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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Letting Go Of Ego: A Snowball Habit!

Giant_snowball_OxfordAs perhaps evidenced by the overly enthusiastic title of this post, I really love the idea of snowball habits.

It doesn’t take much to get a bad habit started, as we’ve all noticed: one day you innocently buy a milkshake on the way home from work, and suddenly milkshakes are just your on-the-way-home-from-work thang. Hence the snowball, as discussed in Organized Home’s article Habit: The Household Wonder Worker. The first step is like a teeny snowball at the top of a hill, but by the time it’s reached the bottom, it’s a force of nature. Whoops.

The good news? Good habits can start this way too. Just take that one small step, make yourself do it again, and before you know it, you’ve got yourself a good habit. Popularly cited examples are flossing, exercising, and avoiding sweets.

Which I find helpful, but somewhat mundane. For me, a lot of my bad habits revolve around allowing myself to feel bad, give up, think darkly, or just generally allow my emotions to overtake my belief in myself. A lot of this relates to work, and especially other people I have to work with.

Nothing new, you say, and you’re right: all of us feel, at some point or another, that someone is pooping on our dreams, or just straight up on us. But don’t let them! Most likely that’s just how they treat everyone, not just you. After all, assuming a personal persecution is a form of egoism, and we’re not egotistical, right? Right??!

… oh. Me too.

But that’s okay. We’ve all got an ego to protect. The point is, if we spend so much time protecting it, we’ll put more of our energy toward making sure we don’t get hurt, humiliated, shut down, refused … or any other emotional booboo. So this is my new snowball habit: reminding myself to let the ego go. If they don’t like it, that’s okay. If I don’t like it, that’s okay. As long as I’m working toward those dreams.