See if these sound familiar:
––I should be a lot more patient.
––I should be able to manage by myself.
––I shouldn't complain; other's have it worse.
Such unrealistic and demanding "shoulds" pile on stress. For example, the more you criticize yourself for not being patient, the more tense you'll likely feel, making you less patient. It might be comforting to realize even Mother Theresa was a bit testy with those around her, despite her great love for suffering people.
The next time you hear yourself saying, "I should," ask yourself three questions:
1) Is it true? Is it true that you 'should" be able to manage by yourself? Old West pioneers got by on their own, because no one was around for miles, but this lone ranger philosophy isn't "true" today, and it can cost you your health.
Is it true you shouldn't complain? Pretending you're not hurting, when the going gets rough may leave you feeling discouraged, lonely, and even depressed. And though your pain is less than another's, it still hurts. Telling someone in a straightforward way you're honestly struggling may open the way for receiving help people genuinely want to give.
2) How would my stress level change if I didn't have that thought? If you didn't demand greater patience of yourself, maybe you'd feel less pressure and actually feel like being more patient.
3) Whose thought is it? Does your "should" come directly from your merciless Should Monster? Say, "No thank you" or "I don't buy that" to your inner critic.
Is your "should" based on your own sincere beliefs? Then why not turn it from a should statement to a free choice by saying "I will" or "I'm willing" instead. For example, "I'll do my best to be more patient (and my best is good enough!)"
Then check again, and see if the new statement rings true and if it lowers your stress. If not, make a new choice such as, "I'm willing to have help and I'll ask around until I get it." By taking charge of your thoughts, you can stop feeling pushed by your Should Monster and instead become inspired by goals that reflect your own free choice.
©2006 Pat Samples. Permission granted w/inclusion of credit line:
PAT SAMPLES, MA, MFA, author of Self-Care for Caregivers and speaker who helps caregivers find peace of mind. Learn more at http://www.AgingAndCareGiving.com