As I was writing down my weekly to-do list, that often heavy thought of how is this all going to get done started to creep in. That dreaded feeling of not having enough time or energy started to wash over me. I felt my shoulders become more tense and my breath shorten. I noticed my thoughts starting to race, and the feeling of ease fade away.
As I was hurriedly writing down my list, about a quarter way through I remembered something I heard years ago. I remembered the simple, yet powerful perspective shift of renaming our to-do list, a get-to-do list.
I immediately softened.
I retitled my list, slowed my pace, and was instantly hit with a tidal wave of gratitude. I paused, and let that feeling of being truly grateful settle into every inch of my body.
My breath slowed and deepened immensely.
I remembered how lucky I am to get to do any of these things on my list. I remembered how lucky I am to be able to do the most simple and mundane of activities. I remembered how lucky I am to be able to walk, talk, see and hear. I remembered how lucky I am to experience the entire spectrum of emotions of what it means to be human.
Something that has been coming in loud and clear during this pandemic is how fragile life really is. This time of physical distancing has offered many of us a space to pause, and reflect. This time has reminded us how the things we used to sometimes complain about, like running errands, now seems incredibly luxurious. This time has offered us a powerful opportunity to radically shift our perspective on how were living our lives, as well as experiencing them.
Studies have shown that perceived stress takes a bigger toll on health than the individual stressors themselves. It’s the perceived stress, rather than the stressors, that is often associated with more negative health outcomes. Therefore, it’s our responsibility to check in with how we perceive what we deem stressful in our lives (aka how we interpret our to-do lists).
It’s helpful to write down what we view as stressful, and with equal importance write down why we find it stressful. Taking time to evaluate or whats and whys with stress is a simple, yet very eye opening exercise to how we perceive the world around us, and within us.
I have found the stress of a to-do list melts away when I call it a get-to-do list.
All of our daily tasks become exponentially more enjoyably when we remember how lucky we are to get to do them. While we go through each item on our list; whether it’s tidying the house, cooking a meal, taking a walk outside, or working from home — when we really drop into the moment, and allow ourselves to be completely absorbed in the task in front of us, there’s a softness and sweetness that exists there.
It often only takes the subtlest shift in perspective, such as adding a three letter word in front of our to-do list, to change the way we approach our day-to-day.
Being grateful to be able to do the smallest of tasks on our own makes a world of a difference in our perspective, our mood, and as a result our overall health and wellness.
Wang Y, Wang P. Perceived stress and psychological distress among chinese physicians: The mediating role of coping style. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(23):e15950. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000015950
Leppert B, Junge KM, Röder S, et al. Early maternal perceived stress and children’s BMI: longitudinal impact and influencing factors. BMC Public Health. 2018;18(1):1211. Published 2018 Oct 30. doi:10.1186/s12889-018-6110-5