Recently I was talking with a client and she commented that she “should be more positive.” This came after her sharing that she was struggling with feeling depressed and overwhelmed. What people might not know is that I have felt this way more than I would care to admit. So I shared with her that first, we need to eliminate “should’s” from our vocabulary and to allow herself to feel her feelings. But is that all there is?
Frequently the people I work with have a tendency to neglect taking care of themselves. This is an area that is important to make time for – if you are struggling with feeling down and to make progress – look at how much time you are spending on things you enjoy. It’s surprising to see how much we think that I’ll make time for this once I get caught up, once I get that all done.
Our bodies and mind need time to rejuvenate. If we push ourselves to only be “productive,” then we actually become less productive. We struggle to get things done. We end up feeling down and overwhelmed.
This isn’t the end all, be all answer though. Just because we make time to nurture ourselves, it doesn’t magically cheer us up or make the work easy.
We could use successes. Our struggle to make sufficient progress leads to another possible culprit to our feelings – depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, etc. – we try to do too much. We want the whole basement to be organized and expect we can do that in one weekend of dedicated effort. This is an extreme example – what is “too much” varies from person to person. It’s important to figure out what is reasonable for you, and only you.
Therefore, as you work to discover what is realistic for you personally, do small things – those things that you can start and finish with a little effort. By focusing on an area that you can finish in a short amount of time, you can begin to see the effects of your working. As most people I know struggle with paperwork to one degree or another, I would recommend choosing something other than papers to organize – it’s hard to make enough progress in a short amount of time. Do something small and feel rewarded with your efforts by seeing your success.
One of the first things I ask myself if I am struggling in this area is, “what do I see that would take less than 5 minutes to do?” Often it’s those things that are small enough I put off, for whatever reason, – thinking, “they’re so easy, I’ll just do it later.” Yet, by simply doing them, I see the small successes.
Another thing to consider is a contained space to work on – a single shelf or drawer. It can be other things as well, as long as it’s relatively simple. Or consider what else you might be able to break down into a smaller piece to work on and finish. Shelves and drawers are great options since their space is defined and limited – therefore it’s clear when you are done. It also means that you can see the effects of your work. Here’s a link to what I wrote a while back on Diving into a Small Organizing Project. Consider where you have a clear vision of what needs to happen – you know how and where to organize your photographs, your jewelry, your music, your office supplies, and etcetera. This is a potential direction for your efforts.
An additional benefit to working on those small pieces is that it frees up the spaces around us – seeing if we have more space here or not enough space there. We have the potential to see how to break other projects into smaller pieces. It’s rarely a good idea to set aside a whole day to working on one of our projects – it easily leads to burnout – rather than building up the energy to work consistently, which is more effective in the long run.
Sometimes, we just need to walk away from our projects. Not for months – yet to step back and let it be for a while. Whatever it is that you are dealing with, it likely didn’t get that way in the last week, and will take time to work through. When emotions are running strong, it’s generally hard to make progress, so consider what you can manage. Then give yourself permission to do only what you can handle – even it’s nothing at the moment.