Several years ago in my journey trying to live a more sustainable life I found myself feeling really overwhelmed. I felt there were so many things to improve, so many things I “should” be embracing, so many bad habits to change, so much waste to reduce. All this while juggling between family and friends, work, housework and personal commitments.
I am a bit of perfectionist (in recovery) but I think anyone can feel this way and it is easy to get caught in this behaviour when you start learning about all the issues the planet is facing and you realise you are part of the problem – sometimes ignorance has its positive side!
For that reason today I am sharing with you some ways that I personally feel helped me to avoid feeling that way and that I keep embracing today.
1. One change at a time
In my opinion this first one is quite crucial, one change at a time is all we need. If you are like me: we live a busy modern life, we work or study, we have so many responsibilities (and also distractions), the more we over-complicate our life, less the chance to achieve what we want.
I find it easier to focus my attention in one thing, work on it, track it, conquer it and then I am ready to repeat the cycle with the next improvement.
This is particular important when it comes to forming new habits. As you probably already know changing our default behaviour is not a simple task, it needs repetition and effort. If you are trying to change several habits -that form part of your daily routine- at the same time it can be even more challenging.
One thing that I find useful is to have a Green Wish List, every time I learn about an issue and something I could do to improve/reduce impact, I add it to my list in no particular order. And from that list I select the next item I want to focus my energy on.
2. Don’t let it become a burden
When we are overwhelmed is easy to feel the pressure and the burden, which in most of the cases is just self-imposed because nothing is going to happen if we don’t do everything this right minute.
All these changes take some of my personal time, no question about it, but I do it because I want to, because I feel it is the right thing to do and they are aligned with my values.
Tapping into your why can help you find pleasure in these tasks instead of thinking about them as a burden. As usual, it is the interpretation we give to things what makes a difference in how we react and feel about it.
3. Ask for help
Even when this is your personal journey you can always ask your family, friends or flatmates to collaborate in some way. You can’t force anyone to change, we have to respect that however they can make your life easier helping you even with little things.
The last few times my mother has stayed with us, it has been a bit of a challenge for her to adapt, we do things very unconventionally and she always feels there are many “rules” to follow (after all these years for us it is just normal, no effort required) but even when she doesn’t necessarily agree/understand/care about many of these things, I ask her to try to collaborate with certain things and she does, maybe not 100% of the times but she puts an effort and that makes my life a bit simpler.
4. It is not a competition
In those early years I spent hours browsing information on Internet: blogs, Facebook groups and online communities. I read about all these people doing so many positive changes. I remember reading about this girl picking so many bags of rubbish everyday from the beach, or the girls that fit all their waste in a single jar, or the lady living off-the grid in a tiny house in the mountain!
It was very easy for my mind to compare myself to those standards and say: Gosh, you’re doing nothing, really! but that was just a trap, a very unfair one.
I could also felt there were a lot of expectations from some people in those communities; You couldn’t say you cared about the environment if you were not doing x, y, z.
The reality is we all live different lives, we have different personal challenges and issues, we are all at different levels of awareness, in essence we are individuals trying to do the best we can.
When I chose the name Greener Identity, I did it thinking precisely about the fact that this is a personal journey, as individual as your identity. Therefore you define your own path based on your personal circumstances and keep growing from there.
Don’t get me wrong, those achievements above are amazing, I applaud and admire people showing us all the amazing things that can be done and I often learn a lot from them, but the comparison is nonsense and our brain loves to do that.
Remember it is not a competition, we are all in this together to make this planet a better place.
5. Use it or let it flow
When we consume so much information about these topics, we tend to find all sort of ideas and tips to reduce our impact on the environment and live a greener life. That’s excellent, but again everyone is at different levels in their journeys and we can’t do it all even if we want to.
Treat information that comes your way as a buffet, take what’s useful and right for you at this point in time and just ignore the rest, let it flow without judgements.
This is also quite important when we disagree about certain information we read/hear because to be honest, maybe we are not ready for that yet (and we don’t see it) or maybe we don’t know much about the topic or perhaps we don’t have their perspective because we haven’t experienced that particular circumstance. We sometimes waste so much energy trying to convince people we are right and they are wrong, but is it really the case?
We drain ourselves in these super battles (especially online) what for? It only adds more unnecessary stress to our days. Everything is just a point a view based on our beliefs. Let’s be more flexible and open. Again, use it or let it flow.
6. Celebrate progress
Congratulate yourself for all the things you have achieved so far. This is so important, we tend to focus on what’s missing, that long to-do list, all those bad habits we want to change, but what about all the positive things we have done so far, even if they are small.
I have to keep reminding this myself because again my brain loves to play these “never enough” games and it doesn’t help. When I acknowledge the good things, I am actually more motivated and willing to continue working on the things are important in my personal quest.
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world” – Desmond Tutu
There you have it, some reminders to avoid feeling overwhelmed and make our journey more joyful. Have you experienced these feelings before? What did it help you to overcome it? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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