Let’s be honest, life is hard, and with demanding jobs and crazy schedules, we could all use a little more stress relief.
But what if I told you that much of our stress is caused by our own expectations.
When it comes to life, we each have an idea in our mind of how we think it should go. This includes ideas of what life should look like for us and even how we should be as a person. But as you’ve probably already realized, life rarely goes as we expect, which is the cause of so much anxiety and stress.
I’ve found that one of the best forms of stress relief for me has been to let go of the high and often unrealistic expectations I’ve set for myself.
What does that mean, exactly? It’s simple, really.
I no longer sweat the small stuff.
As a mother of six children, life can get pretty crazy.
I learned early on in life that sometimes we just have to let things go and stop making a big deal out of things that really don’t matter.
When I had my first child, I was so worried about him being breakable. Everything became a big deal to me because I didn’t want to be the one to break him. I sterilized every bottle and did all I could to make sure everything was just right for him. Then child number two came along. And with two children, I didn’t have as much time to accomplish things, so I stopped sterilizing the bottles.
And guess what? She did just fine without sterilized bottles.
Enter child number three. She would drop the bottle on the floor, and I’d pick it up, wipe it off and give it right back to her. It was fine, and so was she.
Then child four, five, and six—now we’re talking zone defense. Not only did I not have time to sterilize the bottles, but I was lucky to get them all fed at a reasonable hour. If my son threw his bottle in the trash can, I’d just take it out—it was fine.
The sterilized bottles provided no long-term advantage for my oldest son. Although sterilizing bottles is a good thing to do for a new baby, all it did for me was create more stress.
It’s life-changing when you realize the things that really matter in life. When I finally stopped worrying about every little thing, I became a much happier person and accomplished much more.
If you are searching for some stress relief, here are five things you can do to stop sweating the small stuff.
Realize that you can’t stress about everything AND be productive.
Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. That’s it. That’s all the time we have each day to accomplish all the things we need to accomplish. If you continually worry about the little things, it will take up all your time and energy and you won’t be able to accomplish the things that really matter.
Keep your focus on the things that you can control—which is very little.
There are very few things that I truly have control over, and I have realized that it’s not worth stressing over the things I can’t control. This goes the same for you. You can choose what kind of crackers you purchase off the grocery store shelf, or where you’ll eat for dinner. But you can’t control the price of those crackers, or that the restaurant is out of your favorite dessert. When things happen outside of your control, roll with it. Don’t let it eat you up inside. Focus on what you can do and let go of everything else.
Make a list of priorities and let the other things wait.
You will always have those things that need to get done immediately. Do those things first and if you don’t have time to finish everything on your list, let it go for another time. I once had a neighbor who told me she had tons of pictures from her kids growing up but had no time to put them all into photo albums. She went on to tell me that it wasn’t important today, that that’s what tomorrow is for. Once the kids moved out, she said she would have all the time she needed to put the pictures into albums. But for today, her priority was spending time with her children while they were home with her. She was a great example to me. We don’t need to make such a big deal about finishing everything on the list. Just set your priorities and do the best you can.
Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing.
Just because it matters to someone else doesn’t mean you have to make a big deal about it, and vice versa. We’re all different. And something that may be a big deal to someone else may not even matter to you. So stop looking at what everybody else is doing and instead focus on what you need and what’s important to you in your own daily life. Live your own happy life and let others live theirs. Not only will this give you a life of peace, but it will be one of the greatest stress relief principles you apply to your life.
Remember that there is no such thing as a balanced life.
This may sound strange, but it’s truer than you may realize. Something always has to give. If we’re busy with work, we won’t be able to spend as much time with our children, or maybe dinner is takeout instead of a home-cooked meal. On the flip side, if we spend more time with our children, we might not accomplish everything that we need to accomplish at work. Life is certainly a balancing act, but there will never be a time when everything is properly balanced. This is something we need to realize so that we stop stressing when life feels unbalanced.
In the end, it’s important to remember that we can’t do much about what other people say or do, and we rarely have control over the circumstances we sometimes find ourselves in. But there’s a whole lot we can do when it comes to our own thoughts and actions—and it begins with where we place our focus.
The things that are of greatest importance are the health of your family, the interactions you have with your friends, and making sure you lead a life of kindness and compassion. Those are the things that really matter the most.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Not only is this key to achieving a higher level of stress relief, but you’ll be much happier when you learn to let go of the things that are making you miserable and focus on the things that really matter.
When I stopped sweating the small stuff, not only did I find greater joy in life, I found a whole lot of peace.