Man stressed surrounded by paper binders and crinkled paper
We all need relief valves.

When we installed a new hot water heater, I discovered a local ordinance that says there has to be a relief valve hooked up somewhere in the water system. If for some reason the thermostat doesn’t turn off the gas under the boiler, and the boiler is so hot it is ready to explode, the valve will pop off, and pressure will be relieved. Things may stay just as hot under the boiler, but at least it won’t blow up all over the house.

One of the most effective, long-range relief valves is to recognize what causes the buildup of pressure. If you see by your calendar that you are in for a few heavy weeks or too many late nights, block out some relief-valve time. This might be a half-day, whole day or extended weekend. Take yourself out of your normal situation. Place yourself in a situation in which past experience has shown you can forget what is going on. This may mean a day alone at the beach or the mountains, a day with your family, or a weekend away with your husband or wife. It’s a big help if couples will discuss their future schedules together to identify where the overload problems are and schedule in breaks in the routine.

In addition to the count-to-10 pressure reliever with which most of us are familiar, there are some others:

  • Staying ahead of your work is a good way to relieve the pressure of your schedule. By scheduling a completion time 10 percent to 20 percent ahead, you have the peace of knowing there’s time to recover if things go wrong.
  • Doing the hard things first, particularly if they have a great deal of emotional content, will relieve the subterranean emotions that tend to plague us in different situations.
  • Getting enough sleep is a must. Know how long you can get along with a reduced amount.
  • Do the difficult tasks in phases. Often a “first draft” will get you 80 percent of the way along. Time for “topping off” the finished product can be better foreseen, and meeting the deadline seems less of a task.
  • Have planned recreation and hobbies. I am a wood carver and a carpenter of sorts. Setting aside time for this activity helps me relax. Other people enjoy different methods of unwinding. One of my close friends has a way of announcing to his secretary when he will be finding some relief. If he says, “I’m going to inspect some real estate at 3 o’clock,” you can be sure that you’ll find him on the first tee at the golf course.
  • Admitting and verbalizing the causes for your own irritations (be they lack of sleep, overworking, too much stress or what have you) helps [keep] others from getting emotional with you and triggering unexpected explosions.
  • Facing up to the fact you really can’t do all the things you scheduled and that some of them need to be postponed is probably the best relief valve of all. This can be a humbling experience, but the rewards in personal well-being are great.

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