Can You Outsource Your Anxiety?

How taking back charge of your time can lower stress and ease your mind.

Posted Dec 21, 2017

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Source: Flickr

As the end of the year nears, often times individuals begin running themselves ragged feeling the days escape them as dawn turns to dusk in the blink of an eye.  There are gifts to wrap, end of the year work tasks to complete, and the societal pressure to plaster a merry smile while just barely surviving. 

Naturally, the end of the year is a time to pause and reflect upon where our time has gone, what tasks remain and how we truly want to spend our time.  It is natural to feel frustrated when a few precious days off of work equate to completing chores, housework, paying bills and hauling Christmas trees.  When is there ever time to fully rest and recover?

The concept of outsourcing for help has been gaining more popularity over time.  In fact, the outsourcing of domestic help was quite common a century ago and is increasing slowly according to sociology professor Mignon Duffy.  Ads targeted to us from companies such as Blue Apron and Hello Fresh are helping make dinnertime an easier affair and further popularizing the notion.  Housecleaning services are being employed even by those with little disposable income.  It seems the idea of outsourcing help is catching on.

However, at what point does asking for help denote a willingness to dispel rumors of superhero-like abilities to do it all, and when is it just plain laziness?  It all depends on the context.  Many personal finance authors such as David Bach might consider outsourcing to be frivolous, equating them with a “latte factor”—essentially those insidious small expenditures that amount to a lot of money over time.  But if the time saved by outsourcing can lead to more productive work hours or priceless time back with children and loved ones, it can be a wise investment.

As a therapist, I find that my clients rarely report one acute stressor; rather it is the constellation of smaller chronic stressors that add up.  This is consistent with research that indicates it is the chronic stressors that can take a toll on our health over the long haul.  While a sudden stressor such as a flat tire may derail our plans and aggravate us for a few days or weeks until we get a new tire or patch one up, that incessant rattling of unknown origin in our car can actually do us more harm. 

When it comes to outsourcing, it is a matter of evaluating which stressors are chronic and can be handled.  For some, it is the pink scum that lines the shower after a month of scrubbing neglect; each time they step in they are irritated and bothered.  For others, it is the never-ending stream of emails and playing phone tag that must be attended to.  There are many services that aim to ease your anxiety and give back time (including a service that will stand in line for you!). 

Some of the most commonly employed services include: cleaning, cooking, lawn/yard care, car maintenance, beauty services, laundry, personal shopping, dog walking, babysitting/nannying, and personal assistants.  While screening applicants and reputable companies can be its own stressor, many claim the secret to their success is smart outsourcing.  Without the mental burden of worrying when the laundry will get done, one can devote far more mental energy toward whatever aspirations they may possess.  Further, by calculating their own hourly wages for the week, they can make an informed decision regarding whether or not it makes financial sense to pay for a task to be completed by others. 

Not too long ago, I tried Stitchfix and Trunk Club to make up for my hatred of going to the mall and fighting for a parking spot while sifting through clothes that were perpetually sold out in my size.  I wound up cancelling both services as neither ended up meeting my needs.  However, this also doesn’t mean I’d never try out such a service again.  These companies are still relatively new and are quickly learning from customer’s needs and are adapting. 

As the year ends, consider taking some time to reflect on those frustrating tasks that always seem to nag at you.  Can you outsource them?  Is it possible that the time you’d spend scrubbing the stove could be better spent doing an hour of yoga instead?  There are only so many hours in the day and with lives becoming busier, being open to asking for help is key.  So as you start thinking about New Year’s resolutions, don’t just focus on the gym and eating better.  Think about the precious value of your time and making the most of it in 2018.