Fresh Living

Fresh Living

How to Make a ‘What’s Bothering Me’ List

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. I’m going to be experimenting and updating here. If you know of sleeker, better methods (and I know there are many) for easing your burdens, please let us know!

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  • Julia

    I really liked this post! Your lists sound great! I often find that when I write down what is bothering me I feel so much better, and I understand it better too. I find lists are so helpful for organizing my life and making sure I get to the things I really want to do. It’s been a particularly busy fall for me with lots of changes and new things going on. I decided to make monthly to do lists and my one for October was really successful! It felt great at the end of the month (and all through Oct really) that I did so many of the things I wanted to do that month. I happily made another one for November and I am looking forward to working through it.

  • Gwendolyn

    Ok I’ve had my rant over the flu and other things but I love this idea of listing what bothers one–making a list is a great way to sort out all kinds of issues, fears, feelings and it has nothing to do with being a nudge about lists in general. It is a fact that our brains cannot think of two thoughts at one time–we may multi-task but the brain has room for one thought at a time. Making a list allows you to slow down those runaway brain waves and channel them into smaller–not so gray areas–it can also help us with direction and purpose and maybe even have us see that we are not the heap of mess we thought. The gratitude list is a great way also to regain a bit of a more positive attitde if that is lacking–I include on mine even if a stranger smiled–or the sky was beautiful and I saw it. I also have tried to use the idea of asking myself before trying to sleep–“Is there anything I can do at this moment to fix or positively alter anything that happened during my day–it may be just writing a short note –if there is then I do it–and go back to bed knowing I have done my best even if it wasn’t perfect or needs tweeking tomorrow. Useless info perhaps but out of the word list we can pull “sit and stil (minus an l) but that is priceless in itself just sit still–rest your brain–then begin your list.

  • Your Name

    I learned to make lists when I was going through a really tough transition in my life. It really helped me keep things in perspective, and takle little problems everyday.Not letting your stress get to overwhelming is important.I’ve struggled with anxiety related depression all of my life, and have learned that looking ahead and managing my days by making lists and keeping a journal I am able to keep on top of things before they sprial out of control.

  • Theresa Gallo

    I need to stop smoking, stop eating poorly, and find the right career fit that I would be happy with. I need prayers.

  • Patty Hanson

    In addition to the helpful comments stated above-
    A good way to let go of the thoughts and things that bother/worry you, is to shit your attention away from the worry and sadness. A good exercise that can help with the shift is to become clear about what you do want. After you’re clear about that, place your focus on why you want it. Pay attention to the feelings that show up for you while you’re going thru the exercise. Do you feel more energy? Do you feel happy?

  • Liz

    I had always wondered if I should send my burdens or negative thoughts onto paper, because that is all that it would be-no production. I have been looking for this answer as I loose sleep over my worries. Thank you very much for providing an effective method that provides personal feedback, growth,and guidance.
    I have read and understood that each person is not to place their burdens on their shoulders, but rather hand them over to our super-consciousness (“God”) or visualize and request for our angels to carry each burden in a bucket for healing and awareness of whatever the situation may be presented. I hope this method can also assist others in the healing process along with the truth of our lists. I feel very blessed to keep finding these concepts to further my spiritual healing. I believe these are concepts schools should casually put out there for the children to automatically use to their benefit.
    -Visualizing the angel’s taking the burden concept was provided to me from: Doreen Virtue’s book “Chakra Clearing, Awakening Your Spiritual Power To Know And Heal”.

  • Machelle Thomas

    What is bothering me is when I pray so hard on something that I am waiting to receive from God and I still have not gotten it, then that is when I start feeling sad about it!but that is when I have to go and pray over it.God bless

  • Morthax

    Personally, I like to lay my thanks and complaints on my god at least once a day. Not in a “Please do this for me or the world’s gonna fall down around my ears” way, but in a normal, friendly, relaxed way as if I were shooting the breeze with the next-door neighbor.
    Leaving aside questions of metaphysical efficacy and empyreal etiquette, this exercise in familiarity blows off a lot of steam and does it without leaving reams of paper full of depressing lists.

  • Neni

    This was very helpful!

  • Kim

    Remember the song by Garth Brooks….”sometimes I thank God for unansered prayers”. How many times have I done this??? Have faith!!

  • Robert

    Lying in bed when i stumbled acr0ss this.truly inspiring,thank you.fr0m the neighb0rs n0ise to the writing a bo0k,u spoke to me. Grabbing a piece of paper. Know that,even if just me,ur blog helped

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