Controlling stress levels: make choices

I promised a few weeks ago to type out some of my thoughts to manage stress. It seems to be a challenge we all need to cope with.

One of the thoughts I often have when reading or listening to others is the difficulty of making choices.  It's been in my mind already a longer time since I discover I have already posted on this topic in May: choosing is winning

I believe we are all very much influenced by (social) media, more than previous generations. We see the posts of colleagues that train for some cool trail run or so, we see that bloggers we like all participate in some reading challenge, we read online about the importance of healthy food and moving, we see those gorgeous travel pictures from others and we dream, we know we need to spend time on self-care, ... We read all the shared bucket lists from everyone that invite us to think all the things we still want to achieve in our life (before our next birthday or before ...).   Even though when we rationally know we can't do it all, the seeds get planted in our brain and are awareness is there : we want to have a good family, a fun job, hobbies that we enjoy, pay attention to health and potentially make ecological choices.  But that's a lot. It's too much to cover all at the same time.

So while all are important, we can't focus and pay as much attention and energy on all things on the same time.   We must make choices and accept the consequences of those. If we get's quite likely that our hobbies will be on hold or on a lower frequency than the years before since the children take up some of our time and energy which is new.   If you are making a career and need to put a lot of energy in your job, you'll need help to take care of your children after school.   If you want to train for a marathon, the training time can't be spent anymore on blogging, reading, vegetable gardening etc... 1 minute can only be spent once.  And we must learn to accept that deeper than just the rational level where we obviously know this statement.  We must accept that deep down.  And then prioritise  those activities that give us energy rather than just drain our energy.

As I wrote before: we live in an era with so many choices. It's not an issue to have many choices, but it is an issue if we don't make choices.

I also learned that emotions consume a hell amount of energy...being stressed itself is draining and requires new energy.  Worries at your job or in your family are energy draining. Sadness or anger is energy draining.  So if you are going through a difficult time, it might not be the good moment to take up a lot of new commitments.  If you are going through a difficult time, starting to train for a marathon might not be the best moment, ...unless that is the way you can tank new energy and clear your mind.  But in that case you probably will need to drop something else. Mourning sucks up a lot of energy not allowing focus on much else.  So it is ok that you don't achieve (as) much then.
And in my experience, even in "self-care" we must make choices: you can't plan each day 30 minutes meditation and read each week a self-care book and specialise in yoga and do breathing excercises 3 times a day and go for walks to clear your mind...

So am I such an expert in making those choices and being happy about all the thing I am not doing? 
Of course not.  I know that booking a lot of quiet time in the Ardennes for walks in the woods re-energises me but it makes seeing my friends sufficiently much harder and I'm not the good friend that I wish I'd be. No, I'm not happy about it.   But I try to focus that we are all going through phases in our lives. The phase of new motherhood, the phase of a new job, the phase of illnesses with our loved ones, ... Phases pass and if I don't do enough sports right now, I might find time and energy to do so in 6 months or 2 years from now and in the mean time I  just try to increase my daily steps a little but nothing more than that.  If I am consciously choosing to work full-time right now, I need a babysit to pick-up my children from school sometimes and therefore I want to spend all weekends together and not use any babysit time then to take some hobbies. But I've seen from my friends that had children earlier, that time flies and children grow up and before you know it they are both in scouts or ... and you find yourself back with an increasing level of adult time to use again.  If I do a city-trip and decide not to visit each interesting quarter because I just want to hang out and visit at a low pace, I tell myself I'll come back in a next phase.

So I try not to "Work hard, play hard" or YOLO or those other slogans that get spread online.  Nope, not everything needs to go hard, not everything needs to happen right now.  My YOLO is that I don't want to live stressed so I might postpone things and if ever tragedy would strike...I might not have done everything on my bucket list (if I would have one) but at least I have enjoyed the things I did do.  That's probably the credo I strive for: enjoy the things that I do even if that means that I do less things (in this phase of my life right now).  Let's challenge ourselves to go for quality, not quantity.


Anne said…
Hierin kan ik me helemaal vinden.

Ik heb het begrip "bucket lists" compleet achter me gelaten, ik doe er niet aan mee, omdat het net te stresserend is. Ik doe gewoon wat ik graag doe. Punt.
Els said…
trying hard these days to get a good balance between fomo and jomo (and more often than before the jomo wins and that's quite OK for me although it still can be difficult from time to time)
Le petit requin said…
Moeilijke, vind ik!
Enerzijds ben ik iemand met zeer uiteenlopende interesses en word ik ook gewoon blij wanneer ik verschillende dingen kan doen; anderzijds heb ik vroeger ja-ren maar twee hobbies gehad (fietsen en lezen) en ik had toen niet bepaald het gevoel dat ik iets miste.
Ik merk wel bij mijzelf dat werk en bijhorende stress (die bij mij jammer genoeg de laatste jaren veel te hoog is door een klotesysteem om uren bij te houden) té gemakkelijk de overhand nemen en ik dan veel te snel helemaal niets leuks meer doe. Net dan zorgen zo'n lijstjes à la bucket list of dingen die ik voor mijn xe verjaardag wil doen, er mee voor dat ik besef dat ik al weer een hele tijd x of y niet gedaan heb. Is dat omdat er iets anders belangrijker/interessanter/toffer is, so be it, zo'n lijstje is een inspiratie, niet iets dat moet. Maar: vaak is het ook een alarmbel dat ik dingen niet zozeer niet doe omdat ik iets anders leuks doe, maar omdat mijn werk al mijn energie opslorpt en ik dus vooral daar moet proberen ingrijpen, omdat het gewoon niet meer gezond is.
In alle geval: de dag dat zo'n lijstjes mij druk opleggen en ik er geen plezier meer in heb, stop ik er meteen mee, want dan gaan ze helemaal hun doel voorbij :)
Leen said…
Ik blijf worstelen met een goed evenwicht. Dit jaar heb ik (noodgedwongen) veel meer tijd aan mezelf moeten spenderen, waardoor ik minder heb aangedrongen op afspreken met mijn vriendinnen en hen dus 'verwaarloosd' heb en ook veel minder mijn grootouders heb bezocht bv. Voor mij is kiezen dus dikwijls nog altijd 'verliezen'... Want hoe vind je de juiste balans tussen je keuzes? Bovendien heb ik veel verschillende hobby's (tuinieren, wandelen, schrijven, bloggen, lezen, koken...) maar moet ik vaak mijn energie ertussen verdelen waardoor bv het onkruid kniehoog staat en het alleen maar moeilijker wordt om mij aan dat werkje te zetten. En dan frustreert het mij dat ik niet kan doen wat ik graag doe, maar wél 8u op een dag moet gaan werken... Ja...
Voor mij zijn de zogenaamde 'bucket lists' net als bij Haaike een reminder om te focussen op de dingen die voor mij belangrijk zijn. Ik wil niet met een helikopter boven de Grand Canyon gaan vliegen omdat iedereen dat doet, snap je? Ze 'dwingen' me om tijd te maken voor de dingen die er toe doen. Om die kwaliteit in mijn leven te krijgen, zonder dat het inderdaad kwantiteit en al snel 'trop' wordt....

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