Sanity Savers to Reduce Stress and Live a Meaning Driven Life
By Stephanie Marston, MFT

Does your life feel chaotic and out of control? Do you continually feel overwhelmed and overextended? Is there too much to do and never enough time to do it? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you’re in good company. The first step in reducing stress and creating greater work/life balance is to get your priorities straight.
Sanity Saver#1: Remember What’s Important. Define your priorities and adjust your schedule to reflect your values. No matter how frantic life gets, the truly successful people are able to rise above the pandemonium and maintain their perspective. They can do this because they know what’s important.
Make conscious choices about how you invest your time and energy. The solution to creating greater balance in your life is selectivity--it’s about choosing. It’s not about getting more done, but being more selective about what you do.
What You Can Do:
Ask yourself: What do I value? What’s most important to me? What do I really want? What do I need to change in order to have my values expressed more visibly in my everyday life? Is there anything I need to add to my life? Are there activities or commitments I need to eliminate?
Sanity Saver#2: Put Yourself At the Top of Your “To Do” List. The truth is, you have to come first, at least some of the time. It’s only to the extent that you love and care for yourself that you’re truly able to love and care for others. If you’re running on empty, you’re not doing anyone any good, least of all yourself.
Taking care of yourself isn’t a reward for completing your “to do list.” It’s a function of the fact that you’re a human being and deserve nurturing every single day. Caring for yourself is your birthright, have the courage to claim it.
What You Can Do:
Take a mini-vacation. We all need a break from our busy lives. There is very little in life that requires your immediate attention. Start small. Do what feels manageable: a lunch date with a friend, a massage, an afternoon at the movies, a walk in the woods, or making a date to play racquetball. The possibilities are endless.
Sanity Saver#3: Set Limits so That You Can Better Balance the Competing Demands in Your Everyday Life. You may take on more than you can comfortably deliver in your desire to get ahead, impress people and live up to other people’s expectations. Meanwhile, your top priorities may go unattended. You have to learn to say no to the things that don’t matter so that you can invest yourself more fully in those things that do. Saying no is a way of caring for and honoring yourself.
What You Can Do:
Most people pressure themselves to give an immediate response when asked a question. But, very few things require an immediate answer. Why not say, “Let me get back to you,” and take the time you need to decide if this is really right for you or if you’re being seduced by the “I can do it all syndrome." Remember, you have every right to say no to something you don't want to do.
Sanity Saver#4: Build Stronger Relationships. Many of people measure themselves by the quantity of their achievements rather than by the quality of their relationships. When you approach the end of your life, what will be your most cherished memories? Will it be how successful you were on the job? How much money you had in the bank? Most likely not.
What you will want is to remember, and be remembered for, how much love you shared in your life.
What You Can Do:
Instead of giving your families and yourself only leftover time, block out some prime time which is strictly devoted to relationships. If you’re married, make a date night once a week. For example, set aside at least one night a week, or more if you can, to eat together as a couple instead of as a family.
Sanity Saver#5: Ask, Ask, Ask. If you’re like most people, you may be holding yourself back by not asking for information, assistance, support, and the time you need to fulfill your dreams and goals. While there’s no guarantee that other people will cooperate with your requests, at least you’ve put your wish and desire out there to be considered. Ask for what you want and need. You’ll be amazed at how often you get a positive response.
What You Can Do: Ask your spouse to take the kids to the park so you can have some time to yourself. Ask for a day off from work. Ask your children to clean up their toys or their rooms. But whatever you do, ask, ask, ask.
(Stephanie Marston is America’s foremost life balance expert. Her new CD program, 30 Days to Sanity, contains powerful, innovative, practical tools to reduce stress, balance work and family and make time for what truly matters. For more information visit




Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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