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Take Back Your Personal Energy-The Benefits to Asking for Help

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By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson, R.N., and Ted Hagen, Ph.D.

RISMEDIA, June 7, 2008-(MCT)-Are you so overworked, you feel like you’re in a war zone? Most working adults are so pressured by work and family obligations that perpetual tiredness is a universal complaint.

While no one can feel great every day, most of us can take back some personal energy by figuring out how to creatively ask for help from other people.

By thinking ahead, you can enlist five minutes of help here and there from people in your circle. This kind of strategizing takes careful thought, but it can actually turn into somewhat of a survival skill.

“In order to look super-efficient, I used to run all over our building taking documents for my superiors to sign,” says a legal assistant we’ll call Barbara. “I didn’t want to trust anyone else to look as busy as I.”

Barbara says she ended up taking up so much slack, her work hours were extended and she ended up losing her boyfriend.

Barbara says she crawled into bed tired, got up tired, and began to grumble so loudly at work everybody knew how tired she was.

“That was 15 years ago,” laughs Barbara. “One day, I decided something would change. I would start to take charge of the flow of things, so I could take back my energy.”

Barbara says she started realizing she could trust herself to take charge of the problem. “I really can figure out how things unfold, how much time things take to accomplish, and what everybody needs to be working on,” says Barbara. “So, I became something of a traffic director.”

Here’s how Barbara took back her time and energy:

She started giving out small assignments. She asked others in her department to make quick calls, type something for her, or deliver a document to a different floor for someone’s signature.

She asked her friends for help. Outside of work, Barbara started asking for small favors. “I would ask a friend to phone a restaurant for dinner reservations for both of us or pick up my dry cleaning,” says Barbara.

She built cooperation by doing for others. “I would offer to type something for my friends while they were walking my dog,” says Barbara. “Or, I would ask a friend if she would try to fix my home computer problems, if I fixed us a nice dinner.”

“You don’t want to over use people or aggravate them,” says Barbara. “That’s why you must think way ahead-so you won’t catch people off guard or burden them. Then, of course, you have to be there for them.”

Barbara is right. You want other people to feel okay about lending you a hand. So certain rules apply. For example, think up ways others can help you during their natural routines. Or, think of how others can incorporate doing something for you while getting their own goals met.

A nurse we’ll call Peggy says she likes to entertain quite a bit. I use my husband to help me get the house in shape when people come over.

“I’m not talking about formal sit down dinners,” says Peggy. “I’m talking about informal card games and grilling burgers on the patio.”

Peggy says she talks her husband into helping her clean the kitchen, living room, and main bath by inviting his family or friends over.

“My husband will pitch in to help me get the house in shape for these card games,” says Peggy. “On Fridays, we’re exhausted, but we race home, crank up music, and make a game out of cleaning our house.”

In order to relieve your own tiredness, try these tips:

Utilize your children’s help. For instance, could your teenage son pick up milk on his way home from a friend’s house? Could your teenage daughter take your car to a full service car wash?

Think ahead and use relatives. For example, phone your parents on Thursday night and ask them to pick up pizza on Friday afternoon. Invite them to come by your house, eat pizza, and watch a movie with your family.

Cut out frills to save time. For instance, could you meet your cousins for a picnic by asking everyone to bring fast food? This way, no one has to cook or clean house for guests.

Sometimes, we grow tired because of what we are failing to do-such as not seeing our in-laws or extended family. When we invent easy ways to get together with others, this can actually energize us.

The clock can feel like a perpetual enemy if we are driven by time. By taking back small bits of control, we open up small spaces of time to just relax or connect with people we love.

“I invited a group of work friends to my house a month ago,” says an executive we’ll call Ed. “My wife wasn’t too happy, so I had to think about what really bugged her.”

Ed says his wife told him, “I don’t mind cooking the main dish or straightening the house, but I hate preparing side dishes.”

Ed came up with a plan that was fine with his wife.

He called his sister, who lives three blocks away, to fix extra food for his dinner party. “In exchange, I promised to take my sister and her kids to a rodeo,” says Ed. “My plan worked out for everybody.”

Judi Hopson and Emma Hopson are authors of a stress management book for paramedics, firefighters and police, “Burnout To Balance: EMS Stress.” Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.

© 2008, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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