In modern society, most of us can’t avoid stress. But we can learn to behave in ways that lessen its effects. Researchers have identified a number of factors that affect one’s vulnerability to stress – among them are eating and sleeping habits, caffeine and alcohol intake, and how we express our emotions. The following questionnaire is designed to help you discover your vulnerability quotient and to pinpoint trouble spots. Rate each item from 1 (always) to 5 (never), according to how much of the time the statement is true of you. Be sure to mark each item, even if it does not apply to you – for example, if you don’t smoke, circle 1 next to item six.

Always Sometimes Never
1. I eat at least one hot, balanced meal a day. 1 2 3 4 5
2. I get seven to eight hours of sleep at least four nights a week. 1 2 3 4 5
3. I give and receive affection regularly. 1 2 3 4 5
4. I have at least one relative within 50 miles, on whom I can rely. 1 2 3 4 5
5. I exercise to the point of perspiration at least twice a week. 1 2 3 4 5
6. I limit myself to less than half a pack of cigarettes a day. 1 2 3 4 5
7. I take fewer than five alcoholic drinks a week. 1 2 3 4 5
8. I am the appropriate weight for my height. 1 2 3 4 5
9. I have an income adequate to meet basic expenses. 1 2 3 4 5
10. I get strength from my religious beliefs. 1 2 3 4 5
11. I regularly attend club or social activities. 1 2 3 4 5
12. I have a network of friends and acquaintances. 1 2 3 4 5
13. I have one or more friends to confide in about personal matters. 1 2 3 4 5
14. I am in good health (including eye-sight, hearing, and teeth). 1 2 3 4 5
15. I am able to speak openly about my feelings when angry or worried. 1 2 3 4 5
16. I have regular conversations with the people I live with about domestic problems – for example, chores and money. 1 2 3 4 5
17. I do something for fun at least once a week. 1 2 3 4 5
18. I am able to organize my time effectively. 1 2 3 4 5
19. I drink fewer than three cups of coffee (or other caffeine-rich drinks) a day. 1 2 3 4 5
20. I take some quiet time for myself during the day. 1 2 3 4 5

To get your score, add up the figures and subtract 20. A score below 10 indicates excellent resistance to stress. A score over 30 indicates some vulnerability to stress; you are seriously vulnerable if your score is over 50. You can make yourself less vulnerable by reviewing the items on which you scored three or higher and trying to modify them. Notice that nearly all of them describe situations and behaviors over which you have a great deal of control. Concentrate first on those that are easiest to change – for example, eating a hot, balanced meal daily and having fun at least once a week – before tackling those that seem difficult.

Bills are piling up, the front lawn is a jungle, and you can’t remember what your desk looks like under those stacks of paper. If only you had more time. We’ve all said it at one time or another.

Lack of time can be a major source of stress. As demands of daily living grow, more and more of us feel there just aren’t enough hours in a day to do everything that needs to get done.

Teaching people how to manage their time is now an American enterprise. There are time-management books, tapes, workshops, and seminars to make us more efficient. Day planners, organizers, and calendars help us remember and organize things. We even have personal coaches to help us turn chaotic lives into more orderly ones.

Time Is On Your Side

Learning to better manage your time can make you feel more in control of your life. That can reduce stress. If you can get a handle on how you spend your time, you’ll be able to work smarter and function better at home and away. You’ll relax more, be less stressed, find your goals are within easier reach, and have more time for yourself. You’ll also be proud of how organized you’ve become!

Sound impossible? It’s not! Here are some ways to become a wise time manager wherever you are:
Get Organized. You can waste a lot of time looking for things you’ve misplaced, trying to make plans or decisions at the last minute, or putting things off for later. Clean up your desk and office by making places to store things — file cabinets, notice boards, in- and out-boxes “to read” and “bill-paying” trays — even a shredder! Make files, update your rolodex, and organize your pantry and drawers so you can find things more easily.

What’s that you say? These things take time and you already don’t have enough time? Putting in some extra time to get organized will save you a lot of time in the long run. And don’t try to do all your organizing in one day. Tackle just one drawer or closet each weekend. Sort through a pile every other day until you get through all of them. Keep a day planner or calendar handy and use it. Post all your important telephone numbers and email addresses in an easy-to-see place so you don’t have to keep looking them up. Make a schedule for bill-paying day, laundry day, grocery shopping day, and library day. Make “to do” lists and check off tasks once they’re done. This will show progress and help you feel like you’re getting things done when you don’t think you are.

Set Priorities . List the things you must get done in a day. Be realistic. Writing down how much time you expect each activity to take helps. The most important things go at the top of your list.

Focus on getting those done during your high-energy time of day. Bump the less important tasks to the next day or week if you can’t get to them. And don’t beat yourself up if you don’t. Remind yourself that there are only so many hours in a day and you’re doing the best you can. Nobody’s perfect!

Stay Focused. If you’re working on a project, close your office door, ignore the phone and email messages, tell family members or coworkers you’re unavailable – try to get rid of all the distractions that prevent you from finishing your task. Distractions can cause stress. And the stress gets worse because you didn’t finish the job you set out to do even though you made the time.

Schedule a half hour at the start and middle of the day to review and respond to emails and phone calls. Allow another 30 minutes at end of the day to wrap up for the day and get organized for the next one.

Multitask Wisely . Why not kill two birds with one stone when you can? For instance, write Christmas cards or update your rolodex while you’re watching television. Don’t get carried away with multitasking, though. That may lead to more stress and even be dangerous. Shaving, sending a fax, or sitting in on an important conference call while you’re driving is downright dangerous!

Get Help. Decide what you realistically can do in the time you have and get help doing the rest. Lighten your load by asking someone to run an errand while you’re cleaning the house for company.

That lets you receive your guests more graciously when they arrive. Getting a coworker to pitch in on a big project shows you can delegate work and get things done. With a little practice, you can become quite good at managing your personal and professional time. Not only will you become more efficient, you’ll have less stress.

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