April is Stress Management Month, which seems timely because Spring is always a crazy time in our house. On top of the normal stress I already feel in all aspects of my life, we add a few club sports, summer preparation, car tag payments, and lawn mowing schedules, plus normally some sort of house repair. I needed tools to help me be a better me by managing the stress in my life. So, I visited a counselor.
As requested, I made a list of everything that was stressing me out. When I discussed the list with my counselor, you know what happened? He told me, “you say ‘should’ a lot.”
My response? “Okay, but what does that mean?”
He explained that saying “should” all the time meant that I continued to expect my life to be a certain way and, when it wasn’t, I would feel failure. This was causing constant stress because I was expecting so much of myself all the time.
And you know what? This realization CHANGED MY LIFE.
Let me break it down; let’s apply the horse and carrot analogy here. To get a horse to move, you put a carrot out in front of the horse. The horse wants the carrot and starts taking steps to get that carrot. The horse goes over beautiful hills and streams, passing other horses and making a lot of progress. But , the horse doesn’t see it because it really only wants that carrot. Then the horse starts getting mad because its not succeeding in actually getting the carrot. The horse has traveled over 600 miles; isn’t that success? But unless that carrot is in its mouth, the horse doesn’t see the progress. It only sees the fact that it doesn’t have the carrot.
I was that horse. Everyday that carrot seemed just as far away and everyday I felt more stress & sadness because I couldn’t get to where I “should” be…
I was a “shouldie”.
Instead of enjoying my life, where I was at, what I was doing, I was constantly thinking I should be doing something else.
Should I stop being so strict? Should I be more strict?
Maybe I shouldn’t care so much about the little things?
Should I drink more water?
Should I pray more? Should I be praying with my kids & husband?
Should I give the kids more emotional attention?
Was my marriage the way it should be?
Should I be working harder, or am I working too hard?
I was driving myself crazy.
Are you a “shouldie”?
Do you constantly expect more out of yourself and ignore what you have already accomplished? Are you struggling in keeping everything you should be doing balanced with the life you are living?
Here is how to break that brain train:
- Give yourself a break! Every time you think “should”, stop and ask yourself why. Then if you really feel like you aren’t doing the best job, think of 3 reasons why you are better than you were 2 years ago.
- Take small steps and don’t get caught up in your head; there is time to improve your life every day so you don’t feel overwhelmed. You want to lose 30 pounds? You have to lose 1 lb first. Want to be a more patient mom? Try working on morning routines for the first month.
- Find the tools to help you get out of your head; journals, lists, find a friend to listen, get a planner, put events on your calendar, an app with push reminders, etc. Use whatever works for you!
- Enjoy your life. Please, please enjoy your life. Stop putting so much pressure on what you should be doing and enjoy what you ARE doing.
- Don’t be a “shouldie”. Don’t waste away these precious years telling yourself you aren’t doing the best you can. Start focusing on your life as it is today, and the progress you are making every day because girl, you are doing a good job.
For more stress management tips from licensed professionals, I included some links below!
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