If you asked most adults in the United States about their biggest source of stress, I would the wager the most frequent answer to be overwhelm.
The number of things to do on most people’s “to do” list is staggering and it seems most people add more things to it than they accomplish on a daily basis. In fact, the dreaded “to do” list has become an affliction that weighs us down and steals our joy, year in and year out.
There are even rules now about how many things you need to have on a “to do” list on any given day, along with arguments about how large a task has to be in order to be written down. People are literally stressing over the lists that are supposed to eliminate stress!
I, too, am one of the many people who suffer from this affliction. If my list gets too long, then I get anxious. If it is too short, then I feel sure I am leaving out something important. One way to overcome this is to focus on your most important task (MIT) each day. There are lots of books and websites that touch on this concept. Here is an article by Leo Babauta that I really like.
With this being said, here are some other suggestions on how to stop feeling overwhelmed:
You Don’t Have To Keep Score Anymore
Sometimes we need to be reminded of even the most basic things in life. I read this quote today on Courtney Carver’s blog Be More With Less. She had posted an article about feeling overwhelmed that made several wonderful points, but this one especially stood out to me. (Read the whole article here.)
Although no one ever comes straight out and says “You are in competition with ever other individual on the planet” we all know that we are, or are expected to be.
Our well-meaning parents set us up for this when we begin school, or sometimes even before that. After all, academics are important, right? Then there’s sports, sibling rivalry, college entrance exams, job interviews, salaries, house size, retirement accounts, etc.
What’s even worse is that people now even keep score on social media. Who has taken the most lavish vacation or had the most elaborate wedding or baby shower?
And what’s worse still, we often compete through our children as well. It’s all about whose child makes better grades, is a better athlete, got into a better school, etc.
Well, guess what? You don’t have to keep score anymore. And we all do it to some extent, whether we realize it or not.
But we can all recognize it as something we do and then make the conscious decision to stop right now.
Is all competition bad? Of course not. Be we need to keep it in perspective. Then we can better allocate our time, energy and finances accordingly.
Working Part Time (Or Not At All) Does Not Make You Lazy
In the United States, we live in a society that is very accomplishment driven. People who do not possess the killer instinct to work excessive hours and ruthlessly climb the ladder of success are often deemed lazy in the eyes of others. Stay at home mothers catch a great deal of this judgement, but tell someone you are a stay at home wife with no children and people go nuts!
Why would one family’s personal lifestyle decision matter to anyone else? Especially f it doesn’t affect them at all?
As of February 27, 2019, there is a documentary on Netflix called Happy that I highly recommend everyone watch. It details what makes people happy in various walks of life, and it turns many conventional ideas upside down. It will literally change the way you think about everything in life.
But back to working – it is okay not to work full time, just like it is okay to want less possessions and more free time in your life. These things usually come together as a package deal for most people.
Never allow the judgments of other people rule your life. Your happiness matters, not their opinions.
It’s Okay To Be You
I know this one sounds simplistic, but most of us have still not learned this lesson no matter how many times it is taught. You should make the decision today that you will be yourself no matter what it takes. You should always:
- love you
- like you
- spend time with just you
- understand you
- believe in you
- be kind to you
- see the beauty in you
- take care of you
- appreciate you
Until we all learn to do these things, we will never be truly happy. You must be happy in your own skin and your own head. Stop trying to do so much and spend some time just being.
Do Something For Someone Else
Nothing puts life in perspective so much as helping someone else. Many times this brings real issues to the forefront and allows insignificant things to fade to the background of our lives, allowing us to focus our time and attention on what truly matters.
Selfless acts of love and generosity are the root of many wonderful things in life. This happens because we are thinking of someone else instead of ourselves. Just think what would happen if everyone on the planet did that for one whole day!!!
Mother Teresa was quoted as saying:
Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.
Not so very long ago people who practiced mediation in the United States were considered to be a little “out there” in many ways. Thankfully, those days are long gone since people of all ages and walks of life have discovered the wondrous benefits of turning everything off for a few minutes each day and learning shut out all the noise.
It can literally change the structure of your brain.
If you have never tried mediation, here is a guide on Zen Habits to get you started. Also, there is a resource by Bob Proctor that I use virtually everyday, somethings multiple times a day. I often listen to it in the background using headphones while I am working at the computer during the day. It is a guided meditation that I absolutely love!
You knew this would be on the list, right? Because it is on every list of everything that makes our life better. Your brain actually changes when you practice habitual gratitude for an ongoing period of time (much like meditation, which makes these two a winning combination).
Begin each and every morning by thinking of all the good things in your life and saying “thank you” for all of them. Be sure to include small things in your list as well as the big things. Right now I am thinking how grateful I am for my sight, so I can see to type this blog post. I am also grateful for my computer, my internet and electricity, my desk and chair, the heater at my feet, the time to do this, etc.
It is especially helpful to practice gratitude when things are going wrong in life or when you feel discouraged or down. Gratitude can turn your disposition around in a matter of seconds if you allow it.
Wishing you an abundance of happiness!