One of the main reasons why we are so much more stressed than, let’s say our grandparents were, is because we are taking on a lot more. We have families where each partner is working a full-time job and possibly a side hustle as well to make ends meet financially — or we’re a single parent trying to do all that. That leaves all the hard work of keeping house and raising a family, which needs to be done during “off” hours. Most of us no longer mentally clock out at the end of the workday. Instead, we take our work home, and are reachable at all hours via text message or email. Add to that the stress constant connectivity and social media creates and it’s no wonder we’re more stressed than ever.
It’s time to do something about it. It’s time to stop trying to do all the things all the time and focus on reducing stress in your life.
Where do you spend your time and energy?
Start by reviewing everything you do in a given day. A great tool for this is a time log. Keep a simple piece of paper or a small notebook with you at all times. Set an alert on your phone to go off every 30 minutes (during waking hours), and quickly jot down what you’re doing.
Be brutally honest. No one else needs to see this log and you can burn it after you’re done. After a week of logging, you get a pretty good idea of where you spend your time and mental energy. You’ll see both the productive ways you’re spending your time and the wasteful ways you’re spending it.
Now comes the fun part. When it comes to wasted time, it’s easy. Decide to stop wasting it and be more mindful of what you’re doing. When you notice yourself doing, or wanting to do, an activity that is wasting time, stop doing it and turn to something more productive. Use tools, such as social media app and website blockers, if you need to.
Next, look through your data for your more productive activities and decide what you can let go off. What can you stop doing? What doesn’t need to be done at all? What needs to be done but can be delegated to someone else to do?
Open up some time for yourself to exercise, meditate, or to take a nap so you can catch up on much needed sleep.
Do a brain dump
Next it’s time to review and release all those worries, questions, and “should-dos” that are stressing you out. Get out another sheet of paper or two and start to write down anything and everything on your mind. All the stuff you’ve been thinking about doing. All the stuff that’s been worrying you. Get it all out.
Walk away for a few hours and then come back to your list. Cross out as much as you can. Things that are out of your control and you decide to mentally release. Tasks that you feel like you should do, that you really don’t need to do. Things that aren’t your responsibility to think about, like appointments and projects that belong to other people.
Then rewrite what’s left on two different lists. One will be things you can do or have someone else do for you. This will become your master to-do list for the next few months. The other is a list of worries or concerns. Notice how much smaller and shorter those lists are and how much lighter you feel just getting it all out of your head.
Use the master to-do list to create your daily to-do list and to delegate tasks to others. As things get done, cross them off the master to-do list so you can see the progress you’re making. Use the list of worries to find solutions. Find a worry that you can’t solve? Then it’s something out of your control and needs to be crossed off your list!
Last but not least, go burn that master brain dump list. Doesn’t it feel good?
Wendy Miller is a meditation teacher, single mom coach & writer. She helps moms use mindfulness, meditation & self-care to create a calm & happy life. She lives in Florida with her two sons and enough pets for a zoo.
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