“Things will be better next month when everything calms down.”
“We’ll be less stressed once the kids are older.”
“Work is crazy but once I get that promotion I’ll be able to breathe.”
“If I can just make it to the summer, then I’ll finally be able to relax.”
How many times have you said some version of those statements to yourself?
"It’ll be better WHEN…"
I had a version of this moment this weekend. I’m SO close to releasing the new version of the Better Lettering Course tomorrow with a new blog and community site to house my love of hand lettering.
But, as I've been focusing on that major overhaul, I’ve had two other semi-secret projects running in the background, and I’ve found myself stretched thin yet again. (I’m noticing a pattern here of vastly over-estimating what I’m capable of devoting time to and vastly underestimating the amount of time and energy any task will require. Let’s call it an “opportunity for growth,” people!)
Anyway, I found myself in one of my classic Caroline meltdown moments, feeling the weight of just how many things I’d committed to. I was telling all of this to Jason and these words came out of my mouth: “If I can just buckled down and make it happen, things will be better next month.”
Really?! That's the strategy I wanted to go with? "Things are pretty tough right now and my brain is so full that I can't remember my middle name BUT... yeah, I'll just keep doing that until some undisclosed date in the future..."
Umm... no thank you.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with that sentiment of course — work hard now to reap the benefits later — except that it gives us permission to avoid making any real changes to the way we work NOW or the way we’re operating in the PRESENT.
When we wait for stress to magically disappear, we're postponing joy for a day that may never come.
Instead of letting ourselves off the hook and blaming our stress on timing, we should be using those feeling of overwhelm as an indication of what’s not working. Instead of trying to wait it out like a storm that will pass, we should take the control back into our hands and remember... we have the power to control our own weather.
When I really think about what gets me into a stress mess, it’s often because I’m prioritizing work or trying to please others over making time to take care of myself and engage in habits that keep me grounded and present.
These feelings of "there's not enough time" are my first indication that the design of my life is starting to drift away from my values, and I need to use that trigger as a powerful reminder to shift it right back again.
To make that shift back and to start alleviating stress TODAY rather than some distant date in the future, here are the two questions I'm trying to ask myself:
1. What’s one thing I can do TODAY to help me redistribute my commitments and priorities?
That could mean making a big, tough decision like ending Color Your Soul, or it could just mean taking a look at my to-do's and trimming back what isn't absolutely essential to the work I'm focused on. The idea here is not just to WAIT and HOPE for your schedule or workload to rebalance itself, but to actively contribute to a better balance.
2. When I feel overwhelmed, what are three small time investments that will help bring me back to center right NOW?
Again, when I find myself in a frenzy, it's typically because I've been prioritizing work over the things that keep me centered and vibrant, many of which are daily routines like devoting time to my Five Minute Journal to practice gratitude, spend time in stillness outside and make time to freely create in my art studio. Those are three small things that I can devote 15 minutes each to, but I have to prioritize them and see them as important if they're going to do their job to keep me joyful even in times of stress.
I know it’s cliche, but none of us knows how long we have on this earth. Waiting for a day when it’s "all better" or when we have the space and time to be our best selves is too risky. We have to make TODAY that opportunity. We have to decide that the time is now.
Today, I'm taking my own medicine. I'm slashing my to-do list left and right and I'm devoting time not just to DOING my best work but to BEING my best self. When I place equal emphasis on those two things, that's when stress starts to dissipate and I stop waiting for a better day; instead, I create it.