Are you sometimes too hard on yourself? Do you try to be the best at too many things? Do you fill your calendar with too many obligations? Do you over-commit? Then do you buy yourself a ticket for a guilt trip when you don’t keep pace with the breakneck schedule you’ve imposed on yourself?
Take a deep breath. Better yet, take a close (and honest) look at what you’re doing to yourself.
Paula Rizzo can help. She nearly killed herself (literally, though not deliberately) with her own version of “I’m Superwoman and I can do anything and everything.”
In the first part of this conversation (see “Stressed? Maybe Rest Can Be Your New Hustle”), Paula talked about setting realistic priorities. Her book Listful Living: A List-Making Journal to a Less Stressed You offers an excellent guide to living a productive life without the pressure of unrealistic, self-imposed obligations. Here she follows up with advice on the value of self-care.
Rodger Dean Duncan: How does “listful living” help people identify and act on their core values?
Paula Rizzo: We’re not just talking about lists, we’re living them! Keep, a journal that helps you identify your core values, how you work best and then sets you up for success to get more done and work in self care too. No one wants to experience burnout. Instead, you need to align yourself with what truly matters. Not what you think should matter or what you wish would matter. But truly what matters to you and your core values.
For instance, let’s say you value sleep. If that’s your priority, then every decision you make has to be made in consideration of your sleep schedule. So if you’re invited to a networking event in the evening, you’ll know you need to decline because that will interfere with your (sleep) priority right.
Duncan: As a TV producer focusing on health, and now as an author focusing on productivity, what have you learned about dealing with—or better yet—avoiding burnout?
Rizzo: Pause and prioritize. We’re so used to jumping in and doing that pausing feels unnatural. It takes some practice, but it really does work. This works for opportunities we say yes to, things we’re asked to do, and the goals we set. We are quick to jump and say yes. Instead, pause and check in with yourself and see if a particular activity aligns with your priorities right.
According to Stress.org, up to 90% of all doctor visits are related to stress. Stress can affect every part of our bodies—from headaches and heartburn to certain kinds of disease.
I meditate for ten minutes a day using an app called Calm. I find that ritual in the morning makes me more aware and more productive throughout the day. I like to think of it as a time I give myself.
Duncan: “Mindfulness” seems to be all the craze these days. What does it mean to you, and what’s your advice on how best to practice it?
Rizzo: We all get self-care and mindfulness very wrong. It doesn’t have to just be about taking a weeklong vacation or getting a $300 massage.
There are other ways you can be mindful and take care of yourself throughout the day. That has to do with how you set up your schedule, what support system you have in place, what commitments you say yes or no to. I always give myself an extra day to decompress after traveling. I give myself a chance to catch my breath before jumping back in. This is an act of kindness and self-care.
People around the world are doing it better than we are. A Danish word related to this is hygge. It essentially means “kindness to yourself.” This could be by giving yourself permission to enjoy a good book, cozy up with your cat, or sitting by the fire.
Duncan: What do you do if something keeps popping up on your list over and over again?
Rizzo: Reevaluate that item. Do you even want to do it anymore? Maybe it’s something for the future or something you can cross off your list forever.
I once interviewed a woman named Karen Rizzo. We aren’t related but we love lists the same. She wrote a memoir in list form and “Learn Italian” kept popping up on all her lists. I asked her if she’d ever done it. And she emphatically said “No!” She realized that it was pressure she was putting on herself for no reason and that she didn’t even want to do it anymore.
Sometimes you need to give yourself permission to cross things off your list that you’ll never actually do. And that’s perfectly okay!