There is nothing wrong with getting things done! The trick is striking the tension between getting things done and making time to relax. Attempting to do more than is realistic creates stress.
By now you have gathered that I like to get things done! In fact, I am able to get a surprising number of things done. Relaxing, on the other hand, that does not come so naturally to me! It is something I have to intentionally work at!
I have been challenged by my One Word for 2016: RECEIVE, to slow down and “receive” the gift of a more relaxing pace of life. One of the ways I have intentionally gone about doing this is by periodically getting massages – my little treat to me! It has been heavenly! Carving out time for a massage is not easy, but has been so worth the effort. A tiny way I am attempting to actively combat the stress in my life.
Addictions in general are perceived in a negative light. The one exception seems to be stress. How crazy is it that being stressed is viewed as inevitable and a necessary part of becoming successful in life; a badge of honor for being a productive contributor! Yet prolonged periods of stress take a toll on your health and quality of life!
You just don’t hear people sharing how relaxed they are. Relaxing can be uncomfortable, maybe even a little anxiety producing, or evoke guilt – imagine what you could be getting done instead! If you are in the habit of perpetually doing, developing the new habit of relaxing takes practice just like any new skill would.
Before you can successfully incorporate any new habit into your life, including relaxing, you must first get to the heart of the matter and identify the belief or beliefs that have resulted in stress. As you begin to process, consider how these factors might be contributing:
1. Your Core Fear
Your core fear motivates you to make choices that keep you stressed and striving. A whole lot of energy is exerted in an effort to prove that fear wrong and all that effort actually reinforces the fear rather than overcoming it.
My core fear: “I don’t matter.” In an attempt to increase my chances of mattering, I focus on being ultra-productive. The only problem is that it prevents me from “being,” and enjoying life, and eventually wears me out. Since I can’t really earn my way to mattering more so my ruthless efforts are a waste of time! The truth is that I am already incredibly valuable to the One who matters most, and those in my life appreciate me more when I have time for them.
How might your core fear be perpetuating your stressful way of life?
- I don’t matter – If I do more it will make me matter more!
- I am not enough – If I do more it will prove I am enough!
- I am selfish – If I do more to help others it will demonstrate that I am not selfish
- I am stupid – If I do great things it will prove that I am smart
- I am invisible – If I work hard people will notice me
- I am lazy – If I perpetually work it will prove I am hard-working
- I am rejected – If I work really hard I will be accepted
- I am a fake – If I do more it will prove that I am genuine
- I am weak – If I do more it will demonstrate that I am strong
- I am incompetent – If I do more it will validate that I am competent
- I am ordinary – If I do more it will verify that I am extraordinary
- I am a loser – If I do more it will make me more successful
- I am _______________ – Fill in your own core fear.
2. The Victim Mindset
Swimming upstream – that takes effort! In a performance driven culture like ours, saying no to the things that up your stress levels is not easy. Contrary to popular thought, however, stress is not something that happens to you, it is your response to the choices you make! You are not a victim of stress.
If you want a more relaxed life, you must take responsibility for your responses to the external changes and challenges of life. You must also take responsibility for the things you take on. Creating a more relaxed life is your job!
In order to be proactive, you might have to make some hard decisions in order to do the following:
- Simplify your life
- Change your focus
- Get clear on your values and priorities
- Embrace a healthy lifestyle – exercise, rest, water, and nutritious food
- Avoid other stress addicts or energy drainers
- Deal with what’s got you in perpetual motion (core fear or what’s really bothering you)
- Center your life in Christ – know that you are extremely valuable by Him!
- Focus on your purpose – stop comparing and copying
- Slow down! – no multitasking and be fully present
- Connect – invest in your relationships
- Do the things you love – they refuel you!
- Respond to the things you can’t change – refuse to worry and embrace new strategies
- Journal – a great way to identify stressors and turn venting into a positive perspective
- Eliminate commitments
- Get organized
- Stop trying to control everything
- Keep plenty of margin in your schedule
- Set more reasonable expectations
- Maintain boundaries
- Practice gratitude daily
- Help others – volunteer
3. Awkward Feelings
If you have been under stress for a prolonged period of time, incorporating more relaxation into your life will feel a bit awkward and uncomfortable. It is a muscle that has not been used in a good long time! This is expected! Push past the discomfort, you won’t regret strengthening that muscle! As you learn to relax more your stress levels will decrease (your friends, family, and body will thank you!) your quality of life will increase.
As I sat in the waiting area for my most recent massage, everyone was glued to their phones. It was a perfect example of how uncomfortable people are when they have nothing to do and how “just being” is challenging! What if waiting was an opportunity to practice “being?”
You create your own stress. You are also the solution to your own stress. That’s good news! While you can’t change all of your circumstances, you can change your responses to them resulting in a calmer life.
You did not arrive at this level of stress overnight, and you won’t eliminate it overnight either! It will take time, patience, and determination. As you set your intention each day towards a more stress free lifestyle, ask yourself these three questions:
- How do I want to feel at the end of this day?
- What’s most important today?
- How can I realistically accomplish what’s most important today in a stress free way?
What’s one change you can make that will decrease the stress in your life?