatting it up with neighbors, sweeping up the debris in the common driveaway after a major storm knocked leaves everywhere, and spent time with each of them in some way. He made his presence known and spread positive energy.

And I realized all this time my worries were nowhere else but in my own mind. Kindness pays. Worrying does not.

That’s a power(ful) tool I’ll take with me on life’s journey.

Battery Recharge

May 26, 2009

As I stared down at my camera battery gleefully soaking up more energy from its charger cradle, I realized we are a lot more like machines than we realize.

We need to recharge our batteries like everything else. Taking time off is as important as breathing because it helps us do it better. It needn’t be just another item on your to-do list (unless lists are your thing). It can be a liberating experience to drop the cloak of responsibility and to step into a robe of relaxation.

If our cell phones, cameras, and hybrid cars need it, so do we!