Why do we spend so much of our time piling the pressure onto ourselves to get every little thing done that crosses our mind like a frog hopping through traffic in a rain shower?
I really got to pondering this on vacation. Why was it that I could relax even though my to do list never changed or disappeared- it just got put on hold like a customer service representative likes to do after you ask for their supervisor. I know I had the beautiful surroundings of the beach, palm trees and sunshine- those things all of course help. But if I’m being honest, I wondered if it was because I don’t help myself when I’m NOT on vacation. I wanted to maintain my diluted stress levels once we got home. I told Bryan, “I want to live everyday like I’m on bacay-tion” (there’s a bit of a terrible Dominican Accent placed on vacation in that phrase- just stay with me). I’m just getting down-right tired of not enjoying life and if I could manage to do it for a week, I knew I could manage it for a little longer.
Like a brain surgeon operating on themselves, I evaluated what the differences were, what do I do that helps, and what do I do wrong (probably not something you want a brain surgeon to be evaluating). What changed between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning? Was it something in the air? Maybe the vitamins from the extra sunshine were the secret? Did it have to do with the unlimited amount of snacks around me on vacation? How much tequila was actually in this margarita?!
Tuesday evening at home rolled into Wednesday afternoon at the Punta Cana airport, but the to do list still existed. I didn’t delegate it to my assistant (mostly because I don’t have an assistant). I still had to complete the same number of tasks, whether I was napping on my pool float or sipping on a tropical beverage or at home- it didn’t matter. However- here was the difference I noticed. When I am home, I have a tendency to write down to do list items anywhere and everywhere. I claim its so I don’t forget to do the things, but maybe I need to let go and allow myself to forget them. Is wrapping my Christmas gifts really something I need to nag myself about everyday until I get them done? Something tells me I won’t forget to wrap them up before the 25th. So the list still exists on vacation, but it wasn’t visible at every turn.
While my therapist suggested that writing the lists may not be helpful to my anxiety, it does ease it (even if temporary) to get it all written down. Written down and out of the constant fog of my brain. If my mind had a daily weather report for itself, everyday would be foggy with a slight chance of sun. So if I jot it out, I know that I at least told a slice of paper what I needed to get done just in case it gets lost in the mayhem. On the flip side- I also understand that I may get a little out of control with the writing of them- like marathon level, 26.2 miles of lists. No, I do not need to write down to brush my teeth and feed myself on those lists. So I have been trying to find a happy medium between the chaos of not having a list and the time commitment of Olympic medal to do lists. I know it helps to write it down and get it out, but I wasn’t limiting myself to what I wrote down or how much- and that was the problem.
No one can function with something (or someone- but if its someone you might want to call the cops), constantly following them and nagging and screaming for more attention. I mean, except for Moms. They can with their littles because its their superpower, but the average gal wouldn’t be able to get much done or feel very good about doing it. That’s what I was essentially doing to myself- creating this colossal stalker that I continued to feed and grow. I’m kind of shocked about how much control I truly held over stressing myself out. That’s part of the struggle with anxiety though- it doesn’t give you much free time to kick back and watch your life unwrap, its more like that adorable, but slobbery three year old cousin you have that will tear through your wrapped Christmas gifts like a tornado because they just don’t quite understand the concept that everything isn’t for them.
I think I have a solution to this mess I get myself into though. I’m not sure if the solution will work honestly, sounds like it might- but I’m going through the trial run now. I will continue to write a to do list, however instead of the never ending, multi-page lists that I used to keep in a notebook- I will shrink that slice of paper down significantly. I have two things that I need to do when I get home. Somehow, the hour drive between the office and home becomes a black hole and all thoughts I had earlier in the day are sucked in and never return so I knew I needed to write these down. I grabbed the bright purple stack of Post It notes off my desk and added my little check boxes and next to those wrote out the two things I could not forget to do upon arrival to my homestead. There was my ah-ha moment. Hit me upside the head like a foul ball. I will no longer be in a long term, controlling relationship with my notebook. If I want more time to enjoy life, I need to give myself the opportunity to relax and I cannot do that while sprinting through my list like a contestant of Supermarket Sweep. To do that, I will contain the things I need to get done on a single sticky note- one per day.
Wish me luck. I’ll try not to start writing in microscopic font sizes just to fit it all on the sticky. For the next couple weeks, or days- depending on which my attention span can last- I’ll share some updates about how my sticky note a day challenge is going on my Instagram, (@chasingmythirties). Here’s to saving trees and opening up more time to appreciate life a little more and my to do list a little less.