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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 8, 2010

Staying on track's a matter of time

By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

We all know people who have so many problems they're totally overwhelmed.

How we use our time can affect many of our outcomes. Once we lose control of time, we lose control over many aspects of our lives.

For example, a friend of ours we'll call Jean is worried about her niece, Angel.

"Angel dropped out of school, lost her job and got kicked out of her apartment within a few weeks," says Jean.

"I can't figure out how she went from being an A student with a good life to spiraling downward."

Jean's niece isn't on drugs. She hasn't been forsaken by friends or family. But this young woman has allowed her life to drift off course because she failed to use her time wisely.

Angel told us: "I was grieving over a boyfriend, so I started sleeping later and later. Next, I got kicked out of a college class for falling asleep.

"After that, I lost my job because I was talking about my love problems to a customer. My boss overheard and terminated me."

Any time we don't use our time wisely, or we allow ourselves to start the day late, we can start to drift off course.

We can waste a lot of time feeling sorry for ourselves, rehashing our hurts with anyone who will listen, or making phone calls to vent pain when we should be working or studying.

A man we'll call Jeff says he started goofing off a lot when his father died. "I would stay out of work for two days and get so far behind," Jeff told us.

"Before long, I had lost several of my good clients. I woke up one day and realized my sales income was about half what it was."

Jeff took months to grieve over his loss because he didn't realize there is a process to grieving.

"I didn't know how to find the help I needed, so I just went into a tailspin," Jeff told us. "I would have been better off joining a grief group and working through the process while I kept my job on track."

Stress can hit any of us like a ton of bricks. But we need to make sure we find support and stay on track in ways that matter.

"I had to learn to focus on doing something meaningful," says Jeff.

"I started exercising, working on some civic projects to help my community, and I got out twice a week with friends."

A divorce, relationship problem or problems at work can cause any of us to drift through our days. We can gradually lose control over several aspects of our lives.

Here are tips for managing stress while you keep your life on track:

• Resist talking about problems too much. Instead, try to focus on solutions. Venting is good when you're under stress, but don't allow discussing your problems to take up too much time each day.

• Find professional support. If you're going through a divorce or lost your job, talk to a counselor. Connect with someone trained to help you deal with personal issues.

• Count your blessings. Focus on what is going well in your life. It's easy to fall into a deep depression by focusing on what's wrong. A broken relationship might hurt, but it might give you a fresh start in life.

Time is one asset you can never recover. You cannot save time or manipulate it whatsoever. You can only spend it. By guarding time and spending it well, you give yourself the best opportunity to keep your life moving in the right direction.