No matter how much we love our life, sometimes our commitments and obligations (and our thoughts) can weigh us down. This week we’re considering ways we can lighten our load and make our days more manageable and enjoyable.
When our life feels burdensome, lightening the load can be a matter of a few intentional choices
Even when we’re making a life we love, the day-to-day can sometimes feel like a burden–too much to do; too high expectations (of ourselves and of others, by ourselves and by others); too much to maintain; too much on our minds. Sometimes it feels like we have no time or energy left to actually enjoy the life we’re making.
One article I read recently talked about the burdens we carry this way:
“Burdens, for example, are usually expressed as heavy loads that weigh down our mindsets. They can refer to recurring ideas, situations, distresses, worries, or responsibilities. A burden can be just about anything, whether that’s a person, place, thing, or even idea. Therefore, interpreting a burden can mean something different to each individual. Not all burdens feel the same, as some burdens may weigh down one individual while looking like a light feather to another.”
Some results and symptoms of this burden-carrying are exhaustion, stress, poor sleep, and we simply don’t enjoy our life.
A Psychology Today article puts it this way:
“We’re all carrying a load, including tasks, challenges, worries, inner criticism, mistreatment from others, physical and emotional pain, loss and illness now or later, and everyday stresses and frustrations. There’s a fundamental model in the health sciences that how you feel and function is based on just three factors: your load, the personal vulnerabilities it wears upon – such as health problems, a sensitive temperament, or a history of trauma – and the resources you have. As a law of nature, if your load or vulnerabilities increase – over a day, a year, or a lifetime – so must your resources. Otherwise, inevitably, you will get strained, depleted, and ground down.”
How can we lighten the load?
1. Declutter your home – so much of the load we carry centers around the stuff we take care of
Josh Becker (author of The Minimalist Home, which we discussed as part of our recurring Productive Reading series in TPW324) said this about it in The Burdens We Already Carry, a post on the Becoming Minimalist website:
Life is hard. Why would we ever choose to make it more difficult? But it seems to me that many of us choose to do that very thing simply by carrying excess possessions in our homes and lives. Perhaps Randy Alcorn said it best, “Every increased possession adds increased anxiety onto our lives.” Excess possessions take up residence in our homes and in our minds. They require care, maintenance, and attention. Every item we own must be handled and at some point, discarded—whether by ourselves or by a loved one. They add obligation, responsibility, weight.”
How much of that stuff you’re caring for and cleaning around actually adds value to your life? Curate your belongings to create an environment that feels light, spacious, and joyful. Full or overflowing shelves, cupboards, closets, and drawers weigh you down mentally and emotionally, even if you’re not conscious of it. Unloading some of the excess reduces both your workload and the psychological load–opening up “white space” in your home that gives you room to breathe–creates a haven from the world for us and those we love.
2. Simplify your schedule
Just as we can curate our belongings to create a light environment that supports and refreshes us emotionally, psychologically, and socially, we can curate our activities, obligations, and so on to create days that feel manageable, productive, and even joyful. Look at your calendar and daily/weekly schedule, and evaluate events, activities, and obligations. Here are some questions to ask yourself about each one:
Why am I doing this?
- Do I like the reason?
- How do I feel about this event, activity, obligation: Anticipation? Dread?
We all have to do certain things that aren’t fun, but can we minimize them? For each activity, etc., that you dread or feel neutral about, ask yourself:
- Do I really have to do this?
- What would actually happen if I didn’t?
As an alternative, is this something that can be skipped? Can someone else do it in my place?
Look for ways to eliminate events and activities that you don’t look forward to with excitement, to create “white space” in your calendar that will give you room to breathe, to relax, to rest, and to savor the activities and events you keep.
3. Pare down your inputs
We live in a noisy world with multiple inputs that create a heavy mental, emotional, and cognitive load (““Cognitive load” relates to the amount of information that working memory can hold at one time.” [from Cognitive Load Theory). It’s difficult to quiet our minds, which are working overtime to process all the information coming at us 24 hours a day. One writer notes:
“You need input, advice, and inspiration in order to make decisions, come up with new ideas, or take action on something. But with too many inputs (especially too many non-essential inputs), your ability to think clearly and make decisions is hindered. It leads to less progress, dual focus, and, ultimately, very little traction.”
Another article reminds us:
“The current reality is that there are too many inputs and we don’t have enough time to worry about each and every one of them. And even if we do, most of them turn out to be mere distractions, they don’t help us at all. Not only do we not get anything out of it. Spending a part of our time (of our lifetime) on them means spending less time on other things that are certainly the ones that should concern us. And that means an emotional cost and unnecessary stress.”
Create pockets of quiet by trying some of these things:
- Drive without the radio or a podcast playing
- Go for a walk without your phone
- Wear noise-canceling headphones while you work
- Turn off the TV
- Read a paper book at bedtime or while sitting on the porch
- Meditation/quiet deep breathing
Be intentional about information sources [Think about Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport]
- Social media fasts
- Limited TV news
Limit time spent with negative people and try to avoid gossip, which weighs down your spirit. Instead, seek out positive people who uplift you.
4. Renew your thinking
If you think about it, what thought patterns, attitudes, beliefs do you carry that weigh you down?
- Ideas about who you should be or what you must do
Can you replace these with more uplifting, “lighter” emotions? This ties to the inputs you allow–choose people and resources that encourage your thoughts in positive directions.
5. Eliminate open loops
This is a concept I first read in David Allen’s Getting Things Done: it means incomplete things – he defines as “anything pulling at your attention that doesn’t belong where it is, the way it is.”
Things we haven’t yet done are weightier than the things we have completed; they weigh on our minds. Things like tasks undone, decisions unmade, or conversations avoided. Taking the time to deal with them–even if to simply decide not to do them–will lighten the load we’re carrying. We get a sense of relief that makes us feel . . . lighter.
6. Take care of your body
Any load feels heavier when we are not at our best physically.
- Healthy food
- Medical appointments
7. Share the load
Let go of the idea that you must do it all on your own or that asking for help is a sign of weakness or failure.
- Help with tasks – family; roommate, coworkers, paid help
- Help with thoughts – confidant, counselor, coach
I am grateful for a small group of women I’ve masterminded with for several years; we encourage each other during meetings, but also reach out to each other with prayer requests, etc.
We all carry burdens of one kind or another, and to one degree or another. At some times in our life, the load feels heavier than others. When the load you’re carrying–even in a life that you love–feels too heavy, there are choices we can make and actions we can take to lighten the load and allow us to experience more of the joy of the life we’re making. Give yourself the space–and the grace–to do so.
What do you think?
Does the load you’re carrying in your life right now feel too heavy sometimes? What step can you take today to start making that load a little lighter? Post your suggestions in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or email me
Resources and Link
- Limit Your Inputs
- Reduce Your Inputs to Create More Focus – The Sweet Setup
- Sensory Overload: Symptoms, Causes, Related Conditions, and More
- The Burdens We Already Carry
- Cognitive Load Theory – Learning Skills From MindTools.com
- How Can You Turn Burdens Into Invitations for Freedom?
- How to Overcome the Burden of Stress in Your Life
- What Helps You Carry Your Load? | Psychology Today
- How to Claim Independence and Free Yourself From Life’s Burdens | Inc.com
- Carrying life’s weight – Sarah Redgrave
- Becoming Minimalist website
- The Minimalist Home, by Joshua Becker
- Digital Minimalism, by Cal Newport
- Getting Things Done, by David Allen
- TPW324-Productive Reading: The Minimalist Home, by Joshua Becker
- TPW366 – Productive Reading: Digital Minimalism, by Cal Newport
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Royse City, Texas