There once was a bloody cruel Queen of Should
Who always forced her subjects to do all they could.
All day and all night, she watched with hawk eyes,
And when they missed a cue, she was ready to chastise.
This Queen keenly judged their every move,
As they washed, as they worked, as they strove to improve.
Twisting and poking, the ruler manipulated,
And when they fell short, she mercilessly berated,
Burning her citizens with embers of guilt,
Until each, like a flower, they began to wilt.
The strain grew and grew, and they crippled in fear,
Petrified that their every breath should adhere.
Finally, with the heat of her giant expectations,
She charred them into ash with her endless accusations.
Being human means life is filled with responsibilities, shoulds, ought-tos, things we’d rather not, but really must do. Homework, getting up early, working out, laundry, work deadlines, etc. While being chronically ill reduces some of these, such as a conventional job and thrilling pool parties, it adds on a whole slew of strange responsibilities such as: regular lymph massages, stretching after every meal, meditation, yoga, and prepping meals for an extremely restricted diet. Not to mention trying to actually accomplish something: writing, studying, art, basic chores, and relationships.
It never stops!
And that’s just the problem.
It needs to.
I recently realized that I have traveled down the road of rigid structure, constantly doing what I should, whatever is THE best, most productive thing I could possibly be doing in ANY given moment. It’s exhausting. Not only that, constantly overthinking every option brings with it buckets of guilt, and a feeling of edginess about whether or not I chose properly.
As this issue came to light, I took it upon myself to reset, reduce, and refocus. It has NOT come naturally, yet what is life but a work in progress?
I suspect all of us would benefit from cutting ourselves some slack and creating a little margin in our lives. So here are a few tips to get started.
- Set a Seasonal Focus
Look at your goals, your Skillshare classes, Duolingo hopes, your YouTube lecture list, DIY projects, self-improvement books. Pick one subject and devote a season, a three month period, to that ONE thing. Let the rest go. You can revisit your list next season and pick another one. Having a singular focus gives your brain space, time, and the ability to actually enjoy learning.
Click here to watch a video on this concept.
- Sort your email
I don’t know why, but those little red numbers on my mail app stress me out, constantly making me feel behind and overloaded. Am I the only one?
Take the time to unsubscribe to all that junk. Also consider the ones you have interest in but groan every time a new one pops up because you are behind 30 of their emails. Maybe unsubscribe to them too or at least place them a separate folder for you to access when you want to, or in a later season devoted to their topic.
When they are out of sight, they are out of mind, creating more brain space and less guilt for you.
- Schedule a time to unplug
No social media. No TV. Just time to sit and think. Outside is great for this with the fresh air, birdsong, and spring plants. Breathe it in. And just be. Alone or with others, it doesn’t matter, so long as it is devoid of outside distraction. You’ll be amazed how much peace of mind and stress release this provides.
Studies have shown that screen time is linked to depression.
Food for thought.
- Tidy your space
A lack of clutter reduces stress.
Less stimuli (and guilt tied to uncompleted chores) means your brain is being pulled in fewer directions, which leads to mental clarity and serenity.
Need convincing? Read this Psychology Today article discussing clutter and stress with facts and helpful tips, or you know, watch Marie Kondo.
Make a list of your life priorities and spend time considering whether or not you reflect these accurately in your life. I know for me, it is easy to get off-kilter.
6. Say ‘No’
I am a chronic ‘Yes’ sayer. It’s my gut reaction. Yes, to this! Yes, helping with that! And before you know it, being swamped with an overloaded schedule and responsibilities.
I truly believe taking on less, but making that ‘less’ better in quality is a healthier, more fulfilling modus operandi.
7. Stop feeling bad
About literally everything. Do what you can and let the rest go. Things happen the way they happen, and overthinking and beating yourself up about it doesn’t fix anything, or make anything better.
Your value is not in what you do but who you are. Don’t lose yourself in the business of life or in your aspirations and find you’ve become someone you never intended to be.
Live fully present and…
Down with the Bloody Cruel Queen!
**If this idea of simplifying and focusing your life strikes a note with you, there are oodles of resources out there. I recommend my current read, “Master of One” by Jordan Raynor.