Twenty-first century life can be defined using one word – stressful! The noise, the deadlines, money, expectations, and time restraints. Sleep deprivation and food cravings, where does it all end? As busy as we are, taking care of all the things that pass our way, the truth is that we create an enormous amount of stress for ourselves. Our minds are stress factories, constantly taking in information, processing it, and creating unnecessary panic that we add to our drained emotions.
The good news is that you can do something about this! The truth is, sometimes we just think too much. We spend hours thinking about things we have to do, things we want to say, things we want to buy or find, etc. We replay our mistakes over and over in our heads. No wonder we have no energy! Instead of using your time and energy storing all this stuff in your head, put your thoughts on paper.
1. Things to do
One wing of this mental stress factory is named, “Things I have to do.” Don’t rely on your memory to get you to all your important appointments. When it fails you you’ll be three times as upset. Maintain lists of things to do, and mark next to each task how long the task will take. Number tasks in the order in which you should perform them or group them by priority. This will help you break your larger projects into smaller tasks so they don’t seem overwhelming, and will prevent you from forgetting important deadlines.
When you assign each task a time limit, you can also schedule them right into your day planner. Then you can see that you only have to struggle through your thesis in thirty-minute increments, and then you’re free to go out and play. Bonus!
2. Things to say
The stress factory in our heads has another wing named, “What I want to say.” Amazing creatures as we are, we regularly spend hours and hours thinking about conversations, arguments, presentations, and situations in our head. At the end of it all, we’re entirely exhausted, and the real work hasn’t even begun!
If you’re stuck on a conversation with yourself, write it down. You’ll remove the worry of trying to remember what you’re going to tell your boss when you give your notice, or how to phrase that difficult question to your son. Your mind will be free to move on to other, more important and enjoyable tasks.
3. Learning experiences
The most challenging output that you get from this stress factory comes from the wing titled, “What I did wrong.” Life is one learning experience after another, cunningly disguised as something we like to call “failure.” In the age of better-faster-stronger-first, we’re not encouraged to make mistakes. The winning ticket goes to those who can do it right the first time, straight out of the chute. Just because this mindset is popular doesn’t make it right, and when we don’t get the results we expected, we’re overly harsh about it.
Just like a conversation, work out your situation on paper. What happened? How did it happen? What did you learn? What questions will you ask next time? What do you need to complete the experience? End your journaling with a short note to yourself, congratulating yourself on being smart enough to allow yourself to learn something new. This is the essence of self-growth, which all strong and intelligent people must accept and embrace.
We know how self-defeating our negative thoughts can be, but who would have thought that most of these thoughts could be tamed so easily? Practice these techniques often, and enjoy the lifestyle that comes with having less stress and anxiety. All it takes is paper and a pen!