During the rush before the holidays this year, my son’s teacher was sharing how she was so busy and stressed out that at one point, she just stopped. She had a thousand things spinning in her head – but she hit the wall, and just sat down, zombie-like at her computer screen for 30 minutes or so. Her brain and body had said enough, and just needed time to catch up.
It reminds me that often our stress comes from the crazy notion that we can do it all. It drives us harder and to falsely believe there is no end to our capacity to go harder. Less stress will never result from doing more.
In fact, evidence shows that most stress is a result of constantly striving to fit more into our finite available time. And, there is frightening evidence that constant stress drives nearly 70% of us to the doctor with stress-related health concerns.
So, instead of starting the new year with more on your to do list, and heavily-weighted goals, consider a new way to approach your resolutions this year. Why not try to focus on less stress, and create a “New Year’s Don’t Do List ”?
List Your Stressors
First, sit down with a pen and pad of paper, and write out a list of your stressors. Your list may include juggling schedules, home, and work tasks, meeting others’ expectations, juggling kids activities, fitness, no time for yourself, and an overall feeling of too much work. Don’t judge as you brainstorm your ideas; just get them out of your head. The focus is to “dump your bucket” or empty your head down on paper. Once you’ve captured ideas on paper, read it for a more objective look at what’s true for you right now. In my case, when I work late and skip yoga and my workout, my stress level, and physical health are impacted. Even though those two activities add to my list, ultimately the lower stress. When I let them go to make time for other things, I am dissatisfied as a result.
Determine Stressors You Can Control
For less stress, the next step is essential. It’s important to see who is behind the stressors and determine which are ‘external’ or ‘internal’. External stress is put upon you by others: employer expectations are a good example of an external stressor. Internal stressors are those things you do as a result of how you’re wired up. Internal stressors are those over which you have decision-making authority and ultimately control. When you’ve reviewed your list place a check mark next to those items you feel you have some control over.
Determine Your Motivation
This essential step is here for you to determine your own level of drive to take action on. Knowing what and even how to do something is very different than actually doing it! How many times have you fantasized about something, yet taken no action toward it? Nothing changes in your life without focus and your action. So, review your list and ask yourself: “What am I willing to STOP DOING to make a difference with this stressor?” If you’re motivated to create less stress, then you must consider what you are motivated to stop doing that causes step in your life.
Write Your Don’t Do’s
Now that you’ve determined what you are willing to stop doing for less stress, write it down for yourself. Also, include your expected “result”: I will stop working at 9 pm at least three times per week so I can spend bedtime with my boys and do a gentle yoga routine in before I go to bed.
Different people measure success differently – but it is proven that accountability increases when you share your new goal with a partner or support group. Ask a friend or family member to be your accountability advocate. Give them permission to confront you when you are not behaving in alignment with your “Don’t Do” Goal. In my case, my children are excellent at advocating a “promise” that I’ve made when I am out of bounds.
In conclusion, often doing less gives you the time and space to feel more satisfied in life. When you figure out activities that are less important, drop them and do less. Enjoy the downtime. Within downtime, you’ll discover time to do things you really want – even if it’s doing nothing at all. Get sane this year by doing less.