Life’s biggest stressors are often attributed to the responsibilities we have in our lives. Our responsibilities as adults, employees, lovers, friends… basically our responsibilities towards being an active and contributing member of society. But what I often see with myself and with my clients, is that we tend to take responsibility for more than what’s ours. This post is going to be all about managing stress by learning how to identify your responsibilities. Because the last thing we want to do is be stressing out about things that are beyond our control!
What is Stressing You Out?
The first and most important step is to identify what is stressing you out. Is it work? Family life? Your health? Whatever it may be, identify it. If it’s a combination of multiple things, identify them. This is where it’s great to grab a pen and a paper because we’re going to do a bit of a brain-dump exercise.
List out the big categories that are stressing you out. Then flush each category, listing all the reasons why they stress you out. Here’s an example of a work-life experience:
Main category: Work
Triggers: very demanding boss, difficult employees, unsustainable pace of work, unrealistic expectations, doing tasks that aren’t yours, feeling unfulfilled, lack of appreciation, lack of respect.
Identify Your Responsibilities
Now that you’ve gotten pretty intimate about what is stressing you out and you understand your triggers, let’s move to the next step: identify your responsibilities within this space.
Of the triggers that you’ve listed, which ones are you actually responsible for? Which ones do you have a say in, and can you change? In the example above, the responsibilities include doing the job well, training staff appropriately, and supporting the team by being a good team member. As an employee, you are responsible for getting the job done to the best of your ability and supporting the team in reaching the overall goals.
Once you’ve identified your responsibilities as they pertain to your stressors, you know exactly what is expected of you, and you know exactly the expectations to set for yourself.
Now Identify the Things You Are NOT Responsible For
Go back to your triggers and your responsibilities. How many of them match up? How many of them are you actually responsible for? Probably not everything. This is where we are going to identify the things we are NOT responsible for.
You’re not responsible for saving the world. You’re not responsible for carrying your team’s weight on your shoulders. You are not responsible for other people’s work. You are not responsible for being the perfect mother. You are not responsible for perfection in your life. You are not responsible for knowing what people are feeling and thinking. You are not responsible for everyone around you all the time.
How many responsibilities do you carry around every single day that aren’t yours?
Think about that. Write them down. Reaffirm to yourself that these are NOT your responsibility. Let go of the guilt, pressure and stress.
Responsibilities and Unrealistic Expectations
A lot of these responsibilities you might be putting on yourself are a result of unrealistic expectations. You feel like you need to be a superstar and do all the things in life. We might feel this way because it’s how we interpreted life at a young age – through the movies, through novels, through fairytales.
As we grow older, we still carry these unrealistic expectations with us. We want our life to be “perfect” – therefore we take responsibility for things that are not ours. By attempting to control things we have no control over, we feel like we’re creating that perfect life for ourselves.
But the truth is we’re supporting these unrealistic expectations. We simply can’t meet them. When we don’t meet them, we feel stressed out and inadequate. These feelings put more stress on us, and it becomes a vicious circle.
You cannot do everything.
The biggest lesson you can learn in life is that you cannot do everything. Identify what is your responsibility – what is within your control and what is yours to own. Everything else is up to fate, the universe, other people – whatever you want to call it. Putting this kind of pressure on yourself does nothing for you.
It just makes you more and more stressed.
As we know, high stress or prolonged stress can lead to eventual burnout, and coming back from that requires lots and lots of lifestyle and mindset work. Instead of waiting until you get there, start now. Start shifting your mindset.
If it’s not your responsibility, don’t worry about it.
If it’s not in your control, don’t worry about it.
If it’s unrealistic, change the way you see it.
Know that you are doing the best you can in this life, and the best you can do IS good enough. It has to be. Because there’s no way to do better, and putting pressure on yourself to get there is simply unreasonable and unrealistic. You are doing amazing as you are. And if you need any support through it, let’s chat.
Because I’ve been there, and it’s not worth burning out over.