Decrease Your Stress By Ditching Those Discretionary Burdens

988d3f8d129ae9d899eee5ad04ea9150I read Balance or Bust by Marjorie Ingall in this month’s issue of Real Simple magazine.  In hopes of achieving a balanced life the author reads 2,330 pages of self-help books and documents her journey to “enlightenment”.  The process is fraught with eye rolling and the occasional harrumph but in spite of her self there is some self-discovery.

On Day 15 the author is introduced to discretionary burdens, a term coined by motivational speaker and author Pat Katz.  In brief a discretionary burden is something that sucks energy and increases stress levels but here’s the catch: it’s self-imposed.

Examples of discretionary burdens include: staying up late to bake birthday cupcakes for your child’s class or hand-sewing Halloween costumes or volunteering for a cause that isn’t near and dear to your heart.

It’s one thing if you feel re-charged by baking, it’s another thing when you’re snapping at the family, (“I am so busy!  I HAVE to bake these cupcakes and I just can’t get the exact shade of blue for Grover’s fur.  WHO ate the candy eyes that I just spent an hour crafting?!?  WHO!?”) instead of handing out store-bought candies, or passing entirely on the in-class celebration.

When it comes to martyrdom- and that’s really what discretionary burdens are – I am Queen.

But like I said in my post from yesterday (Cell Phone Detox: A Cure For My Bad Habit?), there are things that I want less of in my life and discretionary burdens top the list.  To avoid the trappings that all good martyrs fall victim to, I am keeping this phrase on the tip of my tongue:

“I will have to think about it and get back you.”

Tell me:  What’s your best anti-martyr one-liner?


21 thoughts on “Decrease Your Stress By Ditching Those Discretionary Burdens

  1. Fantastic! “Discretionary burdens.” I suppose the real trick is spotting one on the horizon and sewing your own lips shut before actually PROMISING your kids those cupcakes. Once you’re committed, reversing the process is hard to do without blowing your credibility.

    I’m doing a “31 Days to De-Stress Your Life” series over at my blog — would you mind if I linked to this? Thanks so much!

    • I am hoping that by saying “no” more, I will be opening myself to saying “yes” to more of what I want in my life. I see that one of you’re goals for 2014 is to stop yelling – me too!

  2. I quite often use ‘We can see what we can come up with.’ I find that if you make it a shared task then it becomes less of a burden. 1) because if the person is attempting to foist a task off on me then they haven’t succeeded so they change their mind. 2) It gives me wriggle room to change plans if needed. (Yes we can do cupcakes. I will buy cupcakes and we can decorate them together)
    If it’s kids asking then it teaches them that effort goes into making things happen 🙂 Win, win all round. 😀

  3. Ha! I found so much in this post to love! First, how delightful to have a blog involving a strong friendship and collaborative approach! I long ago, as in, two children ago, when I had half as many as I do now, I woke up one day realizing I too, was the queen of the self-imposed martyrdom I was trying to make sense of as I sat tattered on the floor amongst endless half started projects for my household, my college coursework, my family, my work, my friends, my toddlers, my toddler’s friends…. the list went on. It was then and there I decided to embrace the NO! I became the queen of my own revival of the anti-martyrdom movement- population one. Since then, about 10 years ago now, if you ask anyone who knows me well, I am quite known for being almost absurdly anti- anything that is a time stealer and that would be classified as a discretionary burden. It was a freeing decision. Some may see my behavior as selfish, I see it as practical and yes, self-serving. So what? Who else is going to care about my sanity and emotional well-being while raising four children and managing a balanced life and household but me, myself and I? So homemade cupcakes for school birthdays? Not in years! Hosting in-home parties for products I don’t want or need? No thanks! School fundraisers that require the parents to transform into cattle prodding supervisors to mini-sales people in a short term sweat shop, who’s target customer base seems to always consist of extended family and collect that money? Absolutely Not! I love seeing so many more mothers finally coming around to the idea that you don’t have to be a “Yes” girl to everything and every one all the time. Thanks for the read! Great stuff, I will certainly be back!

    • You are so right! No one else cares about my sanity/self-care so if I don’t invest in myself, I am afraid that I am going to grow into a bitter, resentful person and I don’t want that. It’s not that I want to say “no” to everything but be mindful of what I say “yes” to and why I am saying “yes”. Your reference to hosting in-home parties for products that you don’t want or need really hit home. In the past I have felt guilty for not “supporting” my friends but I have let those feelings go.

      BTW: your blog is beautiful!

      • Being mindful of the yeses I give- that’s a great way to put it. Yes, I think this problem plagues women because, especially as mothers, we are natural helpers, supporters, nurturers, and so it feels unnatural to deny our help when asked for it.. but with practice and time we can perfect the art of helping ourself stay full before we choose to deplete our own resources for the constant requests of others! Also, thank you very much! I’m so honored you took a look at my blog 🙂

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