A Stop-Doing List

"Sometimes our stop-doing list needs to be bigger than our to-do list." --Patti Digh

I came across this quote by author and speaker Patti Digh on a Facebook page I follow. The quote stuck out to me because I'm a notorious to-do list maker. I'm also a notorious procrastinator who can hardly ever cross off any of the items on my several to-do lists.

Am I overdoing it with my to-do lists?

Creating lists makes me feel like I'm being productive, I suppose, and being productive and finishing tasks is something that I struggle with daily. I feel that living and fighting with chronic pain and illness every day contributes to my struggles and frustrations of being unable to get things done. It has to, right? RA causes not only significant pain but often extreme fatigue, which makes accomplishing anything quite a challenge. Cleaning, washing loads of laundry, cooking, shopping, keeping up with appointments and papers and mail and emails, and EVERYTHING can feel like giant mountains that are impossible to climb or move.

Despite this, I know that I can't blame my RA for all of my lack of productivity issues. There are years of habits and behavior patterns that I need to work on changing, and maybe creating and following a "stop-doing" list could help with this? I'm not sure, but I know that my numerous to-do lists invariably don't work that well. I also have a habit of losing them, but that's a different story.

My "stop-doing" list

Here's my first attempt at a stop-doing list that can hopefully help me see and do things differently and more beneficially, possibly improving my physical, mental, and emotional health. There are probably a million things I could list, but I'll keep it to 5. These are just a few things off the top of my head right now. And, of course, just because I list something doesn't necessarily mean it's easy to do.

1. Procrastination

Leaving everything until the last minute creates so much unnecessary physical and emotional stress, like when I'm running around like a maniac trying to get to work (or anywhere) on time or finish something that needs to be done. Why do I keep doing this to myself? Stop it, Angela.

There isn't an easy fix to stopping procrastination, as I've tried many times. Still, I realize that I need to start finding and trying some tools to help me, such as setting reminder alarms, using calendars, a reward system, or...something? I wish I could hire a personal assistant to nag at me and keep me on track all the time.

2. Bad sleep hygiene

My sleep "hygiene" and behaviors regarding my sleep are remarkably poor. I don't go to bed at the same time every night, and usually, when I do go to bed (or pass out), it's much later than I should. Like many other people, I'm sure, I've also developed the bad habit of being on my smartphone or laptop while lying in bed before trying to sleep. Looking at screens and scrolling through (probably) stupid things online does not help calm people down or prepare them to drift to sleep; it does the complete opposite. I really need to stop doing this.

Sleep is so important, and it especially affects my RA and chronic pain. If I don't get enough sleep at night, my RA usually flares up and gets worse. Another bad sleep habit I have is falling asleep in front of the TV and NOT in my bed, and then waking up in the middle of the night to move to my bed, which often results in a fitful night of sleep. I desperately and urgently need to stop ignoring good sleep hygiene and start practicing healthy sleep behaviors.

3. Putting myself down

I'm the queen of negative self-talk, and I know that keeping a cycle of negative thoughts about myself spinning in my mind is not healthy, nor does it help me move forward with the things I want to do and the kind of life I want to have. Unfortunately, as a product of low self-esteem, the tendency to beat myself up has been ingrained in me since childhood. I'm often my own worst critic and enemy, and I know this, yet it's hard to stop this behavior and way of thinking when you've done it for so long. However, I think just realizing and acknowledging that I do this is an important step in trying to make positive changes.

After all of the years wrought with self-doubt, self-criticism, self-judgment, self-loathing, low confidence, and low self-esteem, it's time to stop being such a jerk to myself. Negative self-talk is not only unproductive, harmful, and toxic, but it can cause increased anxiety and depression, which only makes living with chronic pain much harder.

4. Putting effort into people who don't appreciate me

I do this all the time and it's exhausting and always makes me feel hurt, rejected, and taken for granted. I need to stop doing this and learn to walk away from people who aren't willing to be equal, respectful partners in any relationship with me.

5. Worrying

Ha ha, yeah right! Like I can stop doing this? Nice try, Angela. I'm a HUGE worrier. I worry all the time and about practically everything. Most things I worry about, of course, are out of my control. And, 9 times out of 10, my worrying ends up being about nothing. Maybe that's closer to 100% of the time, actually.

I realize that worrying serves no purpose unless your life is in danger or the life of someone you care about and love. If a giant bear is chasing me through the forest, then yes, I should be worrying (and panicking). But when I stop to think about it, most of the stuff I worry about turns out to be fine in the end. Worrying about the future only steals happiness and joy from the present, and I need to find a way to at least cut down a bit on it if I can't stop it. Well, there's no way I can totally stop it, I know, but I think I can try to be more mindful and stop giving myself a heart attack all the time. Worry causes stress and stress is definitely not good for RA.

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