A while ago I was catching up with a friend and I asked her a very common question. "How was your day?"
Normally, this question gives you a little bit on insight into a friend's day. They might share a struggle, a personal victory or they might half ass their answer and say it was fine.
Not this time.
Instead, my friend launched into a detailed account of every single event that had happened throughout the entire day from the moment she woke up. After she caught up the the present, she started listing off all of the things she had scheduled for the rest of the day... and even the events leading into the following afternoon.
She wasn't answering my question anymore. She had switched over onto autopilot, reporting her busy busy calendar full of appointments, meetings, errands, deadlines and overwhelming work load. I began to glaze over, picking anxiously at my fingers and feeling uncomfortable. But, strangely enough, once she finished her Full and Detailed Report of Overwhelm and Stress (for fun, let's call this the F.D.R.O.S) ... I switched onto my autopilot mode and did the same.
After I gave my F.D.R.O.S, we commended each other for being such hardworking and ambitious individuals.
+10 confidence. +10 team points. Hooray!
It wasn't until late the next day that I was struck by the strangeness of that exchange. Why had a personal visit devolved so naturally into a militant reciting of our to do lists? And why did it seem like a positive thing?
The truth is that there is a common belief that the more things you have on your to do list, the more successful you are. Being busy is somehow a sign of importance and productivity. Because of this, people often take pride in being busy and, grossly enough, we sometimes even manage to tie our worth into it.
This epidemic is especially popular among women. Particularly in work environments, women often have to work harder to be taken as seriously as their male counterparts. Therefore, you find women shoveling everything they can onto their plate in an attempt to gain respect.
I know in my case that when I see a gap in calendar my first reaction is along the lines of "Heck yeah! I'm going to take that time to get centered again. I'm going to catch up on my practice, catch up with my friends and I'll be damned if I wear pants before noon!" But then my calendar slowly fills up. When that should-have-been-getting-centered-time rolls around, I end up running on caffeine and sheer willpower. But look at me I'm getting so much done! I'm a fucking winner!
You are not your to do list.
You don't need to pile things on to your plate to prove your worth and you don't need to overwhelm yourself with commitments to show the world that you're capable.
There's a lot of power in knowing when to say no to things and to narrow down on the ones are are truly important. There is a lot of power in being able to switch from do-all-the-things mode into simply being in the moment. There is a lot of power in stillness.
I love my to do lists! But it's very important that we remember to forgive ourselves if we don't check everything off and to be realistic when we're adding things on to it. Being overwhelmed and busy doesn't actually give us any credibility, it just raises the stress level around us. That being said, if we really are dealing with stress and overwhelm then maybe it's time to simplify.
"If you're having a stressed out day remember the sloth. They don't do shit and they haven't gone extinct. I'm sure you can afford to take a nap." - Ze Frank, True Facts About Sloths
PS: Need to destress? Check these out:
--->Rage Yoga Online Videos (online videos to help build a badass at-home yoga practice)
--->Lessen Your Stressing' - 6 Tips to Cope With Stress (badass blog post)