I talk to people who are stressed all the time. This is partly because I specialise in stress and resilience, and partly because most of the planet is stressed. In this mix, I periodically talk to someone who is thinking of doing the Online Resilience Series I offer and lately it has been reminding me a lot of when I was in that stress cycle. It’s horrible. They’re invariably stuck in a quagmire of stress they can’t see their way out of and are trying to decide what to do…
They’ve been contemplating doing the course (or perhaps one like it) but don’t know if it’s the right time, or if they’ll have the time, or can make the time. And so they wait. They wonder. They look at it again 6 weeks later, 6 months later and they are still in the quagmire. Except maybe it’s a little better because their horrible boss has now left the organisation, or maybe it’s a little worse because they own their business and they’ve decided to grow it and now their hours are even crazier. But they’re waiting for the right time to do the course, or to take a gym membership, or to finally organise a weekly squash game with their friend Sam.
And so it prevails on me to share this open letter to those stressed souls waiting for the right time … from someone who used to wait for the right time too and learned the hard way that you quite simply have to make it the right time. There is no other way.
Dear Stressed Soul,
I know from my own journey out of stress that when you’re in the thick of it, feeling overwhelmed, rushed, busy, stretched to the hilt, bordering on burnout or just plain knackered, that the thought of trying to fit in a squash game or a yoga class or, heaven forbid, a seven week course, can seem totally insane. Or at least like just another pressure to have to do something else, find time for it and even feel remotely interested when you’d rather use a spare hour to sleep, slob in front of Netflix or lie in the garden staring at the sky (this used to be one of my sanity-go-to’s!).
The thing is, it’s a dangerous trap because not taking new and different action keeps you in the same cycle. It’s a twee but true adage that change begins at the end of your comfort zone – and believe it or not, where you are right now is your comfort zone. It might feel uncomfortable and annoying and stressful, but it is your current comfort zone.
It’s familiar, known and all you can manage right now. I totally get it. And the reality is that blobbing out or avoiding a new activity like a course or a yoga class or anything else you might be contemplating is staying in your comfort zone. It’s keeping the status quo because it’s too hard, scary or daunting to make a change, even a seemingly small one.
Where you’re at now is your comfort zone. It might be uncomfortable and annoying and stressful, but it is your current comfort zone.
Here’s the other thing. It can actually feel like if you add one more thing to your day or your week, you might actually break. And that is a scary feeling.
It’s that feeling I want to encourage you to overcome and override – and not let it stop you. You won’t break. You might feel really stretched at times or you might find you’re kicking yourself one day thinking ‘Why did I sign up for this? What was I thinking?!’ In the next moment, remember that you did it because you were choosing you. And when you’re not used to choosing you, and when you’re used to choosing other people, trying to keep others happy and not letting them down, and getting done what you want to get done – and all those things that keep us in the stress cycle – it takes time after time after time to keep coming back to you and what you need. It is not an overnight job.
You won’t break, but there’s a good chance you will have a breakthrough.
And actually, if you’re breaking anything, it’s the old patterns, not your dear self.
OK, so then there’s toleration. We get really good at tolerating stuff. We tolerate the worn out dish-brush at the sink because we never quite get around to writing it on the shopping list (even though we use that brush every day and get frustrated by it every time we wash the dishes). We tolerate the seatbelt rubbing against our neck and our good silk blouse because we haven’t quite got around to buying a $20 wrap for the seatbelt (they are a Godsend, I swear). We tolerate the way our colleague hands us work with unnecessarily short deadlines because he is constantly disorganised, instead of speaking up and pushing back and forcing him to get his sweet s#*t together. We tolerate being stressed and worn out and pressured and totally fed up because we don’t know where to start, we never have the time to take a pause and it’s just too hard.
So my friend, this is the moment to seize for YOURSELF and to say:
I am going to find one hour this week, and next week and the week after, for ME. For me to take care of me. For me to learn, to try some new tools, and to take one tiny step at a time to climb my way out of this stress soup I’m in. Because I bloody well deserve it and my life is short enough without having it feel even shorter because I am flying along at break-neck speed like a summertime mosquito.
I want my life back. I want calm. I want to actually enjoy my work day, my week … hell I want to enjoy my life again.
We tolerate being stressed and worn out and pressured and totally fed up because we don’t know where to start, we never have the time to take a pause and it’s just too hard.
All you need to do right now is decide when you’re going to spend that hour for yourself. A Thursday evening? Saturday morning? One morning before work and go in slightly later? After your Sunday afternoon yoga class? Straight after the kids leave in the morning on a Tuesday? Find an hour you can make yours. Then put it in your diary – both diaries if you run a personal one and a work one. Claim the space.
Now decide what you’re going to do with that hour. Maybe it’s my course (info here 🙂 ) and maybe it’s something else. But go do it, dear one. Go do it for you.
Love Karen x