One beautiful lesson from COVID is that things can change on a dime. That means what is worrying me today may be a distant memory tomorrow–either because it gets resolved or because something more important takes its place. I have been getting really good at focusing on issues or problems that are right here, right now. I tell myself that I can worry about the other non-pressing issues later. And, somehow with the passage of time, most of those non-pressing issues become non-issues. I saw this quote the other day and it is sticking with me:
“What you give your attention to owns you. Choose wisely.”Kevin Miller
Conceptually, choosing to “worry later” about some things is a great idea. Yet, educators entered our profession because they have huge hearts and want to make a difference. They also want to do things right. They care deeply for their students. And, when we are navigating crises left and right, every problem seems like a huge problem because we are overwhelmed and facing burn-out.
So, how do we reduce our worry-load to help lessen our sense of overwhelm and stress? Let’s start by asking ourselves these three questions:
Are my feelings about this issue aligned with the size of the problem? When we are struggling, all problems feel like big problems. Pausing to ask ourselves if our reaction to the situation matches the actual size of the problem can help us align our reactions appropriately and reduce the worry-load we take on.
Is this my problem to solve or someone else’s? If you are like me, there are times I get all worked up about something that is not my problem to solve. If the problem is not within my control and when I recognize that I can better let it go. Or, if it is my problem to solve or I might have influence over the outcome, I can choose action steps that help me productively reduce the amount of worry and stress I feel.
Is this a pressing issue right now, or can I postpone my worry about it? Often we get worked up about things that change before they ever come to fruition or they actually resolve themselves without any outside influence. Or, something bigger comes along that makes what we were worrying about seem like a mouse problem rather than a mammoth problem. Don’t you feel like this is the case more often than not right now when things are changing at such a fast pace? Sometimes I even give myself a date and put it on my calendar–like, you can start worrying about this event two weeks before it begins, but for now, let it go.
In addition to these three questions it is also helpful to remember that our windows of stress tolerance are almost filled to the brim with the everyday stuff we have to encounter. Things that we used to be able to tolerate pretty well can set us off the edge when we have very little room for all the additional stress a day will bring. Cut yourself some slack for feeling overwhelmed…don’t pile guilt about how you are feeling to the burdens you bear. In addition to giving yourself grace, see if there are any stressors that you can let go to create some more space for the inevitable challenges of the day. (Read more about educator’s zone of stress tolerance here.)
Let’s end with this quote that can help us decide what is really worth worrying about. When it comes down to it, we spend way too much time worrying about things that won’t matter in five years.
5×5 rule: If it won’t matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes worrying about it.-Unknown
Please share your thoughts on helping educators (or anyone, actually) reduce their worry-load. What resonates with you? What strategies do you use?
We are so much better together.