Doug and Lynn Nodland

Doug and Lynn Nodland

Have you heard the expression, “It’s like trying to put 10 pounds into a 5-pound bag”? We got to thinking about this expression lately because it usually means it’s about trying to do more than is possible. Life is busy enough and for some people it’s the norm to live by trying to do too much. This causes stress. Mahatma Gandhi said, “There’s more to life than increasing its speed.”

Around the holidays, people can definitely get caught up in trying to do too much. They do more cooking, entertaining, go to more events, are buying gifts, sending cards and making sure the stockings are hung with care. It’s easy to get stressed which leads to frustration. Keep it all in perspective. Robert Eliot puts it this way, “Rule No. 1, don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule No. 2, it’s all small stuff.”

The expression of “trying to put 10 pounds into a 5-pound bag” became apparent to us recently as we were doing some decorating. We wanted to look more festive. Maybe this has happened to you. You order something online. When the package arrives you open it with happy expectations only to realize that it won’t work for your situation.

We ordered covers for our dining room chairs. We hoped they would match the covers we already had. Unfortunately, they didn’t. We then pulled one cover out of its packaging to see if there would be any way we could use it. No, it wouldn’t work — and now we had to get it back into the package. It was like a Laurel and Hardy comedy watching two adults struggling to ‘put 10 pounds of chair cover into a 5-pound package.’ We strategized, planned ahead and took pictures of how the cover folded just to facilitate the job. However, the chair cover seemed to have doubled in size and didn’t want to go back in the package. Even though it created some minor stress, it got us laughing about how we couldn’t do it well.

With life, the stress of trying to do too much and pack it all in, can lead to some pretty significant stress and health problems. And that’s no laughing matter. So, let’s look at some of the health challenges that can arise and how to avoid these physical and mental health problems.

Chronic stress can result from being too busy. Heart disease, diabetes and many illnesses can develop. Try to avoid these by having a balanced life. Sometimes it’s hard to do when we’re too rushed. You already know it’s helpful to follow the basics in the areas of getting good sleep, adequate exercise, and having a healthy diet. Also, avoid abusing alcohol or stimulants. Establishing a routine and having an accountability partner can help.

Also, being healthy mentally contributes to keeping on track with physical health. Here are some suggestions. First, be social. This means not isolating. Engage in ways to be social that fit your personality without creating more stress and anxiety. Some people enjoy a few close friends, others get energized by a group. Aesop said, “A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.”

Learn to self-soothe. Do this to keep your body from over-reacting and sending out chemicals that are harmful for your physical and mental health. You can also practice prayer, meditation and relaxation to calm body, mind and spirit. Sydney Harris said, “The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”

Keep moving. When you keep yourself busy but not overwhelmed, it will stimulate the brain and body. Developing projects can stimulate learning and helps the brain to maintain and increase cognitive function. It can also be motivating.

Have a positive attitude. Studies have shown that a positive attitude not only helps mood but it also contributes to overall health. When you realize what you can control and what you can’t control, stress can be greatly reduced. Also, when you know what’s most important to you, you can live by your values, set priorities and lower stress. This reminds us of what Bruce Lee said, “It is not daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away the unessential.”

What about you? Are you struggling to put 10 pounds into a 5-pound bag in your life? We encourage you to use the suggestions here to help you decide how you want your life to be. Then your life can be even more enjoyable as you avoid the stress that can happen when you struggle to stuff too much into life.

Chanhassen residents Doug and Lynn Nodland are success coaches and owners of The Balance Center. Doug and Lynn can be contacted at More information and videos at