We’ve all heard it a million times: “Don’t sweat the small stuff!” We hear but we don’t listen, because about 90% of what makes us crazy or keeps us feeling pressured and/ or stressed is the small stuff. Other expressions we hear often hear are “the devil’s in the details” and “it’s the little things that count.” The sweet spot is somewhere in between: knowing when the little things count and when to let go of that devilish detail.
One of those annoying little things that gets blown way out of proportion is tv. On one level, we probably don’t give it a whole lot of thought, because it’s just television but how much time do we really put into it? When I was in college, I used to tape my favorite tv shows because I’d usually miss them or I’d be doing homework while they were on. I tried to watch the tape over the weekend and as I got busier with work and school, it’d be the end of the week and I’d have 5-6 hours of tv to watch and it wasn’t too long before I got behind on my tv shows, so I’d get another tape (this is the era of VHS) and then I’d have 8-10 hours of tv to catch up on and then I’d need another tape, and you can see where this is going. (Just so you know, these shows were so important in my life I don’t even remember what they were anymore!) Eventually, I had to let them go. As much as I hated to miss these now-nameless programs, they did teach me something important: it’s just tv.
This probably sounds kind of funny coming from someone who is as dedicated to my favorite shows as I am. (I have reminders set on my phone for the ones I’m most likely to miss!) But I also remind myself that it is just tv, and if I miss an episode, it’s not the end of the world; I have options like on demand and reruns (I don’t have a DVR and I don’t do streaming). This week is a good example: I missed one of my favorite comedies (Big Bang Theory). I was a little irritated but it’s just tv. There are some shows that I will go the extra step to watch (Big Bang, Mom, NCIS, Grimm, etc) and I make an effort to pay attention, because in a way, they are my time for me, but at the end of the day, they are some of those “little things.”
Just as a comparison, in case you think I’m making too much about tv obsession, a few years ago, as I was on my way out to meet a friend for lunch, I got a frantic call from my mom. She’d sat on her remote control (yeah, I know- eye roll) and now it wasn’t changing the channels or doing anything other than adjusting the volume. When I told her I would stop by after lunch and reprogram it for her, she literally had a melt down over the phone and threw a tantrum worthy of a 4 year old because she would have to wait a couple of hours to get control of her tv back. This pretty much sealed it for me: tv is NOT a priority. Even today she will have fits about having nothing to watch on tv.
Television is just one example of the small stuff so many of us hang onto too tightly. Why does this matter? Because we put stress on ourselves over the little details and tasks that we cram into our lives. This is something from someone who has a lot to do and decides to cram a blog into her already crowded schedule! But it’s actually a good example: if I want to dedicate time to this blog, that probably means something else has to go or at least get cut back. Also my boss recently informed me that he is considering extending my hours, so there will be more time spent at work (whoo hoo! more money! but also, less free time). Most of us like having a busy schedule. It makes us feel important; it makes us feel like we have “full” lives, and that we are productive. Those are good feelings, but when our schedule starts making us feel overwhelmed and stressed and starts eating away at our health, that is definitely not a good feeling. This is where we need to find the sweet spot: that place between hanging onto the small stuff that gives us fulfillment and holding onto that bucket of stones that’s pulling us under. Time to empty that bucket!
At the time of this writing, it’s fall and the new tv lineup is premiering and at the same time, one of the shows I really enjoy is ending for the season, so it’s an exciting time for the tv fan in me: a lot of Can’t-Miss shows are on! Unfortunately, one of the shows that’s returning was one that I started watching while I was rehabbing from my knees, so I was off work and it didn’t matter if I stayed up ’til 11:00 p.m. or later, but now I work so doing that is not good for my sleep. And it’s a show that I don’t get on demand, and it might not get rerun on PBS for several months (if ever). Hmmmm, that stinks. I guess I miss that show because the alternative (staying up late on Sunday nights) is not an option for me. It’s already hell for me getting up on time on Mondays (I don’t do mornings or Mondays well). It also happened with the show that’s running its three part season finale: it also comes on late but on Monday nights, and that one, I do stay up for if I can, but I also know I can catch it on demand if I need to, and several weeks ago, I needed to. I was wiped out at the end of a long Monday and rather than force myself to stay up later than usual, I called it a day and went to bed at my regular time. Later that week, my tv receiver was acting up (it still is!) and on demand wasn’t available. I managed to catch it eventually, but if not, it’s just tv. I like it; it’s a treat for me, but at the end of the day, it’s just tv.
This is just one example that I think most people don’t think of when they think about those stressors and time-gobblers, but it is. Even if you DVR or stream some of these shows, it still takes up your time. The better thing about DVRs and streaming is that you can choose when you want to watch them, so you don’t have to cram them into your schedule, but then you’re still in the same boat I was in with the VHS tapes: sometimes you’ve got more to “catch up on” than you have time to view it.
One of the other things that really gobbles up a lot of people’s time is social media. People get so caught up in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, & Snapchat. One of the popular commercials for an Internet provider is a mom freaking out because their service is down and she has to “like” something. It would be funny if it weren’t so true. People feel pressured to like and post and forward all of these posts from their “friends” on Facebook. They need to tweet about what they are doing, or post something on Instagram: “I just ate the most delicious red velvet cupcake and I posted it on Instagram!” This consumes a big part of people’s lives and while I really don’t do any of these (I only do my fitness app MFP), I recognize that I am the oddity here. It’s been a long day and after dinner and maybe a little family time, you want to go to bed, but you haven’t been on Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram/ whatever all day and you really need to look at your feed to see what your friends are up to, so instead of going to bed, you stay up to scroll through what “happened” today. You feel the pressure to like their posts at the very least,and maybe comment on a few. I usually do this on MFP after dinner in front of one of the tv shows that isn’t really important to me, but I also acknowledge that if I’m very tired or it’s already late, catching up with my friends will have to wait. They are as important to me as everyone else’s Facebook friends because we are all part of a support system, encouraging and helping each other with our fitness goals. They boost me when I’m down and I try hard to be supportive for them. It’s a tough decision sometimes, especially if I’m really behind, but this is part of letting go. When it means I have to stay up late to post and “like,” it’s no longer one of those supportive “feel good” little things and becomes another rock in that bucket dragging me under and I need to let it go for now.
We all have that long list of things we like to do that keeps us feeling productive and accomplished: clubs and hobbies and friends and sports. These are the things that round out our lives and most of them are good things. We also have those necessities that need our attention, like family, house and yard work, and (for me especially) vehicle maintenance. This is where we need to look at our list and decide what can we let go of for now (or maybe permanently) and what needs priority on our list. It’s important to meet up with friends and spend time with them, but if I’m crammed for time, they’ll understand. (I do it for them too.) It’s important to me to spend quality time with my pets (they’re my “kids”!) and make sure they get enough attention and activity, and they are a priority since they depend on me to take care of them. It’s important to me to keep current with my podcasts, with my blog, and my reading, but when push comes to shove, I can let those slide for awhile. They are one of those feel-good non-necessities; making sure my car has oil and my cats aren’t out of food are priority items.
There are some things that I really enjoyed that I had to throw out of the bucket because I no longer had the time and feeling the stress of trying to cram them in wasn’t worth the benefit. Some of these were television shows, some were hobbies (I used to collect stamps) and they were enjoyable, but at the end of the day, they were things that weren’t strictly necessary to my life. There were also some friends I had to let go because they weren’t exactly conducive to my health and well-being. Most of us are familiar with the “toxic friend.”
We all have to look at what’s filling up our lives when we start feeling pressured or overwhelmed to get things “done.” One of the things I remember hearing from my college psych instructor pops in my head every now and then: “sometimes it’s okay to put the dirty dishes in the oven and go see a movie.” If the front lawn gets a little shaggy, there are dust bunnies under the bed or the latest book is collecting dust on your desk, it’s not the end of the world. If you need to take the kids to the park and watch them run around for a couple of hours, that’s what you need to do! Family time, especially relaxing family time, is time invested in your health and your family’s health! Everything else can wait for a couple hours (or maybe a couple days) while you get the really important things done. For me on a lot of evenings that means putting the book down to play with the pets. If I don’t get the book finished anytime soon, it’s not the end of the world, but if I don’t play ball with the pup, it’s a national disaster!