It’s part 2 in my latest blog series! If you missed Part 1, you can check that out here. Before we dive into how to instantly relieve stress with just one word, let’s recap what you were supposed to do last week. Last week you were to pay attention to how you felt when you were asked to do something. We were looking for a pattern, remember? Did you notice your hesitation when you said yes to teaching the youth at your church on Sunday? Did any request cause you to feel overwhelm this week?
Now let’s go deeper…This week we’re going to add a practical task to that feeling to help you relieve a little stress.
My goal is to help you pay attention to that little voice inside, so that regardless of what happens whether it’s task-related or food related or whatever, you know exactly how to respond, when to say yes and when to say no. But let’s be honest, everybody’s not there yet, so that’s why I’m giving you a practical tool to help you decide what gets a yes and what gets a no.
Here’s this week’s homework. Draw a circle and write the word “me” in the center. Follow that with another circle and write the words “family and close friends” in that circle (this circle is for close friends only, not acquaintances). Draw a third circle around that and write the word “work” in that circle. Add the final circle around that one and write the word “social”. See my example. And please note this is not an exercise in how to draw the perfect circle, we don’t need that kind of stress.
Now think about all the crap you’ve said yes to.
Using a different color for each circle except red, put a dot for everything you have said yes to in its respective category. Just the dot for now, we’ll worry about the details later. For example, if the school asks you to serve as PTA President don’t confuse that with something for your child, that goes in the social category. If you are throwing a baby shower for your best friend, that’s the family and close friends circle. And for the work circle, the task must be directly tied to income. So for example if you are a business owner and you said yes to a presentation that is not directly linked to your business or what you sell, that is social. Hint: if you had to create the presentation from scratch, it’s not linked to what you sell. Taking a yoga class to relieve stress every week would give you a dot in the me category.
Then step back and take a look at where you are spending your time. If most of your dots are in the outer circles, then you know what comes next right? It’s time to start saying no!
I love this exercise because it gives you a visual representation of how you spend your time. We’re so quick to say our family is the most important thing to us, but in actuality your time doesn’t reflect that. If the only family event you have scheduled this year is to host Christmas dinner, then you’ve got to do better my friend. What about family trips, visits to the beach, going to the zoo? Is that in your schedule, or do you “plan” it as an afterthought because you found some free time in your calendar? Hmmm….
If your social circle is full of dots, flip the page over and start listing out what those dots represent and then get out that red pen. Hopefully you don’t need more than one page…Write NO in red right over that task you are going to eliminate. If your work circle is full, do the same thing for that circle. Saying no to those tasks allow you to put more energy into your inner two circles.
Great, now that you have eliminated some tasks, redo the exercise and see where the dots fall.
The goal is to have more dots in your inner two circles.
I actually recommend doing this every quarter to make sure that you are focused on your inner circles.
The great thing about this exercise too, is that it can show you how overextended you are. If you have dots all over the place, you are likely all over the place. Versus dots concentrated in the core areas of your life paints a much more stable picture. Stability equals less stress. And if you still need another reminder, here’s a quote from my Instagram page. Use it every time you feel bad about saying no.
So did you guess what one word instantly relieves stress? No….
Photo credit: Photography by Ashley Stephenson (just of me, of course, the pictures of the circles are from my cracked iPhone. Eek! No worries, new one on the way…)