Staying Strong When Stressed: Keeping Routines Helps You Achieve

Library_BooksHave you ever noticed how easy it is to fall off the wagon when you’re under pressure?

Right now I am stressed. So, so stressed. I have to get on a plane in a few days, which to me is basically the equivalent of having the mount the steps of an Aztec pyramid to have my beating heart cut out. My baby is sick. We have to move on short notice, and while I realize the rest of the world LOVES moving, I actually don’t like it at all. Not at all.

The temptation here is twofold:

1. Whine unendingly, loudly, hyperbolically to anyone who will listen.

2. Become a hedonist.

It’s odd, but in times of stress we tend to allow ourselves the freedom to do things we otherwise wouldn’t. Tempers shorten. We eat whatever we want. We “forget” to exercise. We throw good habits, like flossing, removing makeup at night or stretching out the window. And quirkier responses. For instance, I completely abandon reading, opting instead for bad reruns of cooking shows or sitcoms, and watch the aspirational stack on my bedside mount, which only adds to my stress.

The reason behind these responses is simple: we are using all our energy to deal with the stressful situation, and don’t have a lot left over to do what we ought to. Unfortunately, it is often times routine that gets us to where we’re going in life. Despite common thought, successful people don’t work when work moves them, they aren’t thin because of an abundance of willpower, and they don’t build empires out of thin air. They work. They set goals. They achieve them by fulfilling smaller tasks that make up larger tasks. They are one giant, time-effective proverbial tortoise.

I am a hare. I admit this freely. But to become successful and reach my dreams, I realize I must stop abandoning the things that help me get there simply because things become stressful. In fact, should I succeed in some of the ventures I’d like to, the life changes caused by that success will be stressful, so how will it help me to fall off the wagon then?

The answer, of course, is simple: routines have to become, well, routine. We have to be on autopilot. Flossing must be something we just do, not do “if we can.” Reading, updating your blog, cooking fresh food, running, gardening or whatever else moves us toward our better selves must become an embedded part of our day, so that we stop trying to rationalize the action away when we don’t want to do it. Only when it requires no extra mental effort will it happen automatically, and therefore be immune to stress.

It won’t happen overnight, I realize. But I’m inspired by moves like One Party Gypsy’s, where she starts small with a morning routine she can keep without too much trouble, that fits simply and easily into her vision for a good day. These are changes we can all make, if only we take the time.

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2 thoughts on “Staying Strong When Stressed: Keeping Routines Helps You Achieve

  1. What a lovely find your blog is!! I’m so glad you were inspired by my routine post and know that I still am struggling with this! I find that keeping to my routine most days allows me flexibility to forgive myself on the days that it my routine doesn’t work out. And since the new year I’ve feeling under a lot of pressure too (I keep wanting to just STOP the world so I can get things done while everyone else is in a 10 day sleep!) But I’ve found it helpful to pick one day/ week that is dedicated to taking care of what needs to get done and asking my fiancé to pick up my slack (dishes, dogs, laundry etc) for just that day. Knowing that I can let everything else go and shorten my to do list has been making me feel freer, so that the next day I can take a bath or read a few chapters from a book without feeling like my world is falling down while I do so. Wishing you grace and flexibility under pressure!!

    • Yes, I too am learning that flexibility is KEY. Sometimes it’s okay to let other people pick up the slack, sometimes it’s okay to just slack … and sometimes it’s okay to be flexible and tell yourself that even though you weren’t PLANNING on working or accomplishing on a particular day, you’re going to anyway! At least, that’s my take. Looking forward to more from your blog. 🙂

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