When Deadlines Create Major Stress

06/30/2015 09:25 pm ET | Updated Jun 30, 2016

When I worked for corporate, I was tied to meetings, schedules, control, management, hierarchy, and chain of command. Rules and procedures were a way of life. Everything was planned then executed. The work day was rigid and uniform. Changes and the unexpected were met with horror and immediately neutralized. Over the past seven years, I learned a new way to go about business.

Being my own boss I was able to make changes to the way I work. At first, I met my day with the same dogmatic precision I had for the past eighteen years. It felt awful. Here I had my dream job yet it didn't feel right. Then I realized I make the rules. I can decide when and how I work. I can change due dates. I can create my perfect work week. I didn't have to adhere to the 9 to 5 format. I could work seven days a week or three. As long as my business progressed, how I made it progress didn't matter.

In this new business style I learned to be flexible. At first when a client canceled or rescheduled, I was spun into a Type-A hissy fit thinking that the world would end because a session didn't happen as planned. Eventually I found the flow. I released dates and times. If a client or meeting had to shift, I trusted that it was for the better knowing that there was a reason for the reschedule. Many times I could uncover why. For instance, a client wanted to delay her session a few days. In that time I happened across a piece of information which was perfect for the session. Had we met as initially planned, I would not have been able to share this information. Another example is writing. If I penciled in a time to write but don't feel like it at that day and time, the writing was stifled and poor. If instead I seized the opportunity to write when the muse calls me, I write quickly, clearly, and more strongly. As I built up proof that divine timing was more ideal than any schedule I could devise, I relaxed into trust and learned to flow my business.


One work instance where I am still flung back into rigidity and Type-A stress revolves around deadlines -- hard, crucial deadlines. Taxes need to be paid by April 15th. Credit card payments are due at the end of the month. These dates are not flexible and penalties are incurred if they are not met. Just having a deadline date is not enough to send me into a tailspin however. Two other elements are necessary to push me into stress overload. First is a large amount of diverse work. Never shy of a little hard work, I am very happy to roll up my sleeves and make it happen. But when the work is tied to a fixed deadline it triggers my worry and anxiety. This leads to cloudiness and inefficiency. Adding in the final part of the equation, not being able to complete the work on my own, and we have the trifecta of stress. Nothing frustrates me more than having a deadline to complete a lot of work and not being capable of completing the work on my own or needing to rely on others for their part of the work.

Being in the midst of just such a large workload with a fixed deadline for tasks I can not complete myself, I started to notice physical stress symptoms pop up; a little weight gain, unclear mind, inability to sleep soundly, and reaching for quick fix addictions to ease the anxiety. Once I realized the extent of my stress I stopped and took account of the situation. Instead of finding ways to make the work easier and faster (which I already had tried and just led to more fear and stress), I took a hard look at myself and my thoughts. I was trying to control things outside of my command which only led to more stress and worry. Instead I turned to trust. I recounted all the times when I let go and surrendered to divine timing and everything worked out better than I could have imagined. Also I let go of the desire to affect what I can not affect. The end result is that I feel better, I am more clear and able to act, and everything is happening as it should, when it should.