BLOGPOST – Thinking small about stress and burnout

We’re constantly told to think big.

We’re told we need to dare to dream big, shoot for the moon, all that cheesy, Hallmark, straight to DVD, Channel-5 afternoon matinee stuff. It’s a message we’ve been given since we were all kids.  

The problem is, we’re actually crap at thinking big. We’re really bad at thinking in big terms. We’re shit at big numbers and we’re awful at comprehending the scale of big things, We are bad at big ideas. 

Think about it. Can you actually imagine the size of the earth? Can you actually conceive of it? Like, really, what does something that big look like?

What about the size of the continent you live on? The country? Hell, even the town you live in? Can you get a sense of scale?

You can’t. You can’t really perceive the actual size of it in any meaningful way.

We’re bad at numbers too. Did you know that it takes about 11 and a half days to count to a million? You know how long it would take to count to a billion? 

About 32 YEARS! That’s how much bigger a billion is than a million. It’s a number so big, that we can’t even really conceive of it other than knowing that it’s “quite big.”

So thinking big is a wonderful idea, and we’re constantly given the message that it’s how we should approach things, but we’re just not good at it, which means big trouble. 

Because problems almost immediately become too big for us. Challenges become too big to even think about tackling. How can little old me possibly change this?

When it comes to making changes in our own lives, protecting our own well-being, addressing stress and burnout, we’re stuck in this big thinking mode, unable to move because we think we have to do big things.  

Instagram will tell you to get up every day at 4am to work out for an hour before eating your breakfast of chia seeds and dust, have 10 big ideas, spend 37 minutes on your gratitude journal, work for 10 hours (in 48-minute bursts), work on your novel, starve yourself until 8pm, eat some leaves (and more dust), meditate for an hour, and get 8 hours sleep.

Just work harder, damn you. Work harder!

No one does this. It’s stupid.

So think small. 

Think tiny if you have to. 

If we want to begin to look after ourselves a bit more and start to practise self-care, we can start small. Think about what’s important to you and then think of the smallest possible thing that you could do to move yourself towards that thing. 

Feel like reconnecting with nature might be good for you? Well you don’t have to start with a 2-hour walk in the woods. Stick your head out the window and take a single deep breath of fresh air. Notice what that feels like, what it does to your body, your mind? 

Don’t have windows? Shitty air quality? Just close your eyes for 10 seconds and pay attention to the sounds that you can hear around you. Notice what happens, where your mind goes, or doesn’t go. That’s a momentary connection with your immediate environment. You don’t need to sit under a tree and meditate at sunrise for 30 minutes every day!

Relationships an important part of your life? Connections with family and friends? You don’t have arrange a sit-down meal and a 2-hour catch up. Just take 30 seconds to send a text. Once a day. Once every two days! Different people each time if you want. Doesn’t’ even matter if you don’t get a response. You’re moving yourself towards who you want to be. That’s good for the soul.

There are so many small things that we can do to look after ourselves a little bit more, none of them include dust-diets, week-long silent retreats, or revolutions (although if that’s your thing, go for it). And these tiny things can still be done even if the broader environment that you live or work in is still out to get you, as it so often is. 

So when it comes to self-care, think small. 

Think tiny. 

What’s the smallest thing you can think of? Do some of that.

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