Yesterday I was speaking to a very lovely lady who was saying that being a perfectionist and a people pleaser was making life very stressful. I totally agree. Life does dish up a lot of stress, and that’s without even thinking about organising kids/partners/jobs etc.
We can probably all accept that life isn’t going to get any less stressful; there will always be grumpy bosses, broken appliances, trains that run late…… the question is, how can we make sure we are not as affected by it to the point of interrupting our positive thoughts and feelings?
Here are my top tips for taking the stress out of situations:
The only way you are going to get the busy buzz from occupying immediate space in your brain is to write it down. This doesn’t have to be a traditional list style format either; do whatever works for you. Some people find sketching their thoughts very soothing, others love mind mapping apps as it puts everything together for you, forming links that you wouldn’t have necessarily have reached in the limited time you have to think about these things.
Only include items on your list that are actually achievable
We all waste time adding items to lists that we have already completed. The satisfaction at seeing your list has already been started can be all the incentive you need to carry on. If it motivates you, that’s fine, but if you know that to achieve a tick against a particular task on the list, you’re going to have to slay a dragon, dodge medusa and collect the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, leave it off the list and you will feel much less stressed.
Accept that nothing runs to time
This applies to every situation (although I’d recommend arriving at the bus stop, station and airport in plenty of time). Many of us plan our day in chunks, whether it’s half day, all day, hourly or even half hourly. Accept that the chances are, you’ll run into traffic, get held up chatting to someone, or there will be something else that throws you off course. If you build more time than you need into your day, these hurdles really won’t matter, and most importantly, won’t send nasty stress hormones racing around your body. If you end up with a few extra minutes between activities, it’s a great opportunity to spend time with your kindle (you can view some book recommendations here). Or refresh using a 3 minute meditation.
Stop asking for permission
Inspired by the talk from Elizabeth Gilbert, where she said to ask yourself: ‘do I trust what I know or do I still think I need permission from the Principal’s office?’ It leads us to question – why do we think that other people’s opinions are more important than our own? Yes, most people will have a boss or somebody that they are answerable to but, in the same thought, the person you are answerable to has hired you because they trust that you can do your job and do it well! Trust that out of everybody in the world, you will have your best interests at heart and make the right decisions.
Don’t make do with something that’s broken; fix it
How often do we make do with something when we know that there is a better, more efficient version available? How often do we do this with ourselves? What would it take to fix it? Usually the fix is easier than living with it as it is and it is much better for mental health and self respect. It also has the added bonus of, the more you fix, the easier it will be to maintain your integrity and to put yourself first when difficult situations crop up.
Keep good time
Many people refer to themselves as ‘always being late’ and there is often a hint of pride behind it. What these people don’t consider is how rude it is. By leaving others waiting for you, you are effectively saying that in your opinion, whatever you are doing, is more important than them. Be on time. People will thank you for it and respect you for valuing them enough to not keep them waiting.
This isn’t difficult, all it takes is a change of routine. Get clothes ready and bags packed the night before, use lists and reminders to make sure you don’t run out of essentials and keep things that you may need quickly (car manual, passport, plumber’s number) in a memorable place. Don’t play chicken with the fuel light in the car. You’re an adult. If you need fuel then get fuel, no-one likes getting the 3am phone call from the friend who has run out of petrol on the way home from nightshift/party etc.
Recognise that we are not meant to be perfect
Have you ever noticed how the funniest stories/most treasured memories come from times where you have screwed up or the time that nothing ran to plan? Perfectionism can be dull and stifle creativity, it doesn’t allow for the input of others. Relax your goals, the world will not end if the washing is not hung out to schedule, or even if a piece of work isn’t finished in the timescale you would like.
Work as a team
This can be an alien concept to many. We often see entire establishments that, rather than work as a team, are just a building of individuals working on similar tasks. There is no joy in this. Work together, share together, celebrate together. Not only will life become easier as you will have access to many more skills, this also rolls into every day life – have a neighbour offering to help? A friend trying to make your life easier? Don’t automatically reject their kind offers out of a warped sense of pride, accept them and enjoy how much richer life will become.
It is only failure if it can’t be fixed
It’s a universal truth that you have to fail in order to grow. In many cases, failure isn’t that – it’s an opportunity to learn and enrich your experience. If there is no fixing it, accept it. The world has not ended, learn from it and move on.