“One day I’m Polyester taffeta 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: