Have you ever rushed through your day only to realise there was actually no real hurry?
Have you ever worried about what you’d said to a friend only to discover they’d never given it another thought?
Have you ever built yourself up into a stressful frenzy only to find that everything worked out perfectly and far better than you’d hoped?
I have come to see that a lot of my own chaos is actually self-created. Here are six ways to figure out whether yours is too:
You’re working to self-imposed deadlines. The immediacy of social media and the Internet can make the rest of your life feel much more urgent than it is. This ‘switched on’ speed can quickly creep into our everyday lives and make us feel like someone’s chasing us to the deadline of dinner (or later!), even on days when we’re just not that busy. (You can read up on this in Crazy busy and Rushing woman’s syndrome.) I was recently shocked to realise that only two of the 12 things on my ‘to do’ list actually had a real deadline attached to them (that is, I had to get something done by a certain time for someone else). The rest I was tackling with the same mad energy simply because my rushing has become habit.
I’m now trying this trick: Every morning (even if it’s quickly in my head while I get ready), I look at my day and divide my tasks into THE REAL and THE REST. I look at only THE REAL (they’re the must-do so my day works: drop off kids, go to meeting, collect kids, book tickets, for example). Then, once they’re done or locked in, I can think about THE REST (the non-urgent: send those texts, clean out the cupboard, fold the washing, ring that friend …). There’s something freeing about looking at only your biggest priorities and temporarily pushing aside the rest. Or getting your hardest stuff out the way before the better bits. Success expert Brian Tracy calls this ‘eating the frog’! It can make a big difference to your stress and productivity.
“Buddha described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering, carrying on endlessly. We all have monkey minds, Buddha said, with dozens of monkeys all clamoring for attention. Fear is an especially loud monkey, sounding the alarm incessantly, pointing out all the things we should be wary of and everything that could go wrong. Buddha showed his students how to meditate in order to tame the drunken monkeys in their minds. It’s useless to fight with the monkeys or to try to banish them from your mind because, as we all know, that which you resist persists. Instead, Buddha said, if you will spend some time each day in quiet meditation — simply calm your mind by focusing on your breathing or a simple mantra — you can, over time, tame the monkeys.
BJ Gallagher also suggests engaging your monkey mind in calm conversation to quieten it down. And it’s true. Lately, when I’ve felt wrung out, I’ve tried talking quietly to myself for as long as I can, just gently reminding myself that all is not lost and everything will be OK … I use soothing words, like those you’d speak to a child. It calms those crazy monkeys, for sure.
You’re losing yourself in information. Hands up if your bedside tables or bookshelves are groaning with books and articles you’ve started and not finished, or bought and hoped to find time to read? Hands up if your Internet browser has so many windows open you can’t even see which web sites are pleading you to peruse them! Instant and constant access to information can lead us down a rabbit hole of unread books and unattended articles. It’s crazy-making when it gets out of control.
I now try to leave out only the book I’m reading and put the rest out of sight. And I really question whether the web site or article is actually worth reading before I leave it open in my browser. The same goes for e-courses and other online resources. Do I really need it? Will it really help me? Is it just another shiny solution to a problem I’m not even sure I have? The stress of a mounting reading or resource list (“I must get back to that!”) can be just as draining as a real ‘to do’ list, and can leave us focusing only on what we think we need to ‘fix’.
You’re constantly seeking outside yourself. This one is like point 3, but bigger. Life coach Connie Chapman describes the incredibly common and persistent pattern of seeking fulfilment outside of ourselves like this: “This pattern pulls me into a game of chasing. Chasing external love. Chasing results. Chasing the next destination. Chasing happiness. Chasing anything that will fill the inner void and give me the next hit. In these moments, I am completely disconnected. I forget to pause, slow down and re-calibrate my energy and instead feel an empty inner burn to work even harder to get what I ‘think’ I need from the world.”
Connie suggests self-connection, presence, appreciation, acceptance, and inner awareness are the antidotes to this empty external searching. Going within to find your answers is a big topic—and arguably the holy grail of calm—so it’s well worth thinking about for yourself.
You’re missing the best bits. It’s easy to get your needle stuck on the old record of everything that’s wrong with you and your world. But focusing on the negative can mean you miss the positive. Focusing on the darkness can mean you miss the light within yourself and your life. Gratitude is a powerful way to wake up to everything that’s working in your life, and running through a quick list of everything you’re deeply grateful for (even the smallest thing) can quickly flip your mood from dark to light. Writing a nightly list of everything you’re happy about is a good habit. It might feel odd at first, but it can certainly make you more joyful. Finally, surrendering and trusting that all will be well and that everything will work out how it’s meant to, can also be powerfully peaceful (and fits nicely with the last point below).
You’re forgetting your superpower (or, you didn’t know you had one). Number 1 New York Times bestselling author Pam Grout is amazing the world with her versions of this age-old idea: our thoughts create our reality (also known as the universal law of attraction). In a nutshell, Pam explains it like this:
There is an invisible energy force or field of infinite possibilities (commonly called the ‘universe’.).
We are all part of this energy field. We are all connected to everything and everyone else in the universe.
We all impact the field and draw from it according to our beliefs and expectations. Whatever we focus on expands (appears).
The field gives us accurate and unlimited guidance.
The universe is limitless, abundant and strangely accommodating.
Nothing is absolute. Only our thinking makes it so.
Feeling love for ourselves and everyone else brings us into alignment with the universe, from where we can clearly ask for what we want and it will come to us as ‘ordered’.
Pam has stories from people all around the world reporting they’ve attracted everything from money to jobs to free motorhomes, and signs, reassurances and loving abundance aplenty. And she says this:“The true reality (that we’re all one, that the world is abundant and strangely accommodating, and that love is the final answer) is starting to emerge in the hearts and minds of individuals all over the planet, individuals who are standing up and proclaiming, ‘This can’t be right. There has got to be a better way!’ The way I see it, there are just two things we need to know: The universe has our back. Everything is going to turn out okay. That’s 12 freaking words.”
Learning about, remembering, and even testing this idea for yourself (if you’re not already) can banish chaos and feelings of lack (of time, of money, of love?) and make you feel calmer, supported and guided. (There are plenty of other authors on this topic. Check out Louise Hay, Gabrielle Bernstein, Wayne Dyer, Esther and Jerry Hicks, Rhonda Byrne.)
These are just six ways we might be creating our own chaos. Can you add to this list?