Sundays always precede a Monday but often that also means a bit of fear, worry or stress about the upcoming week. I had one of those days yesterday. After church we came home and had lunch and tried to rest a bit in the afternoon together as a family. Sometime in the late afternoon a stress came over me, questions in my mind of how I would be excellent in the coming week and focus on what was really most important.
I thought of the big goals and needs that should be addressed this week and it began to overwhelm me. I started feeling anxious and worried. I began to feel a sense of failure and before the week had even begun. I did not like that feeling at all. So I sat with it for a few minutes and then decided to take action by doing a few things that would help me prepare for the coming week and would give me a sense of accomplishment.
I remember reading quite a few years ago that if you feel inadequate, unmotivated, depressed or a sense of failure one of the best things you can do it just get up and accomplish a few small tasks. The completion of even a small tasks gives us a sense of accomplishment and creates in us new energy to keep going. Making a list of two or three small tasks you can accomplish can get you moving and going forward.
Here are a few ideas of small tasks that can get the ball rolling. Replace the hand towel in a bathroom, replace a box of empty tissues, empty a trash can, make the call to schedule an appointment, make your bed, unload the dishwasher, sweep the front porch - and there a probably a million more options. Sometimes I pick a very small space to tidy up like the top of my dresser and just limit my thinking and my work to completing that one small task.
This effort also reminds me of Design Mom Gabrielle Blair's piece on how much we can get done in three minute increments. She advocated for using tiny increments of time to accomplish things on our To Do list like calling for a doctor's appointment, signing a permission slip, etc. I have had great success with this. I remember particularly one day a few months ago while waiting to pick up The Man at the car dealership. I accomplished a ton of stuff in about 20 minutes, using my phone in the car. It was amazing.
I still try to live by this principal. This morning while I had a couple of minutes waiting for The Bug to come up for breakfast I sent some emails, then later made a few quick calls, got some appointments set up, ran around the house and closed all the blinds to help keep the house cool for the day and checked around for the best price on a magazine subscription I am looking for. Little things do give one a sense of industry and accomplishment.
So back to yesterday. I got up from the spot where I was futilely trying to relax and made a mental list of things I could do to help me feel better and that would give me a headstart on the coming week. I started a To Do list for today, sent a couple of texts to friends, wrote a Thank You note to a friend and started doing some easy preps for dinner - like scrubbing some baking potatoes and throwing them in the slow cooker. Taking some action on things that were not overwhelming or particularly taxing helped to make those feelings go away.
Sometimes I just need to focus on tasks that I can mentally see the beginning and end of. I find lately that if I feel a little overwhelmed I like to choose a task that I know how to do and how to finish. When I focus on the projects that need to be done that I know I have the brainpower and energy to accomplish at that moment that is very helpful, rather than starting a project I can't see my way through, don't feel ready for or that feels difficult or especially tiring to me. This way I am getting things done more effectively and when the time and energy feels right.
A while later I watched a little TV. That helped me just get my mind focused on other things and off of the things that were stressing me. Sometimes just vegging out to a little TV really can be a good distraction. I find these days I can't sit still long enough to watch TV much. I often put something on Netflix while I'm cleaning the kitchen or I listen to a podcast or an audiobook on something I am studying and then I feel like I'm getting two benefits while I work.
A lot of times the best thing I can do is just not listen to the crazy voices in my head. Just find a way to shut them down. That can be as easy as reading a book, finding someone to talk to, watching TV or anything that just puts them in the off position. It helps me to remember that those voices of criticism, fear and failure don't do anything good for us, don't come from a good place and don't help us want to or be better. They are destructive. When I recognize this it is much easier for me to get up and do something that will shut them down and help me restore balance and goodwill to my thinking.
Staying busy is another way I find that helps shut down those destructive voices. Not busy in the sense of running away from them, but busy in the sense of just continuing to chug along at a reasonable pace, doing things that help me feel good. One foot in front of the other, slow and steady. If there is anything that negativity or negative thoughts don't like it's continual, small increments of progress. Learning to take small, progressive steps is so healthy and seems to be a challenge throughout life. But it also seems like that way that the greatest things in life get accomplished....by continuing to walk forward.
By the time dinner prep time came around my night was pretty well structured until bedtime. Having a routine, that does help. I slowly made dinner (steak, asparagus and baked potatoes). We set the table, ate dinner together, had a little family religious study and a nice talk together, said prayers and it was bedtime for Kiddo. I put on The Crown while I quickly cleaned the kitchen up and put the leftover food away.
I knew some journaling time would also help to clear my head and get my mindset ready for this week. I can't advocate journaling enough as some of the best therapy that I've had in my life. It really doesn't help unwind your thoughts, clarify your wants and needs and prepare your mind for what is to come. It is sooooo good for the soul! If you feel like you are too much in your head or too caught up in stress, journaling can help you get that our of your head, look at it and make a more effective and rational plan on how to manage life.
So I journaled for a while before I went to bed and it really did help me get straight in my head. As I was writing, I remembered a conversation with a friend last year. She is very wise said that when it feels like there are a million things weighing you down, that need to get done, stop and pray. Ask God what you need to do that day and He will tell you. Then just do what He tells you and He will take care of you.
The rest will take care of itself somehow. Some things will just fall away or resolve themselves, or they can wait or just aren't that important after all. That is the thought I went to bed with last night. That I would pray to know what was important each day this week and do those things.
That's how I'm tackling this week and so far it's working and I think it will continue to work. These are strategies that I've used over and over again, over many years and they have never let me down. Sometimes they take more effort that others. Some days I can bounce out of that stress/fear place pretty quickly. If we let it go too long, or things in life get awfully heavy, it can take a significantly greater amount of work to climb out of that pit -- but it can be done. When it feels insurmountable, sometimes just telling someone else how you are feeling is a good way to get a helping hand to climb out. Friends, mentors and counselors are an important part of our lives and there for a reason!
Thankfully this week is happening and I can see my way through a little more clearly now. It is just one foot in front of the other and keep on walking. It's working and I'm grateful!