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Have you ever just sat and stared off into space, wondering when and how everything got so complicated?
After all, it didn’t seem to be this messy when we were younger. We had school and we had play – everything else just sort of fell into place.
Maybe it was the naivete of youth that made us so oblivious to the world’s complexities, or maybe it was something else entirely.
Either way, life seems to get a lot more complicated as we grow older, doesn’t it?
There are several reasons why this happens, and those mentioned below are some of the most common ones that everyone will deal with.
Of course, everyone’s life circumstances are different, so complications will be greater or lesser in varying directions, depending on the individual.
8 Reasons Why Life Is Complicated
1. We only have so many hours in the day to get things done.
The average person has at least three more things that they *should* do on any given day than they actually have time to get done.
Sure, the modern western work day is based on the idea that we have 8 hours to work, 8 hours for sleep, and 8 hours to ourselves. But do we really have those last 8 hours?
Let’s say we have to commute an hour to work each way. That drops those magical 8 hours down to 6.
And how much of that time is spent taking care of other people, or household responsibilities?
Are there children and animals that need to be fed, cleaned, walked, and generally taken care of? What about dependent family members like elderly parents/grandparents or sick spouses? How much time is needed for food preparation? Laundry?
So maybe after everyone else is taken care of, you might have an hour and a half or so to squeeze in your own interests and self-care. Do you exercise most days? Have you got time for a shower or bath? Will you get a whole 20 minutes at some point to work on a hobby or read a few pages of a book?
One of the reasons why many of us are stretched so thinly is because most people in the west don’t live in multi-generational households. A family that consists of two parents and a child (or children) doesn’t have grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to help shoulder the load of breadwinning, childcare, cooking, and cleaning.
Instead of all these duties being spread around in a “many hands make light work” situation, the parents work themselves to exhaustion trying to keep everything going on their own.
As you can imagine (or know from experience), this gets even more harrying in single-parent families. There’s just too much to do alone.
2. Our energy is limited.
This goes along with the reason mentioned above. People who deal with chronic health concerns – whether physical or mental – often refer to themselves as “spoonies.” This is in reference to the idea that people only have X numbers of spoonfuls of energy that they can use on a given day.
Think about the many tasks you have to do on a given day. You may have to do some things that are physically and mentally exhausting, like chopping wood, managing issues at work, running after toddlers, and so on. How much energy do you have left when it comes round to dinnertime?
Do you have the strength and energy to then cook a three course meal from scratch? Or do you just forget it and order pizza because you can barely walk around the house without collapsing?
3. Our abilities don’t often mesh with our desires (or responsibilities).
Many of us take our health and able-bodiedness for granted. I know I have in the past, but some injuries that needed months to heal gave me a significantly different perspective from how I perceived life prior to that.
If you struggle with physical or mental health issues, then everyday life is likely going to be more complicated for you than it is for others.
Someone with ADHD may have difficulty concentrating on work-related tasks, and might let vital home-related responsibilities fall by the wayside simply because their brains work differently.
Similarly, a person who has hypermobile joints or arthritis may take longer to do physical tasks and require regular rest breaks than their peers or family members.
We all have our personal strengths as well as things that we struggle with. Nobody is “perfect” all around, so we all do the best we can with the abilities and energy we have at our disposal.
4. Interactions with others require us to wear different masks.
It can be both complicated and exhausting to adjust the mask you wear to suit different situations. While we may try to be as authentic as possible in our dealings with others, we do have to shift direction and behave differently depending on who it is we’re with at the time.
The way we interact with colleagues will be different from how we act towards clients or customers, for instance. Similarly, we generally don’t speak to our parents or partners the same way we speak to our children – not unless we’re trying to spark arguments, that is.
If you’re dealing with many different people over the course of any given day, you’re switching gears in all directions constantly. We have to change vocabulary and tone at the drop of a hat so we’re meeting people at their level, and that requires quite a bit of cognitive awareness and focus.
Try to switch gears half a dozen times while working from home, and you’ll likely end up feeling drained and scattered by the time dinner comes along.
5. People aren’t telepathic.
Although we may seem to have psychic links and bonds with those closest to us, people really aren’t as telepathic as we’d like them to be. This requires us to make all those interesting clicks and buzzes from our larynxes in an attempt to make ourselves understood.
That doesn’t mean we’re going to be. How many arguments have you experienced solely because of misunderstandings? You’re saying one thing, the other person is saying another, when technically you’re both trying to say the same thing. But for some reason, the message just isn’t getting through clearly.
Since we all interpret language and word choices differently, and have different ways of explaining ourselves, there will inevitably be complications and conflict.
Let’s say one person asks another how far away X location is from where they are now. Most Europeans will give an answer in kilometers or miles, whereas many North Americans will describe the distance by the amount of time it takes to get there.
So you have one person saying “it’s an hour’s drive north,” and the other is asking “yes, but how far away is it?” The one being asked believes they’re giving the right answer, while the one asking is getting more frustrated by the second.
Conflicts like these take time to unravel and decipher, not to mention having to deal with the heightened emotions (and raised voices) that will happen while trying to figure out where the communication glitch is occurring.
At this point, all the other things that we have to take care of get backed up and bottlenecked, thus complicating our lives further.
6. There are many moving parts to juggle.
As we go through life and change our circumstances in various directions, we have a lot more responsibilities and tasks that we need to take care of.
For example, being a homeowner requires a ton more work and maintenance than renting an apartment. When you’re renting, the landlord is responsible for making sure that all the house’s working parts are taken care of. It’s their property, so aspects like the plumbing, electrics, foundational support, and roofing are all their responsibility.
You might already have a full plate with your job, child or elder care, and doing enough housework so you’re not living in squalor, only to find out that wasps are nesting in the exterior siding, there are squirrels in the attic, the roof is leaking, or you have a termite infestation.
There’s always going to be something major to handle, and that requires time, effort, money, and having to deal with the professionals who can sort these issues out for you. Or you could try to fix them yourself, which will require more of your time to research techniques, plus the effort put into fixing everything.
Do you have any time to spare? What do you have to sacrifice in order to make sure these issues are sorted? All of us seem to be spinning many plates in the air all at once. They’re very carefully timed and will all clatter to the ground if we aren’t making an effort to keep them all balanced. Throw a drinking glass or a spatula into the mix and the result can be both dizzying and exhausting.
7. The unexpected is inevitable, and will wreak havoc on the best-laid plans.
Woody Allen once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” This is a long way of saying an old Yiddish proverb: “We plan, God laughs.”
What each phrase means is that no matter how well you schedule your life in an attempt to smooth the path ahead, something unexpected will inevitably drop into your lap that you need to deal with.
For example, you may have planned a trip abroad in great detail, only for the airline to send your luggage to Papua New Guinea by mistake. Or you’ve managed your time in a calendar so all of your responsibilities are scheduled to the minute. But then you’re hit with an unexpected illness and get bedridden for days.
There will always be a Happening that interferes with our plans. When this happens, most of us get frustrated and angry about being thrown off course. Naturally, this interferes with the rest of the scheduled time, because having to calm down from an inner tantrum will draw valuable time away from other tasks that need to be taken care of.
Similarly, we might be in a really great place physically, emotionally, and mentally, but a major life event happens that pulls the rug out from under us. If you were to suddenly lose your spouse to illness or injury, for example, you might find yourself the sole breadwinner and caregiver for several young children.
That complicates life on countless levels, and is also emotionally devastating: all expectations and dreams for the future have suddenly come crashing down.
8. Past hurts and “what ifs” about the future add extra layers and complications.
Just about all of us have issues from the past that we’re still working through. Some might be more intense than others, and they’ll have various healing times accordingly
Ghosts of difficult circumstances we’ve navigated in the past can jump up and haunt us when we least expect them, and it’s not uncommon to lie awake at night mulling over long-past scenarios that still cause twinges of pain or anger.
Similarly, anxieties about the future’s uncertainty can muck us about as well. We live in interesting times, and many people feel that there’s a lot to worry about out there. Additionally, those who like to feel that they’re in control most of the time tend to struggle more with anxiety than those who flow with things as they unfold.
Depression and anxiety can make even the simplest daily tasks seem monumental. And then they’ll pile up, thus causing more depression and anxiety.
How To Cope With Life’s Complications
The reasons mentioned above can all be dealt with in several ways. Below are some of the best coping mechanisms I’ve come across for making life run far more smoothly, with fewer complications.
1. Eliminate whatever isn’t necessary.
Use a notepad or app to tally up all the time you spend doing various things, preferably over the course of a week.
How much time do you spend watching YouTube videos, scrolling social media or reddit, getting into arguments with complete strangers about which superhero would win in a fight?
If whatever you’re doing isn’t enhancing your life, then stop doing it.
If you’re dead-set on watching those online videos, then watch things that are inspiring or instructing you instead of riling you up. Is there a craft or language you’d like to learn or a physical technique you’re hoping to hone? Watch instructional materials on those and let others fight amongst themselves to their hearts’ content.
Is there clutter in your house that takes a ton of time to clean every week? Get rid of whatever you don’t love or don’t need.
Are there extra expenses that stress you out? Cut them down so you’re only using the essentials. Chances are you don’t need all those online streaming entertainment accounts
Basically, pare down every aspect of your life so you’re only surrounded by and taking part in things you either truly enjoy, or are absolutely necessary.
2. Learn to say “no.”
Many people take on far more than they should simply because they’re trying to be kind. If others ask for their help, they’ll be the first to run to that person’s aid.
But when that happens too much, one can develop empathy fatigue as well as resentment for being used.
When you’re logging your time usage over the course of a week, consider how much time you spend dealing with other people’s drama. It’s great if your friends come to you for advice and support, but you’re not a therapist.
Add up how much time you spend listening to them gripe and helping them with their issues, plus how long it takes for you to decompress from their emotional outpourings.
Some people love to dump their negative energy onto others so that they feel better, but then the one getting dumped on has to process and let go of all that baggage. It’s kind of like emotional or psychic vampirism in reverse. Instead of sucking out all your energy, they give you all of theirs.
Similarly, some people are either too hesitant or too lazy to do various endeavors on their own, so they ask for help instead of trying to do so themselves. They might be perfectly capable of doing these things if they tried, but you’re already so good at it that they just ask for your help instead.
This is where the magic word “NO” comes in handy. You’re under no obligation to extend yourself on anyone else’s behalf, especially if your own plate is already full. It’s great to be helpful when you can, but detrimental and disrespectful to yourself when and if you take on burdens that aren’t yours.
Being a great friend is one thing, but being taken advantage of is another. There are polite ways to say “no,” but stand firm in that decision. They’ll inevitably try to convince you otherwise, but honor yourself first and foremost.
3. Manage your time as best you can.
Get yourself a two-month dry-erase wall calendar and a few markers. Then map out the goals you want to attain, as well as various due dates and deadlines.
For example, write down personal appointments, work deadlines, utility bill due dates, and important days like birthdays and anniversaries. Having visual reminders like this can be incredibly helpful so you stay on top of the most important responsibilities.
When it comes to deadlines, you may have to create some healthy boundaries with people who usually overstep them.
For example, let’s say you’re a graphic designer who has a really packed schedule. When you create a contract with your client, you’ll note that everything has to be wrapped up by X date. But then that date comes along and they want “a few more changes” or to see it in “a couple of different colors.”
You may feel obligated to pander to their demands because you want to make them happy, but that’s going to throw the rest of your monthly (or even yearly) schedule off balance. They want you to spend more time on their project, which will eat into the next, and so a domino effect occurs.
You’ll need to stand firm with your boundaries and let others know that this is your schedule, and they will need to respect it. End of.
Hold yourself to these tight boundaries too. If you have a tendency to procrastinate, recognize that there will inevitably be consequences to you putting things off until later. Just try to reward yourself for a job well done rather than punishing yourself or indulging in self-loathing. We all respond better to positivity than cruelty, even towards ourselves.
4. Work with your personal strengths and delegate elsewhere whenever possible.
Many people make life more complicated than it needs to be by taking everything on themselves. Some may have learned from experience that things will only be done to their standards if they do them personally, but they’ve also learned that doing everything will drain them into nervous breakdowns on a regular basis.
Furthermore, some people make their own lives rather hellish by pushing themselves to do things that are extremely difficult. They might be trying to prove that they’re capable individuals, but the cost isn’t worth the damage they do to themselves in the process.
There’s a new trend in schools called “individual learning plans” (ILPs). In simplest terms, every child’s learning curriculum is tailored to their personal strengths. A child who’s great at math but struggles with languages will have a more math/science-based curriculum, and vice versa.
This results in significantly less stress, as the child can focus their time and attention on subjects in which they naturally excel. Try to follow this example and do the things that you’re best at. Then assign other tasks to people who excel at those instead. A smart boss hires people to do the things that they can’t, and do them well.
5. Use “active listening” techniques to cut down on miscommunication.
Work with those around you to ensure that you understand one another properly. This might seem a bit tedious at times, but letting them know what you’re hearing and understanding from them can make them realize when and if there’s a glitch in communication.
That way, you can shift direction to common ground. The person who’s telling you that the city is an hour away can clarify that the speed limit is 100km/hr, thus the location you’re asking about is approximately 100km away.
6. Recognize that you can’t control everything.
Furthermore, there’s very little that we can control.
In the grand scheme of things, the only things that we have some control over are our own emotions, and the thermostat. As for the latter, that’s debatable since it can glitch or be inaccurate.
Oh, you need more information on this point? You’re in luck, we have a whole article dedicated to letting go of control.
7. Flow with things as they unfold rather than fighting the current.
My partner struggles with this a lot, so it’s something we’ve been working on together. Hopefully the advice I use with her can be helpful for you too…
When something happens that throws you off course, try not to fight against it too hard. It may seem counterintuitive, but hear me out.
Let’s say you’re driving and you start to swerve into the other lane. Do you do a gentle course correction? Or wrench the wheel drastically from one direction to the other? Hopefully it’s the former, or you may be reading this from a ditch waiting for an emergency crew.
The same goes for any other unexpected issue that occurs. Take note of it, but don’t allow yourself to get wound up. Furthermore, don’t throw yourself against it in an attempt to counteract its effect on you. If it’s upsetting you, then be upset for a moment, but don’t hold onto the emotion. Let it pass through, and then do a gentle course correction.
This is like swimming in a river and realizing that the current is dragging you along. Instead of thrashing against it, let it carry you a bit further downstream while you move towards the shoreline at an angle. It might take a few minutes for you to walk back to where you were before, but you’ll feel a lot better for having ridden with the current instead of panicking because you were moved somewhere else temporarily.
The best way to apply this to daily living is with the idea that you make general plans about what you want to achieve that day, but then let the day dictate how and whether that unfolds. In simplest terms, allow space for the unexpected.
After all, being dragged downstream a little bit and having to walk back might give you the opportunity to discover a treasure half-buried in the sand. You would never have found it had you not been pushed off schedule, right?
8. Let go of hurts and anxieties that are holding you back.
Letting go of worries and old hurts sounds like it would be easy to do, doesn’t it? After all, if a red-hot piece of iron is burning you while you’re holding it, all you have to do is drop it and you’ll start to heal immediately.
But emotions are more difficult to work with than physical items. You can remove a thorn from your foot that’s hurting you, but you’ll remember how that pain made you feel for the rest of your life.
When said pain starts to interfere with your daily life, long after the thorn itself has been removed, then it’s going to cause issues on every level.
Similarly, worrying about the pain you might feel if and when you ever step on a thorn can also be debilitating. There may not even be thorns anywhere near you, but what if the unexpected happens? What if you step on one, and it gets infected, and you can’t walk properly anymore, etc?
These old (and potential) wounds can cause us to spiral in various directions. When that happens, all the other things we should be focusing on get pushed aside or ignored completely. As you can imagine, it creates a cascade effect that will then complicate everything else further as we try to firefight to get things back under control.
The best way to avoid these spirals is to stay present as much as possible. Sure, do what you need to do in order to plan for the future as far as immediate responsibilities are concerned, but don’t spend too much time worrying about what may or may not happen.
Similarly, recognize that although you may have gone through difficult times in the past, you’re not there right now. That thorn got taken out a long time ago, and the memory of past pain will only hurt it if you choose to focus on it.
If you’re having difficulty letting go of past hurts, or if you’re so overwhelmed by anxiety that you can’t function the way you want to, then talking to a professional might help. This is no different than seeing a physiotherapist to help you heal from a knee or back injury. A therapist or counsellor might know several techniques that can help you let go of what’s hurting you so healing can happen.
As a final note, remember the saying: “whatever you’re not changing, you’re choosing.”
You can make your own life a lot less complicated by choosing to do things differently than you have been so far. Take note of the areas that could use some improvement and make adjustments accordingly. Life should get a lot less complicated as a result.
Still not sure how to deal with the complicated life we all lead? Talking to someone can really help you to handle whatever life throws at you. It’s a great way to get your thoughts and your worries out of your head so you can work through them.
A therapist is often the best person you can talk to. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can provide ample coping mechanisms so that you can withstand all the challenges of life and they can guide you back to a better mental place.
BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
You might not think your problems are big enough to warrant professional therapy but please don’t do yourself that disservice. Nothing is insignificant if it is affecting your mental well-being.
So seek the help you deserve today. You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
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