This is for you, for me, and for anyone else whose brain has them feeling guilty about their day to day choices…
One of the biggest things I see my clients struggle with is the concept that they should be doing more for themselves in order to reach a particular goal. Exercising more or harder, cutting out carbs, drinking less coffee – I hear this stuff all the time, quite often starting with “I really should…” In fact, their battles with these shoulds are a huge reason my clients seek my help in the first place.
I am intimately acquainted with the way should can rule your life. I, too, often feel like I should be working out more. Shouldn’t be eating toast for dinner when I’m too exhausted to even take the healthier leftovers out of the fridge. Should go to my yoga class because I know I’ll be so much less stressed afterward. Should go to bed so I can get some good sleep, but should also stay up to finish this blog post. (You have just seen a snapshot of my day yesterday. I went to bed.)
Does this sound much like you? I think about my day yesterday and I’m frustrated. I think about all the things I should do today, and I feel guilty because I know right now that there are simply not enough hours in the day to tick all my to-do’s off the list. Neither of these feelings are helpful.
It begs the question: Why do we make ourselves feel so bad?
I am not a psychologist, and I don’t have the answer to “why”, but I do have a great solution. At least, it’s a solution that has been very helpful for me. This is something taught to me by my psychologist, a wonderful woman who is helping me keep my brain from making me miserable.
Rather than telling yourself day in and day out that you should be doing X or Y, what happens if say you prefer to do X or Y??
Since we’re all different, I’m not sure if this is a thing that will click with you. I’ll tell you what happened for me, though, when I made that change.
I went from “I really should go running and eat something healthy for lunch” (Subtext: “If I don’t do these things, I’m ruining my life because I’m still not as fit and healthy as I would like to be and I’m going to have to work so much harder to get to that point and I don’t even have the time to do it eeeeever which is the problem in the first place…” with a rock in my stomach and my shoulders up around my ears.)
… To “I would prefer to go running this morning and eat something healthy for lunch” (Subtext: Those things sound great and enjoyable and I’m looking forward to being able to do that…” and my shoulders haven’t felt this relaxed and loose in ages. Even with the knowledge that those things might not happen.)
I lost the stress and tension surrounding the shoulds, simply by allowing myself to NOT be obligated to do them. Instead, by thinking of them as things I would like to do because I enjoy them (or their benefits), I actually look forward to doing them (and if I don’t get them done, it’s no big deal). The reality is that there are a limited number of hours in a day, and some things can’t be multitasked – hard to run and eat at the same time!
Give yourself a break. You might even find you start rocking this life business even more.