Over the past weeks, I have not been really myself work-wise. I felt tired and exhausted – no matter how much I slept or if I took time to relax. I could barely keep my eyes open and whenever I opened my laptop to get some work done, I felt like falling asleep on top of it. Needless to say, my productivity and output suffered and it created a vicious circle: I was upset with myself for not performing, stressed out about it, did not sleep and, hence, was even more tired.
Usually, I do not have any issues motivating myself to work. I just get up and do it. But recently, my mind trailed off. I started thinking about things which are completely unnecessary – often turning them into “problems” and stressing out about them. I caught myself swiping for ages on my phone or browsing websites on my laptop when I was actually supposed to work.
My first thought was that I probably needed a break. I took a day or two off but even then, nothing changed. My sleep was still off, I could not focus, I was tired. Then I stumbled upon a video on YouTube by Captain Raghu Raman who shares his lessons from his career in the Indian army.
Capt. Raman shared a story when he was a young recruit and complained about the distribution of tea and biscuits. When he and his peers arrived at the tea station, the soldiers in the years above had already taken everything, there were no tea and biscuits left. It was a small issue but Capt. Raman and his peers obsessed about it and filed a complaint. This complaint made its way up the ranks and from top to the bottom of the hierarchy, people were punished for their behaviour. Of course, Raman’s year was punished by their immediate superiors as well. Instead of looking for a long-term solution to the problem, he obsessed about a small thing like the distribution of tea and biscuits.
While I do not agree with certain military education methods or punishing people for speaking up, Capt. Raman’s main piece of advice resonated with me:
“Do not sweat the small stuff. Life is much bigger, there will be much bigger challenges. […] If you sweat the small stuff, your energy is taken away for inconsequential and useless things.”
Like Capt. Raman, I had been obsessing about the small stuff over the past week. Even when I thought I was relaxing, my mind was cluttered with inconsequential thoughts costing me a lot of energy. I went back into my mindset and analysed my thoughts. Looking back, it is a crazy mix of topics. I got annoyed that governments across the world are still unable to vaccinate their people. I came up with plans in my head what should be done to solve the current health and economic crises. I got angry when I encountered people who still do not take Covid seriously, when they go out and party or refuse to wear a mask on a plane when going on holidays during a pandemic. I got annoyed about (wannabe) influencers posting sexist pictures of themselves. I dwelled on some idiots making a racist joke.
All of these topics are important and there is a reason why I thought about them or got upset. It is true that the responses towards Covid in many countries lack a strategy and efficacy and that some people are selfish or Covid-deniers. Instagram and many (wannabe) influencers do fuel sexism by promoting a certain image of women. And, of course, it is inacceptable to make racist jokes. BUT – can I solve ALL these problems? And can I solve all of them NOW and AT ONCE? I wish I could, but I probably cannot. And dwelling on small things or on what certain people say or do, is just preventing me from focusing on what is actually important.
Since watching the video, I have been trying to channel my energy. I can have an impact and change things, but I need a strategy and focus. And that focus also means taking care of my own mental health. If I “cloud” my brain with all the small things, I cannot see what is actually important. I do want to contribute to solving the issues I mentioned, but I can only do it, if I am focused, motivated and productive. I cannot let anything take all my energy and mentally drain me and in the long-run do not achieve my goals.
This video was not a big revelation, but it reminded me of something I heard many times before. But sometimes, we just need to be reminded and focus on the right things again. I will keep you posted how I manage to “not sweat the small stuff” and maybe this mindset will help you as well.
Let me know if it works for you!