Feeling overwhelmed has almost become the accepted normal state of being, unfortunately. It seems to have gotten worse in recent times.
Email (many times multiple email accounts), tasks, mundane tasks, household tasks, social media, keeping up with everything on the internet, staying fit and healthy. All that on top of trying to enjoy life and relax every once in a while. And sometimes sleep.
Self-Care First, to-Do List (and Everything Else) Second
I am reading You Can Create An Exceptional Life by Louise Hay and Cheryl Richardson. The book is written in first person by Cheryl, but chronicles a series of meetings between Cheryl and Louise regarding how to live a peaceful life (which seems to be somewhat of an exception in our culture).
Cheryl: “For too many years I was in a perpetual battle with my to-do list, desperately racing to get things done so I could finally relax and enjoy my life. Now I relax and enjoy my life first.”
Louise: “I try to give myself two hours before I face people. I like to be able to do things in a leisurely way.”
The version of myself several years ago would have argued that I didn’t have time for self-care because I had too much to do. Now I know better.
As much as I dream about having a beautifully cleared to-do list at the end of everyday (and know this is a possibility), I no longer sacrifice self-care for the sake of this pursuit. Because I now understand that that is counterproductive.
It Is Counterproductive to Power through on Empty
Proper sleep, nutrition, exercise, and relaxation are the fuel we need to do the millions of little things we have to get done. It sounds basic, but it is a slippery slope to start meeting the needs of everyone and everything else first, putting ourselves last as we crash into bed way too late at night.
One of the chapters in You Can Have an Exceptional Life is called “How You Start Your Day Is How You Live Your Day,” which is immediately followed by a chapter entitled “How You Live Your Day Is How You Live Your Life.” Have there ever been truer words?
Without even reading those chapters I already learned a major lesson. I discovered the first one a while back when I started making morning yoga and meditation my first priority on most days. I hadn’t thought about the next one very much, but it makes perfect sense.
If we run around feeling overwhelmed all the time by the thousands of demands on our time and sanity, when does it stop? Who is the person who says “enough”?
Take Back Control of Your Day and Your Life
I still get into the overwhelmed mindset. I start thinking about all the things I have to do, all the things I wish I had done two years ago but are still somehow not done or even started. And I start to feel my lists caving in on me.
The other day I was walking and thinking through my ideal day. I have been doing this for years, but a new idea came to me the other day. In my ideal day, everything that I have or want to get done that day is done by the late afternoon, freeing up the evening for enjoying a healthy dinner and only relaxing and enjoyable activities. No work or business-related tasks (or thoughts about them not being done, because they already are).
When I start to go to that overwhelmed place, I stop myself as soon as I catch it, and I say this affirmation to myself:
I am so grateful that all the tasks on my lists of things to-do are completed by the late afternoon everyday, freeing up the evening for only relaxing activities that I enjoy and a good night’s sleep.
I not only say this, but I feel it. I feel as if this is my life. Today. Today I am doing only things that I feel purposefully passionate about, and I am completing all my tasks during the earlier hours of the day. I go to bed feeling relaxed, and wake up feeling refreshed, looking forward to a new day of doing what I love.
How does your ideal day feel? Please share your thoughts!