“I’m so overwhelmed” 
“I have so much to do”
“I’m stressed”

I hear variations of these three statements all over town. Either in my own conversations or overheard in public. Whether at the beach, the pool, a local Starbucks, or local Target, the majority of us are walking around with an elevated degree of stress. But wait, I want to enjoy my life! Why is this so hard?

Good news! Start with any one of these three steps and you will feel calmer and less stressed.

1) Stop Shoulding On Yourself:

Choose to eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary. At the very least, start to pay attention to when and how often you say it. When we say “should” we are setting expectations for what our life “should” be like. This is a big cause of stress: expectations we put on ourselves and our loved ones. We add so much drama to our life because of what we think our life should be like, should feel like, should look like. We have ideas of how our kids should act, how our houses should run, how we should act as a parent, what our family vacation should be like, etc.  All of these expectations get us into trouble. Why? How do you feel when you think things “should” be a certain way but they’re not. How do you feel when you think you “should” be doing something that you’re not doing? How do you feel when you think someone else “should” do something they’re not doing? How do you act when you feel that way? It’s a vicious circle. What you think about drives your feelings, your feelings drive your actions or reactions, and then, voila, that’s your life. When you think your parents “should” want to babysit your kids on vacation and they don’t, how do you show up in your relationship with your parents? When you think your husband should want to hold your hand, how do you act when he doesn’t? These examples have deep roots in emotional intelligence and I have written many blogs about that (here’s a popular one). For now, stop shoulding on yourself and those you love. Become very aware of when you say the word “should”, how often you say it, and how it makes you feel. 

2) Stop, Breathe, Look:

Look for moments during your day to have what authors Dr. Stixrud and Ned Johnson term as radical downtime. Instead of reaching for your phone or filling your day so full of tasks, errands, or activities, look for opportunities to do nothing. Yep. Nothing. Letting your mind wander is the time when magic occurs. It’s when our bright ideas come to us, when we process, when we self-reflect. Yet, we tend to fill our days so damn full so that we don’t have time to reflect on how our lives are going. We live regretting actions from the past or worrying about the future. Neither are helpful. Bring yourself back to the present moment. Look up. What does your body feel like? What do your feet feel like in your shoes? How are you holding you shoulders? The more breaks you take during the day to check in with yourself and your body, the slower time will pass and the less stress you will feel. Your days will be more fulfilling because you’ll be in the moments with your kids, your family, and your self. Another bonus? You’ll be less reactive and calmer. Want an easy way to start? Whenever you get to a stop light, stop, breathe, and look. Stop the car. Don’t reach for your phone. Breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth. Look around and notice one thing: a tree, a car, the sky, something. Your mantra is: “Stop, Breathe, Look”. Try it for even one ride and you’ll notice a difference in your physicality. You can do this with other people in the car, either with them or without them noticing. Try it and share your experience.

3) Schedule:

If I’ve said it once…..seriously people, have some sort of plan for your day. Start with a loose framework but start. Scheduling is the number one tool to beat overwhelm. I can not say it enough. Read my blog on scheduling (I have many) and use this free worksheet to get started but start. Better yet, get out a scrap of paper and write down the hours left in the day in a column on the left hand side. Now write what you plan to do during those hours. Put conscious thought into what you will be doing each hour until you go to bed. Notice what resistance you have to doing this. What is your brain telling you? Remember, that’s the lower brain. It wants to be comfortable and efficient. That doesn’t mean efficient as in spend your time wisely, it means it wants to do what it has always done. If that’s blow off your to-do list to binge watch house hunter on netflix then that’s what it’ll tell you to do. If you haven’t tried scheduling yet, please please please take this one step today. 

Okay warriors, every week I write about ways for you to help yourself on this journey of life. I know a lot of you read or listen to my messages but the magic happens in the doing. Make this the week that you do one of these things. Stress is a silent killer. We are not meant to be under the constant level of stress that we are under.  It is only a matter of time until you see physical manifestations of the strong emotions that you are tolerating most days. You can change that today by taking one of the above steps. Let me help you hold you accountable. Leave a comment below and let me know what small shift you will take this week. 

Susie (Barolo) Pettit, M.Ed is a Mindfulness-Based Certified Life & Wellness Coach. She’s been helping women feel better for more than 10 years. Sign up for Susie’s Weekly WELLNESS Newsletter so you don’t miss out!