Our life coach columnist talks stress and the biggest thing you can do to manage it (and your long to-do list).
Yesterday, I was busy giving a full day presentation on resilience to a group of IT workers. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, I was exhausted by the time that I got home. I sat behind my desk and tried my best to focus and accomplish some work. However, no matter how hard I tried, my work output was nonexistent. Have you ever been so drained that you can’t even push yourself? Finally, I made a decision to just stop for today, get a good night’s sleep and start fresh in the morning.
After working out, I sat down at my desk to make out my to-do list. I had thought about some of the things that I wanted to accomplish for the last couple hours, and the list just kept getting longer and longer. As I filled out my list, I began to feel that anxious feeling when there are just too many things to do at once.
I was feeling stressed and I didn’t know where to start.
Now, here’s the thing about making out a to-do list. I did exactly what I tell everyone NOT to do. I made a list of everything that has to be accomplished in my personal AND professional life. I made a list of everything, and I mean everything, that is weighing on my mind and that I have been neglecting.
It was overwhelming because it was a crazy long list, and it was virtually impossible to accomplish everything in one day.
In other words, I was setting myself up for failure. There was no way that I could make a dent in that list. And even if I accomplished some of the many items on the list, way too many would still be left unchecked.
The problem was what was going on inside my head. I was evaluating my success based on my ability to accomplish my COMPLETE list. My expectations were unrealistic, to say the least. That was my first mistake. My second mistake was making one long list instead breaking down the list into separate days with each task prioritized. That would have eliminated the “overwhelmed feelings” that I was experiencing.
The truth about stress is that it’s all about perspective. It’s not about avoiding or reducing the things that cause you stress in your life. Often, that’s just impossible! It’s more about changing your perspective and expectations as you go through your day. If I could have practiced what I preach and changed the chatter that was going on inside my head, I could have eliminated some stress I was feeling in the last couple days.
Having the tools to be resilient is the first step. Actually utilizing those tools is the second and most important step. We all fall back into familiar negative patterns now and then. It’s what you do about it that really matters.