How to Make a 'What's Bothering Me List'
Have something that is nagging you? Make this list to help find a solution!
BY: Valerie Reiss
I crawled into bed last night with that lump in my throat that feels like a cork tamping down the effervescent champagne of unexpressed emotion. I realized sleeping in that state would mean I’d grind my teeth even worse than usual and have even more bizarro dreams.
So, I pulled out the notebook and started a list of everything that’s bothing me. Just short bullet points. Including even and especially the things I wish didn’t bother me. That if I was a better person or less sensitive they would be no big deal. But often those are the most persistent bubbles.
I filled thee large pages with everything from my new noisy neighbors to my frustation at myself for not writing people back to my upcoming six-month oncology check-up to global warming to my toe still hurting to my teensy bank account to not having anyone to cuddle with to my annoyance at myself for needing someone to cuddle with, etc. It felt very whiny and very, very good to release and confront all those things.
And what I noticed was that most of the things on the list were not real. 90 percent of it was my own heated internal huff-and-puff, shame spirals, stuckness, and beating the hell out of myself about everything from not cooking enough to not having fulfilled my dharma. Not sure what to do with that information exactly except be relived that most of it was seemingly reversible. And apparently within my control (if we can actually truly control this stuff, really).
So then I made another two very short lists. One of action items I can do now until my internal crisis abates at least (things like sit and meditate for 10 minutes a day, write for 10 minutes a day, buy tickets for a mellow concert that’s the same night as my medical test.) And then a longer-term list of goals I know I want to hit but feel too overwhelming to handle right now.
And after, I felt much better. Not cured, but better. And I sat this morning for 10 minutes. Yay.
So, three lists, if you want to give it a go.
1) What’s Bothering Me? Include things that seem too small to bother someone. If it’s an irritant, list it, also even if it’s something that’s supposed to be pleasant. Dump.
2) Short-term Action Items. Keep this list short so you actually do the things. I’m thinking 3-5 items. Scan your “bothering” list and see what jumps out at you and has the biggest emotional charge. Is there something you can do tomorrow or today to tone it down a bit? Do you just need time carved out for a hot bath to tone it all down overall?
3) Long-term Action Items. This one is more amorphous and might change when you handle the smaller stuff. It also includes things that don’t dissapate no matter how many small things you handle. Such as: Move to a new apartment, get out of this relationship, spend more time with my aging mother, write a book.
And then, there’s actually a fourth thing to conclude our session. The Gratitude List. Try for ten things, large and small. Much has been made of the power of gratitude–it’s an essential element to happiness, so say the happiness experts. Again, be honest–sometimes we have “shoulds” around things that please us–”It shouldn’t make me so elated that he did the dishes because that means I don’t want to hold up my end of the bargain,” etc. That goes on the list as: Joe did the dishes!
You can do the “bother” and “gratitude” lists every night for a while and see how that affects your life.