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Managing Commitment to Avoid Stress

Both too many and too few commitments can cause stress.

Letting go of commitments

Overcommitment occurs when you don't make choices among the various options competing for your attention. The result is being less committed to everything, which is stressful and unsatisfying. Choosing among possible commitments is difficult, but it makes life easier, less stressful, and more meaningful.

Letting go of a commitment does not mean giving up. It means learning what's important to you, recognizing that you have limits, and deciding carefully how you want to spend your time and energy. You may have goals that are no longer as important to you as they once were, and other goals that you neglect because you are spreading yourself too thin.

  • When you want or need to let go of something, imagine holding it in your hand. Explain to it why you are letting it go, tell it good-bye, and blow it away. Or imagine putting it in the basket of a hot air balloon, untying the balloon, and watching it float away.
  • Accept that your life is a "work in progress." You don't have to (and probably can't) finish every project or meet every goal in your life in the near future. If one of your goals has a lower priority for you, accept that you can work on that goal later in your life.

Making commitments

People who are under a lot of stress are more likely to be overcommitted than undercommitted. But sometimes stress comes from a lack of commitment. If you need more commitment in your life, think about what is important to you. Commitments made with an awareness of who you are and what you want can be nurturing rather than stressful—the better you know yourself, the more rewarding the commitment.

When you are ready to commit:

  • Do it. Give yourself to a new commitment as fully as you can.
  • Be responsible. Take your commitment seriously. Don't back out of obligations.
  • Be open. Be open to new ideas and suggestions, and be ready to learn.

Don't commit when you are not ready. You are only adding to the issues that require your energy. When you find yourself doing this, interrupt your thoughts and repeat to yourself a phrase that reminds you of your plan, such as "Don't borrow trouble."

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerSteven Locke, MD - Psychiatry
Last RevisedMay 3, 2013

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 03, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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