Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys: How To Reduce Stress

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How To Eliminate Stress From Your LifeSince I came back from Ibiza, I had all these plans to work on my business. And even though I did a lot, there’s still so much left to do. However, life keeps getting in the way every time. Even when I (kind of) have my life figured out, there’s always someone causing turmoil. Or at least, that’s what I thought. That I was some willingless victim that would get dragged into other people’s sh*t, which would back-burner my own projects. Until I came across a funny – and very true! – Polish saying, which translates into: Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys. I decided to adopt that mantra to reduce self-imposed stress and keep my focus. How? By taking a few steps!

What monkeys?

You might think: what do monkeys have to do with my stress levels? Well, it’s rather easy. Many of us are ‘helpers’. We want to help people. And we help them even if they do not want to be helped, if they cannot be helped, or if our help comes at a price that we have to pay ourselves.

If you are the ringmaster in your circus, telling your monkeys what to do, they will listen. After all, you are in control. But what if you tried to step into someone elses circus, tried to get their monkeys to do what you want. Would it work? Probably not. It would give you a lot of stress, the monkeys would probably run away, and the owner of the circus would get pissed. So there’s no winning if you mess with someone else’s circus! On top of that, you get stressed, lose focus and don’t do what you should do.

Take responsibility for your feelings

In general, it is so easy to play the victim. It might look difficult and you may suffer the most, but it is the easiest way. I should know, I have a tendency to just roll over, go with the flow, and pick up the pieces after the emotional tornado has passed.

However, even though you are not always the cause of something, you have the power to decide how you react. You have power over what you do and think. And over how that makes you feel. If you do not want to get dragged into someone else’s trouble, all you have to do is make yourself a priority. Dat doesn’t mean that you cannot emphatize with them. It doesn’t mean that you cannot help. It only means that you do that after you have taken care of yourself. You have to mind your own monkeys.

But in order to do that, you have to take responsibility. Take responsibility for your feelings. As Mark Manson says in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life: you can blame someone for something they do, but you cannot blame them for your misery. No-one else but you is responsible for your emotions. And your emotions are usually the result of how you measure things.

If you feel that it is important to call your family every week, you will feel bad when you don’t. And if they don’t call you every week, you might think that they don’t care about how. Of course, that doesn’t have to be true. They probably have different standards. That means that they won’t blame you for skipping a call, and they won’t feel bad for not calling themselves. In other words: you shouldn’t either.

It’s not your fault, it is your responsibility

In our society, ‘fault’ usually equals ‘responsibility’. If someone does something wrong, it is their responsibility to fix it. At least, that is how we see it. But it actually isn’t true. If something bad happens, it may be someone else’s fault, but it is your responsibility to deal with it. Otherwise, you put your happiness and peace of mind in someone else’s hands.

If you concern yourself with other people’s circus and monkeys and don’t take responsibility for your own feelings, you’ll find yourself in a never-ending loop of disaster. You’ll feel terrible because you cannot fix whatever is wrong in that other circus AND you feel there’s nothing you can do about feeling bad.

You may even tell yourself that ‘it is because you care’.

So let me tell you (and myself): it’s not. I’m not yet sure what it is, except POINTLESS. And stressful. If you feel that someone is putting some kind of pressure on you, ask yourself this: ‘Is it my circus, my monkeys?’ If not, kindly offer your sympathies, but don’t get involved. Don’t try to fix things.

And if that makes you feel bad about yourself, just know that you don’t have to. Your idea of what you should do (butt in) doesn’t help anyone and it is just that: your idea. It will take some practice, but once you get the hang of this, it will eliminate so much stress from your life!

How do you feel about this? Are you often more worried about other people’s monkey’s than you should be?

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Adine @ Average To Awesome

33-year old Dutchie with a passion for minimalism, doing more with less, and financial independence. And cats. Lots of cranky old cats.

6 Comments
  1. I love this, Adine and I agree with you. So many times we help others and we forget about our own needs along the way. Loving yourself, taking responsibility for your feelings is not being selfish, it means you love yourself enough to look after yourself. Great post, 🙂

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