Joyce Fredericks, November 10th, 2022.
Effortless vs. Effortful. If only all days could pass by effortlessly – you know, when making your bed doesn’t feel like a chore, that first cup of coffee gives you just the right jolt of vibrancy, and that zoom meeting actually accomplished exactly what it set out to achieve. Your brain and body are attuned to each other, and the hundred mini tasks on your to-do list seem like a breeze.
You’re not alone. In APA’s 2021 Work and Well-being Survey of 1,501 U.S. adult workers, nearly 3 in 5 employees reported negative impacts of work-related stress, including lack of interest, motivation, or energy (26%), cognitive weariness (36%), emotional exhaustion (32%) and physical fatigue (44%)—a 38% increase since 2019.
As a mom to twins, juggling a life of self employment and the relentless pursuit of healthy, intention-led living, I can relate. We want it all, and we want it to feel effortless. So when even the little tasks become overwhelming, the fatigue is real and the path ahead feels like a steep uphill battle, how can we shift from effortful to effortless?
Step 1. Take a pause. Shift out of story-telling (i.e. this day is so hard, I am so tired, I am so over this, and shift into our body. Close your eyes, tune into the body and ask yourself, What’s it like to be me right now? What is my body asking for right now? Some classic nervous system regulation techniques include long slow deep breaths, body scans, swaying or moving the body, even humming can nourish and restore your capacity.
This bottom-up approach, according to somatic therapists, helps our bodies re-establish a state of “safety” and/or regulation.
Step 2. Draw a mind map. Write down anything causing you to feel stuck, overwhelmed. Get ok with all of the things that you “can’t”. Tell yourself you are going to set down these “can’ts” on this piece of paper, for now.
Step 3. Ask yourself, how do I want to spend my energy right now?
Step 4. With this intention in mind, resolve to do only 1 small thing next. Answer, “What I can do right now is _________”. Break down large tasks and ambitions into small, mini achievable steps.
Over time, we can build a relationship with our body, and begin sensing when it’s time to come back to this mini ritual of shifting from effortful to effortless, one small tiny step at a time.