With vaccines being rolled out, lockdowns lifting and tensions easing, many of us are thinking about the past year and the changes we want to make as we transition into our newest version of ‘normal.’ While some of us are looking to change careers, end relationships, and/or move to the suburbs, others are foregoing large life overhauls and simply looking to make a few tweaks that will level up the next chapter of their lives. If you’re in the latter category, keep reading. We have put together a list of 7 common stressors along with ways to make easy, sustainable changes guaranteed to enhance peace of mind and productivity — without feeling super pressured or overwhelmed. Less stress and a fresh perspective — we’re in!
Stressor: “I Keep Putting Things Off.”
It’s Monday morning. You open your eyes and are suddenly bombarded with thoughts of a dozen tasks that need to be done, including that one you keep putting off. You promise to do it by the end of the day only to wake up and face it tomorrow which leads into the next day… sound familiar?
Try This: Eat The Frog For Breakfast.
The next time you find yourself putting off a task, take a few minutes to sit with it. There’s a good chance doing so will bring up some uncomfortable feelings. Though we often think of procrastination as laziness, experts say that it’s more about an inability to regulate our emotions. This could be directly related to the actual task (cleaning the fridge, for example) or feeling insecure about your ability to perform at a respectable level.
The best way to approach this is to eat the frog for breakfast or do the thing you dread most, first. The Pomodoro Technique can be helpful with this approach in that it offers a finite amount of time to focus with a break as a reward. Set a timer and commit to working on it for 20 minutes. Take a 5-minute break and then go back to it for another 20 until it’s done. Chances are you’ll be in a groove by the second round.
Stressor: “I am feeling cramped in my space but I can’t throw anything out.”
It happens constantly; you open up a closet or drawer, pull out an item you have not worn in six months (or even six years), and then talk yourself out of giving it away. You feel like you are constantly running out of space, and you’re right; you keep buying new things but never make any room for it.
Try this: Rethink the way you see giving.
Letting go of old items with sentimental value can cause a bit of psychological tug-o-war thanks to the human tendency to tie parts of our identity with material items. But before you toss it back into your “forever” box, consider this: studies have shown that taking a photo of items to preserve their memories is as effective as holding onto the item itself. Still, want to keep it after taking a snap? Try reframing the way you look at giving. Instead of gazing at a plastic bag feeling a sense of loss, imagine you are putting together a care package for someone in need. Think about how you would like them to feel when they find that warm coat, that sweet teddy bear for their child, or that lovely dress or suit that will be perfect for their job interview. This approach always has me adding a little more than I expected to the bag (and I have never missed anything I have given away).
Stressor: “Lockdown is lifting but I am finding it impossible to align schedules to finally see my friends.”
You haven’t seen anyone in months but neither has anyone else which means you’re all competing with each other for a limited number of socially distanced lunch dates at restaurants that don’t have tables available until July. UGH.
Try This: Make plans far in advance.
My fiance’s mother is full of wonderful advice and this is one is a gem. I once complained that it was so difficult to get together with friends as everyone was booked up all of the time. “Make plans three months from now, if you need to. You will have something to look forward to and the date will eventually come around and you’ll have a great time. Since then, I have applied it to social as well as solo plans. Friends and I have booked in lunches well into the summer and I have tickets to see the Van Gogh exhibition I have been aching to see in December of this year. A bonus: you always get access to the best tickets and tables when you plan.
Stressor: “I have lost my spark during the pandemic and I don’t know how to get it back.
There was a time when you had a thriving career/relationship/social diary and/or felt inspired/attractive/engage, but now you’re feeling as though you have lost your mojo and are just bored.
Try this: Take on a new challenge.
If the pandemic has left you feeling like you need to make some life changes, you’re not alone, but before you resign to a lackluster life (or start taking your boredom out on your hair) consider getting your thrills in small, but impactful ways (that won’t leave you crying over bangs). Commit to getting out of your comfort zone at least once a week and commit to seeing a new challenge through, regardless of how “good” you are at it. This could be trying a new cuisine, taking on a class that you may have never signed up for, or challenging yourself to achieve a specific goal by a specific time. Forget about failure for a moment and just enjoy experiencing something different. Not only will you reap the benefits of a natural dopamine release and get to know a new side of yourself, but you may create new connections between brain cells thanks to the malleability of the brain.
Stressor: “I feel like my time is over and I missed my chance.
You’ve had one or two lockdown birthdays and have been so busy dealing with the day-to-day challenges of the pandemic that you simply haven’t had time to to log onto masterclasses, host chats on Clubhouse or achieve those goals you set out for yourself back in January of 2020. This has left you feeling so behind that you wonder if you’ll ever catch up (Hint: you will. Relax).
Try this: Use your past experience to make smart decisions in the present.
The poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, once wrote, ‘you are not too old and it is not too late, and if you look at the likes of Vera Wang, Joe Biden, Martha Stewart, and Julia Child, you will begin to see the truth in these words. All of the aforementioned men and women achieved their greatest success after 40 (some 50). The next time you start lamenting about past mistakes and missed opportunities, take a moment to remind yourself that you are still here and there is still time. You just need to get focused, make a plan and use it wisely. Think about something you want to achieve and scroll through your memory archives to pull out what you have learned in the past when taking on something similar. How have you learned to research better? Who have you met to reach out to? What mistakes have you made that you can now avoid? As Elle MacPherson once said, “Focus on the problem and the problem gets bigger. Focus on the solution and the solution gets bigger.” You’ve got this.