If you feel that little surge of anxiety when you have an outstanding task to complete, then this post is for you.
Lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with the things I have to do and have noticed that I am not able to start tasks, I find myself scrolling through Facebook instead. I’m sure I am not the only one who is not able to complete important tasks, so I thought I’d write a post on what I do to help myself when this happens to me.
What is getting anxious and not being able to start a task like?
I am going to give you one of my recent examples. I had some things to sort for my accountant and I was able to conveniently put it to the back of my mind, but it annoyingly kept popping on my ‘todo’ lists.
When I thought of the work that I had to do for my accountant, I felt anxious and immediately did something else, usually mindless scrolling on Facebook.
Over a period of time, I noticed that it wasn’t just the stuff for the accountant that I was putting off. I was also putting off
- Things I needed to do for the website
- Anything work related
- Forms that needed completing for other things
- you can add your own ‘things that you put off’ to this list
Maybe if I give some background it will make this article more useful for you and you can replace my competing demands with your own.
What is a competing demand?
I’m a psychologist (as many of you know) and run websites and online courses. I also do housework, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and ….. .
There’s only one of me and too many demands in my day.
You might find it useful to think of a competing demands as different things that you have to do.
Competing demands for me where;
- Doing the things for the accountant
- Completing forms
- Work related stuff
And they could all pop into my head at the same time and overwhelm me, so I did none!
I did none, as the stress that arose from my outstanding tasks, overwhelmed me to the extent that my brain wanted to get rid of that anxious feeling as quickly as possible and I shall come back and talk about this again in a moment.
Stress can arise when there are too many demands competing for a limited resource. The limited resource in this case is me. I have 24 hours in the day. During which I also need to sleep and eat. Pretty soon self care can go out the window. When I talk about self care, I am referring to going for walks, getting time for myself, or doing things that I enjoy.
In a perfect world, I would have time to recharge my batteries, get my ‘me time’ in, but sometimes life is just not like that.
I am being realistic about this. I could say make sure you have ‘x’ amount of time in your day set aside for whatever recharges your batteries, but sometimes life takes over and this is not possible for a while, until you start to feel the strain.
Then, if you are like me, you do not immediately rectify this, as once you feel the strain, you do not have enough resources left to come up with some sort of a plan. You, as a limited resource, have run out of steam!
Just noticed there now, the dishwasher beeped and I got up to turn it off, when I came back my instinct was to scroll on Facebook. Watch out for those habitual responses. They are time wasters – distractions that may not be working for you.
Then the postman came a few minutes later and I got up to get it. (I’m working at home.) On the way back from collecting the post I noticed some ‘stuff’ on the table that needed sorting and I just caught my urge to sort the ‘stuff’ , but left it and came back to what I was trying to do, which is write this article.
That might seem like a mad ramble, but is an important point, as if you are like me, it can feel like you have a grasshopper mind, where you quickly switch from one thing to the other, when sometimes it is more helpful to complete one thing at a time.
“I stopped at the end of that last paragraph and opened my phone. It was not ringing, there was no need for me to do that – it is a habit – and one that distracts me from what I am trying to do. I closed the phone, but I can only assume I was going to open Facebook or some other App that was not going to help me complete this article.
I think you get the picture. And I would urge you to find what your own distractions are – the things that you do when feeling overwhelmed as they become habits. Once habitual they then become a competing demand for your limited resource – you!
The important point to grasp is that they don’t make you feel anxious! I said a moment ago, that when all the things that I had to do, popped into my head – I did none as my brain quickly wanted to get rid of that uncomfortable feeling of anxiety. Now I have painted a picture of how I do that, which is by either
- Completing small tasks that I did not intend to do, or
- Mindless scrolling on Facebook
What will help
Facebook is easily accessible, just click the app – it’s not like I have to go into another room and get it.
If you do similar mindless scrolling I would suggest trying what I did. Take Facebook App or (insert your own mindless scrolling app) off your devices, or some of your devices.
It’s hard to break habits, but it’s a lot easier once your brain becomes conscious of what it is doing. In my case, I would be on Facebook before I realised it, it was not a conscious decision, that is, during an important task I would never have the conscious thought
Let’s stop what you are choosing to do, and scroll mindlessly through Facebook!
Taking it off my phone, meant that when I automatically opened my phone, it started to become a conscious process as my ‘goto’ app was gone.
I decided to replace this with a breathing exercise (you can use an app or just breathe.). Why? If I found myself mindlessly opening my phone it was because that old anxious overwhelmed feeling was trying to take me away from what I was trying to do. Breathing helped me to calm the anxiety enough to allow me to return to my task.
I’m not going to say that this will be easy but it’s not the end of the world either! Even if you just start to become aware of the things you do that either zap your time or take you away from the things that you have planned to do, that is a great start.
For example, I have almost completed what I want to talk about in this post and became aware that I was just about to open my email. This is also a habit and was, on this occasion not a conscious choice. Rather it was a habitual response that would trick me into thinking I was doing something worthwhile, when in fact it was stopping me from writing this last paragraph!
Final word. Last paragraph was written but there was still the urge to open my email account. Watch out for those ‘urges.’ They can be very strong.
- Talk yourself through it if you have to.Did I consciously decide to check my email?
Is it something that I will deal with now?/li>
No. Then it is a habitual response that wastes my time and distracts me from what I am trying to do.
B r e a t h e