Stress Managment and Mastery: How to Beat Too Many Hats Syndrome

"One day I'm a mother, One day I'm a lover, What am I supposed to do? Workin' for a livin' All because I'm driven ... Why do I have to wear So many things on my head?"

These lyrics from the Amy Grant song ``Hats'' seem to capture the cry of many overworked, overwhelmed and stressed-out people.

In the song, the word ``hats'' simply refers to all the different roles we must play in our everyday lives.

There is the hat of employee, parent, spouse, son or daughter, etc., etc. It might be easier if these hats could be worn one at a time; we could complete one role and move on to another. Unfortunately for most of us, we tend to wear all of our different hats in the same day, often at the same time.

TMH - a unique kind of stress

The responsibility and pressure of too many roles is a unique kind of stress. I call it Too Many Hats Syndrome. TMH syndrome can be likened to the sideshow at the circus in which a guy has several plates spinning on sticks, all at once. He has to run around constantly to make sure he keeps all of them spinning.

What are some of the characteristics of a person suffering from TMH syndrome?

She's always doing something, rushing, rushing, rushing.

She never has enough time.

She's not able to have fun and/or relax.

She has trouble falling asleep.

She wakes up during the night and is unable to go back to sleep.

She has a feeling of always being ``on.''

She thinks she's the only person who has so much to do.

She has the sense that if she stops and rests, everything will fall apart.

She works in bed until she turns off the lights.

She feels exhausted all the time.

She has fantasies of running away from it all.

Misinformation about stress

One of the most misleading ideas about coping with stress is that somehow we can eliminate it from our lives. If you are alive, you are experiencing some level of stress. In fact, it's a sign that you are alive.

The main solution is in how we respond to and therefore cope with stress. Dr. James Loehr, in his book ``Toughness Training for Life'' has this to say: ``Stress management systems usually aim at reducing stress, an unrealistic goal for most of us.'' Instead, Loehr focuses on how to be ``emotionally strong enough to thrive on the stress.''

Unless we win the lottery or become independently wealthy in some other way, most of us will simply have to learn how to cope with our own version of ``Too Many Hats.''

Here are some suggestions for thriving on stress instead of just surviving:

Organize, organize, organize your time. If you are saying you don't have enough time to organize, you're proving my point.

Pay attention to how you talk to yourself about your stress. Negative self-talk such as, ``How will I ever get all this done?'' and ``This is just not fair!'' turns stress into pressure.

Positive self-talk allows us to thrive on the stress in our lives. Reframe the stress from ``all I have to do'' to ``all I get to do'' or ``all I am able to do.''

Learn to say no when your dance card is already full. Keep handy a 3x5 card with the word ``NO'' written on it in big letters.

Delegate. Another sign of TMH syndrome is the mistaken belief that we are only ones who can do a task properly. If it can be done by someone else, allow them the privilege of helping.

Remind yourself that you usually do get everything done. This can calm you and put things in perspective.

To get a different perspective on the situation, consider how a favorite character from a recent movie or TV show would handle the situation.

Take a mini-vacation. Whether a three-day getaway or a five-minute break, getting away refreshes us.

Remember this word: balance. Make sure to leave room for the hat called fun and relaxation.

Stress is an inevitable part of our daily lives. To be able to thrive on our stress, it's important to have fun and to enjoy keeping all those plates spinning.

Visit SecretsofGreatRelationships.com for tips and tools for creating and growing a great relationship. You can also subscribe to our f*r*e*e 10 day e-program on how to enrich your relationship today, from relationship coach and expert Jeff Herring.

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