Editorial note: All Guest Post authors share their views and experiences, and do not represent Week of Saturdays. This is one of the submissions of writers participating in a 21-day Don’t Break the Streak Writing Challenge. Details here.
“It always seems impossible until it is done.”
This famous quote by Nelson Mandela couldn’t be any more valid for me. I often exaggerate the extent of an assignment or magnify the amount of work that needs to go into a project. As you may guess, I conveniently blame this on the distasteful anxiety that subtly ruled my life for an extended period.
On a cloudy day, a simple activity, such as going to the bank to clear up an issue or reporting an uncompleted task to my boss, could have me tossing and turning on my bed the night prior. Mundane tasks that shouldn’t take up a minute’s thought would play out over and over in my mind, most times with the worst-case scenarios at the fore.
I remember one time when I was to participate in a secondary school debate. Being the class nerd, I shied away from social activities as much as I could until that day, I was given a topic to debate. I tried turning it down but didn’t succeed. My teachers were adamant. I remember being awake at night, thinking about how I could forget my lines, and then everyone would laugh at me. I couldn’t even bring myself to do proper research. On the debate day, I spoke so fast that none of the judges heard my speech. I don’t remember which team won, but no one ever asked me to debate again.
Another laughable scenario was more recently. When I started a company and had a mentor, he would always talk about strategy. “Nancy, you have to be strategic in communicating your values; you have to employ this strategy and that strategy to make a sale.” I’d always panic at the word strategy but nod and smile and pretend to be enthusiastic at whatever he was saying.
The truth was, I didn’t know what strategy meant as I had built a magnificent case against it as one of those entrepreneurial qualities you had to be born with, or you couldn’t succeed in business.
Since I’ve become more aware of my tendency to overthink things, I’ve consciously and deliberately sought ways to dissect issues beforehand and break them into smaller, less overwhelming parts before concluding that they are impossible to achieve.
This is my breakdown process.
- I usually start with painting the big picture, exactly as it is in my mind. This allows me to consider my emotions and perspective, bearing in mind that they are valid but could be wrong.
- Next, I’ll break down the issue into smaller components. This is where my peace of mind begins because I can now tackle each component as a standalone project. Depending on the issue I am dealing with, perhaps a task at work, a depressive thought, or an overwhelming event I have to be part of, this becomes the most important stage in recovering my sunshine or completing the task at hand.
- If it is a work task, I would look at the end goal and ask questions about the best possible way to achieve it. I’ll then sequence these steps in order of precedence. Breaking down the issue into smaller bits has helped me to see things as they are. This process is also the hardest because sometimes I wouldn’t know where to start. However, I’ve discovered that the way to simplify a task or break it down is to decide to do it. I have to admit that I do not like this painstaking process.
- For an overwhelming thought, the breakdown process is enough to conquer my fears, especially if there is no actual task involved. Dissecting the thought usually starts with “what’s the worst that could happen?” At the end of the day, I’ll realize that it’s not that serious, then I move on.
- The final step is to start (assuming the issue at hand is a task). It’s easy to get caught up in the planning/dissecting stage that I’ll probably not continue with the task. A false sense of fulfillment at getting through with the breakdown stage fills my head, and I’m tempted to pause and celebrate; with the consequence of not completing the task. To get over this, I delay any gratification until I finish the job.
Overall, the process of simplifying situations or dissecting my thoughts has helped me to stay grounded and clear of crippling delusions.
Do you have other ways of getting out of your head and overcoming anxiety? Do share. I’ll love to learn from you.
Feature picture by Pixabay.