Q Reecently, my wife and I have started to argue more. We’ve had our differences about money and raising our children but we’ve always managed to come to some workable arrangement. Some of the current tension is due to the fact that our lives have become more hectic. We are both busy working full-time now. We need to slow down, but don’t want to take our children out of after-school programs of music and sports. Do you have any suggestions on managing our time and not being so stressed out?
A This is indeed a common dilemma in our modern lives. Things have gotten faster in the last few years and we demand more out of ourselves and others. It is good that you and your wife are recognizing where some of the stress and, perhaps, frustration are coming from. We live in a time where we believe we can and must have it all. This is a myth. It is an expectation that makes us feel pressured to live at a pace that isn’t healthy or fulfilling. We are almost forced into a cycle that is hard to break out of. Fatigue, depression, and anger are symptoms of this too much-ness. It is probable that your children are also affected by this stress. Materially they may have more, but leisure and quality time with their parents has probably diminished greatly. This undermines their relationship with you and ultimately leaves them seeking more support, connection, and even guidance from their peers.
Getting clearer about what’s most important to you as a family is a first step in this challenge. Set priorities and let some things go. Find time to sit down with your wife and discuss the lifestyle you think is important in this stage of your lives. What is each choice costing you physically, financially, and emotionally? What are its long-term effects? These questions are intended to deepen your understanding of how you prioritize your life. If you can hire people to help you do certain things that can leave you with more time to relax, exercise, and enjoy, it’s worth it. Notice where you might be inefficient or need to get more organized. Checking email at certain times rather than all day long can save hours in a week, not to mention keep you more focused. Taking some time in the middle of the day to just sit quietly or take a walk in the park can do a lot to reduce stress, energize you, and bring perspective to your day. Being present to yourself is actually more fulfilling than accomplishing another goal. Slowing down can in itself be a worthy accomplishment.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com