Let it go (6)
It does not have to be perfect. Stop making life harder than necessary.
Letting go of self-inflicted stress More often than not, when I find myself a paralyzed ball of stress, it's because of a problem I created entirely myself. Make all my Christmas gifts this year by hand? Sure! Bake something on theme every week for our Great British Bake Off watch party? Why not! My 2023 resolution (for me and you) has been to stop it. Not only do I give myself permission to say no, but also to bail out halfway through if a project I thought would bring me joy ends up being more trouble than it's worth. The world won't end if I don't show up at the function with baklava. Life is stressful enough on its own—it doesn't need my help.
Stop adopting other people’s stress
Sometimes I feel like I spend a lot of time and effort warding off other people’s anxiety. Do you remember your high school science? Or math? Yep, anxiety is conductive. It wants to travel from one person to another person. And once it sees itself in another person, it feels justified in being in that first person... To put it another way: once a friend, or your child becomes anxious, their primary goal becomes to make you anxious, because that justifies their own anxiety. So if they’re freaking out and they can get you to freak out then OMG WE SHOULD ALL BE FREAKING OUT!” Here’s the kicker: you can be the one that bring calm to the situation.
Explore what YOU love, and own it.
If you spend your life trying to define yourself by what someone else loves, or what someone else things you should do, you’re going to be miserable. Try things – try everything. Explore. See what makes your heart sing, and what makes your mind skip, and then do it. If you waste time pretending to like something just because other people you think are “cool” like it, you’re going to end up with the wrong people and circumstances in your life. Love what you love and be yourself, and you will never once look back and regret that leap.
Put down your smartphone and be more present.
Is there anything worse than getting somewhere and not realizing how you got there? Even worse is only realizing how great something is after it’s gone. Living in the present is a basic notion, but as with most simple things, we often find a way to complicate it. But there’s nothing complicated about learning to appreciate and notice life as it’s happening, about being present. You won’t remember the cool Instagram photo you saw on your feed or the seventh YouTube video you linked to this morning. You will, however, want to remember the conversations you had with your son and the stories you lived through. So put down the darn phone!
Practice relentless kindness.
Kindness is always the best response to any situation. When you grow older and you look back on your life, you will inevitably forget a lot of what seemed so important when you were young. You probably won’t remember what your high school or college GPA was. You will look at your old classmates on Facebook or Instagram (or some other social network) and wonder why you ever had a crush on that girl/guy. And you will have the toughest time remembering why you let certain people from your past get the best of you. But you will never forget the people who were genuinely kind – those who helped when you were hurt, and who loved you even when you felt unlovable. Be that person to others as often as possible. Be the person that people tell stories about because of the amazing kindnesses you show.
Say what you need to say.
Speak up. Don’t hide your thoughts and feelings, especially when you can make a difference. Be brave. Say what needs to be said. Many people suppress their feelings in order to keep peace with others, or to shield themselves from potential rejection. As a result they settle for a mediocre existence and never become who they are capable of becoming. Even worse, many of these people develop illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carry as a result. Don’t be one of them. Hearts are often broken by words left unspoken, and this includes your own heart.