Stress and the Endless To-Do List by Nadya O.

Ever since I was little, I’ve had the habit of always focusing on the future. During family dinners I would repetitively ask what the plan was for the evening, what we were going to do the next day, what time I had to wake up, what I had to accomplish before I went to sleep. In my mind, before I could actually write and spell correctly, I was already making to-do lists and checklists to accomplish my goals.

I consider myself a very determined individual, someone who is motivated to move forward. Although this often brings me to stages in my life that are exciting and adventurous, it also leaves me with an overwhelming amount of stress. I constantly feel like I may have wasted my time, since I still have things unaccomplished on my to-do lists.

I have always kept a notebook with me, and although I call it a journal, looking back on many of the tea-stained pages, it seems like the majority of the space is filled up with checklists. Some of the lists include homework problems, application deadlines, or even groceries and household duties that I feel a responsibility to accomplish. However, once I actually am able to cross something off my list, I never give it a second thought—instead, I dismiss whatever the task was and move on to the next one without even processing what I just finished. This leads to more stress, because I never take a break from always focusing on what has to be done.

A couple of months ago, my mother put her foot down when this stress landed me in the emergency room. The reason? A lack of focus during a dance rehearsal because I was going over my checklists in my head. During ballet that day, the advanced classes were participating in a workshop session on pirouettes (a move that requires the dancer to use her lower back muscles to propel her body into a continuous spin while balancing on her pointed toe). This particular class also happened to be during finals week at school, so my mind was elsewhere while I was trying to practice turning. Due to my lack of focus, I lost control of the tension in my lower back and sprained it. It was an injury that would have been easily preventable if I had focused more on where I was turning and which muscles to contract. My mother took me to talk to a close family friend who is also a life coach. After our hour-long talk, I took away this quote which I’ll pass on to all of you overly-anxious humans out there:

“The checklists never end…”

Think about it! If you are the type of person who overanalyzes every single task that has a deadline, creating a wall between yourself and reaching a state of relaxation, you understand. You constantly find yourself feeling like you are lagging behind in your agenda and possibly in your life. Well, if you just engrave it into your mind that the checklists
never end
, then you will be able to cut yourself the slack that you need to sit back and take a deep breath. There is always something more that you may feel needs to be done, but it is completely unnecessary to place any additional pressure on yourself for having an unfinished checklist.

Now, I know that this concept of relaxing is way easier said than done. (Trust me, I of all people know this extremely well.) In fact, I am far from reaching that mindset of completely understanding and accepting this concept. I still have occasional anxiety attacks where I am overwhelmed with all the things I have to do. I still have those feelings of being behind on my work and my list of goals to accomplish. I often feel frantic due to just thinking about too many things at one time. I still occasionally bump into things, trip, or have injuries that happen due to a lack of focus. Yet just acknowledging this concept of my checklists never ending often helps me calm down and be at peace with the stress before it tips me over the edge.

To those stress-heads like me out there, I urge you just to try to relax and remember…the checklists never end.

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