Good Bye Hamster Wheel, Hello Less Stress!


Feeling a little stress? Maybe you’ve been on the run so long you haven’t tapped into just how stressed you are. It doesn’t take long before that stressed state feels normal. In fact, you may not know what to do with yourself when you have a few moments to breathe!

It’s all too common to do life hamster-style – perpetually running, but getting nowhere!

For a hamster, the hamster wheel is an ingenious invention – a way for hamsters to run like crazy in a very small space. Did you know that wild hamsters run up to 5 miles every night while searching for food? That’s like climbing Mount Everest every night! Hamsters love to run! That’s what they were made to do.

Assuming the average hamster is 3”, that makes me roughly 21 times the size of a hamster.  In order to keep up with a hamster’s nightly five miles, I would have to run 105 miles every night! That’s a whole lot of running, and I assure you I was not made for that! I am guessing you weren’t either!

Take a minute to pause and think about it. How much margin do you have in your life right now? How much time are you setting aside for activities that are life-giving? What about activities that set you up for success, like time with God, exercise, healthy meals, or reflecting?

You were designed to work, but you weren’t designed to JUST work. You were meant to have a regular rhythm of working hard and resting well. When you are perpetually in motion and running yourself ragged, it’s as if you are doing life on a hamster-wheel!

Wheel Stoppers

I confess, I used to be a pro hamster wheel kind of gal! In fact, it was challenging for me to slow down and relax. I deprived myself of life-giving activities, the luxury of resting, and making space to truly tune into how I was feeling.

That all came to a serious halt when I contracted Lyme disease. I simply didn’t have the energy to continue the brisk pace I’d been accustomed to. Doing life at a slower pace revealed three valuable insights to me:

  • I was missing out on some sweet moments. It turns out that the sweetest moments in life are not big moments, they are the little moments that sneak by unless I’m going slow enough to notice them.
  • Blazing through life is stressful, and stress does nothing positive for my health, not to mention it takes a toll on everything – work, relationships, and beyond!
  • I was actually more effective when I did less.

Thankfully, Lyme disease is no longer dictating my life. And I’ve ditched my hamster wheel – no more spinning for me!

If you are in hamster wheel mode, I pray you will step off intentionally before you encounter your own wheel stopper!

New Ways of Being

Rather than reverting back to my old ways, I began focusing on three new ways of being that have significantly decreased the level of stress in my life, increased my effectiveness, and made life unbelievably more pleasant!

I am taking great care to BE…

1. A Conduit

Life is most satisfying when I live in a way that honors who God created me to be and reflects Him. That’s being “loving” for me. When I approach life from that perspective, it changes everything! Fear shrinks and I’m able to live more authentically. Instead of feeling the pressure to be productive, I see opportunities to be more fruitful. I’m also more able to trust God and let go of the outcome.

There are still moments when I drift back to my fearful ways when my Fear Monster perks up. However, the more I let my Fear Monster call the shots, the more my focus is on the paralyzing negative what ifs. Sadly, when that’s my focus, whatever I‘m afraid of seems to become a reality.

And to complicate life more, when my Fear Monster is at work, it has a way of triggering the Fear Monsters in those around me, resulting in conflict, hurt feelings, and other stress filled happenings.

Being a conduit, on the other hand, is living from God and knowing how deeply loved and treasured I am in His eye. I don’t have to earn it – He just loves me! From that loved place, I am able to live with purpose and be the loving woman that God created me to be.

Your purpose will also flow out of God’s love for you and provide you with purpose and a way of being. While for me it’s being loving, for you it might be…

      • Trusting
      • Courageous
      • Compassionate
      • Authentic
      • Steadfast
      • Creative
      • Beautiful
      • Focused
      • Generous
      • Some other characteristic of God

You Need God’s Help!

Walking fully in who God created you to be requires His help – it’s not something that comes naturally to you. I am not naturally a loving person – it’s how God is reflected in my life. God may have created you to be courageous or creative or generous and that probably doesn’t come naturally to you either. Whatever you focus on grows, so I encourage you to keep your focus on who God created YOU to BE! Living life from that place makes a powerful difference and naturally diminishes fear.

Behind all the frenzied activity is fear.

2. Creative

Expressing myself in artsy crafty ways, coming up with new recipes, decorating, writing, leading webinars, and solving problems in innovative ways are all creative activities I find very satisfying. Yet when life gets hectic, these sorts of endeavors either get squeezed out or suffer greatly in quality. And even worse, my soul feels it!

Depriving myself of creative activities makes me less productive and more resentful!

I’ve given myself permission to be creative – it’s no longer a someday-when-I-have-time kind of activity, but something I do nearly every day. There are so many simple ways to be creative. One of my latest creative adventures has been reverse coloring.

Creativity is more than just artsy crafty activities. I want to infuse my work with creativity too. That shift has made an amazing difference on the quality and fruitfulness of my work, plus I enjoy it so much more.

Creativity may not light you up the way it does me, but I am confident that you are creative too! It might be writing, building, coming up with games to play with your kids, or dancing like crazy! Whatever your creative outlets are, give yourself permission to engage in those activities regularly. It’s energizing and it brings new life to everything you do, including your work. Your personal creative moments will naturally positively impact your professional moments!

3. In Community

Relationships, which are one of my top five values, have always been important to me. When life kicks into high gear, work is demanding, and deadlines are looming, time with others often gets crowded out. The truth is that I work better from a relationally filled up place – it’s good for my soul!

Don’t just take it from me, here’s what researchers discovered about the people of Roseto, Pennsylvania. Between 1955-1965, Roseto was inhabited by predominantly Italian Americans, who for some reason rarely died of heart disease. Researchers picked apart just about every aspect of their life to determine why. In spite of many of them working in toxic environments, having toxic habits like smoking or eating an unhealthy diet, and suffering from discrimination, they didn’t have heart attacks. Turns out their tight knit families and strong community ties were literally nourishing their hearts!

The culture in Roseto began to change in the 1970’s as single family homes, fenced yards, country clubs were added – things that detracted from the community ties of Roseto. And in 1971 the first person under the age of 45 died in Roseto from a heart attack.

We were made for relationships. Not shallow connections, but deep, connected relationships!

Fewer Laps!

It’s true! You won’t get in as many laps on your hamster wheel when you choose to walk in who God created you to be, make space for being creative, and engage in community. However, you will appreciate life more and approach your work from a filled-up place so that you are able to do more work with less effort – and a whole lot less stress!

Dissatisfied with the pace and stress level of your life?

Tired of running like crazy yet not reaching your goals?

Ready to step off your hamster wheel and “BE” so that you are able to stress less?

Originally posted on 10/3/17, this post has been updated and revised just for you!


© Can Stock Photo / tiero

Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas is an author, entrepreneur, ICF certified coach, Career Direct Consultant, DISC consultant, and HBDI practitioner. She helps her coaching clients sharpen their skills, face their fears, eliminate funky mindsets, hone their habits, and cultivate clarity so they can THRIVE personally and professionally. Schedule a consultation with Marvae here.


  1. April on October 4, 2017 at 8:04 am

    Hamster-wheel mode is a difficult pattern for me to break. I grew up with it and as you referenced, our society nurtures it. I took up your suggestion to put one creative/fun activity into the lineup of priorities every day. Although that doesn’t always happen, I’m getting more consistent with setting aside the time for it. I love it every time I do!

    • Marvae on October 4, 2017 at 9:27 am

      Delighted to hear that you have been making it a priority to include one creative/fun activity into your daily lineup! Getting more consistent with that is progress. The fact that you love it – I hope that will help you keep making it a priority and lessen the stress in your life. Thanks for sharing!

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