Making a List: One of the Most Helpful Strategies to Reducing Stress

A simple list may be the only thing you need to eliminate most, if not all your stress and anxiety.

While on the surface this may sound more like a miracle cure, lists can serve a myriad of purposes than many may not intuitively think of.

A quick Google search on how to reduce stress will suggest that you meditate, exercise, or find someone who you can talk to, and while these methods help millions of people every day, these solutions simply don’t cut it for some.

I grew up watching my sister struggle with her anxiety, and after 20 plus years of seeing what helps and what doesn’t, I can say that the aforementioned methods weren’t the solutions she needed. The one method I see her return to time and time again is making a list. Seeing how these lists instantly improved her mood, I found myself asking how something so small could make such an enormous impact.

When a person stresses they tend to overthink the smallest detail.

Making a List: One of the Most Helpful Strategies to Reducing StressWhether it is a student worrying about a huge project coming up, or a working adult stressing over the presentation they have to give at the office, they may feel stressed due to the overwhelming enormity of the task. For people like this, meditation could possibly hurt rather than help because it gives them more time to get caught up in their thoughts. Making a to-do list, on the other hand, makes a seemingly insurmountable problem look like a leisurely task. Any big project is the sum of many smaller projects, so writing down every one of these smaller projects gives a person the perspective they need to stop worrying about the end product and helps them take the first step towards their goal. For example, if the student thinks of a ten-page essay as a single task they will feel overwhelmed, but if he broke that huge ten-page essay down into a dozen bite sized pieces, it begins to look much more manageable.

Lists can go even further than a common to-do list.

Every person has worries no matter how big or small. When these stressors are left alone they can grow and fester in a person’s mind. Jotting every worry onto a piece of paper turns these thoughts into something real, something tangible that can be crumpled into a ball or ripped to shreds. And it’s shocking sometimes how relieving it feels to rip up a paper full of worries or throw a crumpled-up ball of your worries as hard as you can at the wall.

Every person experiences anxiety differently, therefore, there isn’t going to be one solution that helps everyone. Like meditation and exercise, I don’t think making a list will be the perfect solution for every person, but it may the solution that helps you and that you have overlooked.

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