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This One Tool Will Drastically Change Your Stress Level

One of my new favorite tools came from Mel Robbins, and, as she told the story on a podcast interview, it was actually a lesson from her college-age daughter. When her son was a junior in high school he went to prom for the first time and Mel found herself attempting to micromanage all the details, including where the teens would eat, how they would handle the torrential rain storm, etc. Her daughter, noticing Mel's angst, said, "Mom, LET THEM. Let them eat tacos, let them get wet, let them make mistakes."

As Mel described, I, too, kept replaying these words in my head. With a tween and teen, I face the same need for control. Likewise, in my marriage and job, I also create angst for myself by not being able to let other people manage themselves.

Mel explains the cost we pay for our controlling tendencies. She says we expend a tremendous amount of energy and time on attempting to control what other people think, feel, and do. Can I get an Amen?

My daughter is almost 12. Here's me at night: Did you put in your rubber bands? Have you brushed your teeth? Did you take your pill? Did you remember to talk to your teacher? Have you done your chores? Did you bathe? And on and on.

I hate it. She hates it.

What would life look like if I "let her?"

It would feel scary, but I immediately feel my shoulders and jaw relax at the thought of letting go.

Obviously as a parent I still need to keep her safe, but simply letting go of the non-life threatening things would feel freeing.

I started thinking about burnout. Stress unchecked leads to burnout. What about control? Burnout makes us want to "fix" our symptoms, fix other people and our fix our jobs. Think of how much energy and resources we use trying to control the world around us, which, of course, we can't. This creates feelings of disempowerment and overwhelm. Like a clogged drain, over time this overwhelm and stress builds. Burnout doesn't happen overnight. It's not "all of a sudden I couldn't function." Instead, burnout builds that clogged drain, one hair or toothpaste blob at a time.

By the time we realize we need to work on the clog, it's already creating backup. Physical symptoms, suffering relationships, and mental ailments are present. It's ugly. The ugliness might show up as divorce, cancer, getting fired, or simmering rage and resentment.

What would happen if we could take Mel's advice and Let Them? Would this slowly dissolve the buildup and heal our burnout? It also seems feasible you could prevent burnout by letting go of control, thus minimizing your stress and overwhelm.

4 Steps to Minding Your Own Business to Improve Burnout

  1. Identify what's causing you the most stress. Is it a person, task, or event? When do you feel the most stressed or drained? If you're oblivious to the cause, you can't make a change.

  2. Get honest with yourself. What or who on your list of stressors do you have control over? Can you really control your husband's drinking? Can you control patients who show up late? What about traffic during your commute? Although it seems obvious, seeing it in black and white may help you realize you're stressing over things you have zero ability to control.

  3. When it comes to letting go, first, simply imagine how it would feel if you could let go or let them. Say it out loud. Let them forget their lunchbox, let them get dress-coded, let him overeat, let them show up late. Do you feel lighter?

  4. Start with low hanging fruit. Can you let someone be late, let others make their own health choices, let go of what you think someone thinks about you?

A week of this practice (and it is most definitely a practice) has already changed my stress level. I keep the image of the clogged drain and picture each "let them" as a whittling down of the blockage. My kids have noticed, too. My daughter told me she's enjoyed the freedom of not having me grill her at night and my son said his decision to stay up late resulted in him feeling like crap the next day. He went to bed at 9 the next night. At work, I spotted a mis-scheduled patient on my schedule. This would normally throw me into a tizzy imagining what-if scenarios about how it could play out. Instead, I let go, left him on the schedule, and it turned out to be no big deal.

How can you let go this week? Go through the steps listed above and watch this magic Drain-O do its job!

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