I have been speeding through life my whole life so learning to slow down was a brand new way of living. Hitting milestones felt as vital to me as oxygen. Chasing the approval of other people was the primary motivator. So often and ridiculously, I have found myself chasing the approval of people I don’t even aspire to be.
Feeling like I need to rush from task to task from the moment I wake up to the moment the lights go out can be exhausting and leave me feeling like I am stretched so thin that I might just break.
What does this look like exactly, in real life? Well, It all starts with lists. I would make lists a LOT of lists. I would make lists about lists and pride myself on my efficient abilities as I tick them off one by one. Often as I tick off a task, I add a new one at the same time and so continues the merry-go-round of “busy-ness”. I could lay in bed at night, mentally making new lists, and until I write them down, they mull around in my mind stealing my precious sleep.
During the day, I was smashing a myriad of tasks and not taking time to enjoy any of it. I often felt resentful of everything I had to do in a day. Everything that I put on my own plate. The more I did, the more I felt I could do more, and so it snowballed. I would pile so much on as well as taking responsibility for others that I end up in a screaming heap in no time—wondering how this happened again, week after week.
I think when this habit formed initially, I was keeping myself busy so I didn’t have to deal with some challenging life experiences and associated emotions. Setting “busy-ness” as my default pattern has seen me succeed in lots of ways but has also been my downfall when it comes to maintaining balance in my life. Trying to get busy avoiding the shitty parts of your life is not a great plan, nor does it make them go away.
So what have I done to ease this onslaught of stress I give to myself? I have scaled back to 2 lists, one on my computer and one on my phone. Each morning I consolidate these and only do what is on the list for that day. In my morning “planning with myself sessions” I think about what I can realistically do that day, without burning out and I add those things to the final list. Everything else gets bumped to another day.
I have also turned off notifications on my phone, so I can choose when to accept external distractions, and I use the do not disturb tool on my phone from 8 pm-7 am. This has been an absolute game-changer.
I am much quicker to respond to a request from someone with an “I will have a think about it and get back to you” as opposed to agreeing to do something, feeling obligated, likely cancelling and feeling ultimately guilty later on down the road. It saves so much trouble, and I find people are generally pretty understanding if you are straight up about what you do and don’t want to do from the beginning.
They say you shouldn’t take criticism from someone in which you wouldn’t take advice. Keeping this in mind, I’ve realised that it’s healthy to be able to receive constructive criticism from those you would take advice from, but the only real approval I need is my own.