Often we experience stress because we have unpleasant conditions in our lives that we tolerate. These tolerations are little and big things, that eat away at our ability to be calm, like the chip in your favorite cup, the extra weight around your middle, the garage that needs to be cleaned out, or the friend that keeps you on the phone for an hour at a time.
In the first part of this series on “Reducing Your Stress By Eliminating What You’re Tolerating,” I discussed the idea of making a Tolerations List. This is the first step in creating a distraction-free life.
In this second part of the series, I will discuss prioritizing your list and strategies for finding solutions.
Here are a few ways to prioritize your Tolerations List:
- Start with the 3 easiest tolerations
- Pick the 3 tolerations that impact your life the most
- Rank them by urgency
- Group them in categories (e.g., work, home, people, family) and focus on one category at a time
Grouping your tolerations can help you get rid of them because often eliminating one toleration will eliminate another toleration. For example, if I clean out my filing cabinet I have more room to store the papers on my desk. If I start exercising regularly I will lose weight and my back will hurt less.
Another reason to group tolerations is that sometimes there is a single cause for multiple tolerations.
One of my clients had six tolerations that stemmed from one cause. Her six tolerations were:
- I’m tired of doing my kids laundry, they’re in college for heavens sake!
- I hate going to work because I have to listen to gossip
- I don’t answer the phone so my brother won’t try to borrow money from me
- I hide from the neighbors so they won’t ask me to feed their cat
- I don’t enjoy going to church anymore because I don’t want to bake cookies for social events
- I have low levels of reserve energy
Is there a pattern here? YES! My client had weak boundaries and an inability to say “no.” She was doing too much for other people. She was also spending a great deal of energy on passively trying to avoid doing things for other people. She resented others and was anxious. When she learned to say “no” and to set and maintain boundaries, she was amazed at the energy and time she freed up.
Whichever prioritization method you use, once you’ve organized your list it is time to start looking for solutions. Here are some strategies:
- Look for the source or cause of the toleration (which we’ve discussed)
- Ask other people for ideas
- Spend some money to get rid of a big chunk of tolerations
- Put a pen and paper by your bed and then review your “Tolerations List” before you go to sleep. (Solutions will often pop into your head as you fall asleep. This one is not for insomniacs!)
The strategy of asking other people for ideas worked well for me. I shared my list of tolerations with my husband and within a week he had eliminated three: the smoke alarm that had been sitting on the counter for 6 months, my internet wireless connection that constantly disconnected (he had to climb through the crawl space to run wire for this one – that was quite a sacrifice!), and the electronic alarm clock that displayed “)” instead of “0”. Then he and I made a plan on how to improve our health (which started eliminating more than one toleration).
In Part 2 of this series, we’ve discussed how to organize your “Tolerations List” so that you can get to work on eliminating them and we’ve discussed some strategies for finding solutions. In part 3 of this series, I will discuss how to reduce your stress through acceptance of the tolerations you cannot eliminate.
** The Reduce Stress by Eliminating Your Tolerations is a recording of a presentation on
How to Eliminate What You’re Tolerating in Life. It is approximately 30 minutes in length.
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