Recently, I had the opportunity to help someone that I love very much complete an important task that she had been putting off. The putting off of this task had been causing her much stress and anxiety. The more she thought about what she had to do, the more overwhelmed and anxious she felt which increased her immobilization. She had dreaded doing this task to the point that the task had become a seemingly insurmountable beast. However, outside forces had come knocking on her door and she could no longer avoid doing this thing. She called me in almost a panic – I said I would come and help her to get herself organized to get it done.
Just my offer to come help, helped her to get mobilized. There were certain things I just could not help her with and in order for our time together to be effective she needed to start the process on her own. And she did. I suggested that she spend 10 minutes or so at a time to complete small tasks to get her ready for when I came. Telling herself she only had to do 10 time minutes at a time helped motivate her and helped her to stay focused and without feeling overwhelmed. So in the days leading up to my coming she did multiple 10-minute spurts and started to chip away at the task. By the time I arrived 6 days later she had gathered the information that we needed to organize ourselves and complete the task.
When we first got to work it seemed there was a lot of work to be done. I could only stay from 1:30 on Sunday till 6:00 pm on Monday as I had to be back to work on Tuesday and it was a 3.5 hour drive to get me back home. So we sat down and we started to work. I knew at this point she was feeling stressed, somewhat hopeful but also pretty hopeless that we would get it all done. That’s the funny thing about putting off things- they tend to get bigger and bigger and bigger in our minds- often to the point that we feel they are so big and overwhelming that we don’t know where to start and so we don’t. Which just makes the problem even bigger in our minds.
So what happened? We started at about 2:00 on Sunday afternoon, with the understanding that we would need to eat and need to stop at some point on Sunday evening, I was thinking about 8:00. There were three tasks to be completed in total. She was hopeful we would get one done and one started. She was not hopeful that we would get the third one finished by the time I had to leave on Monday. At 7:30pm Sunday we had become quite quiet, which is very usual for us. I don’t think either one of us wanted to say out loud that we were almost done. Not done for the day but done. All three tasks!!!! All three “larger than life, overwhelming, monster tasks”!!! It was a little surreal. We worked till 8:40 and got it all done!!!
It was exhilarating to finish all three tasks. She was excited, relieved and felt that she wouldn’t be able to sleep from excitement, which was a given relief as she had been unable to sleep from the stress of it all looming over her.
Often times we avoid the things we don’t like to do. That’s pretty normal, I’m guilty of doing the same. The problem comes when our minds start to tell us how big it is, how overwhelming it has become and how we cannot possibly complete it. And we start to believe our mind- so we avoid it more and more. The THING we don’t want to do doesn’t actually get bigger but our fear, worry about it does and eventually it seems impossible. Something she had been putting off for a few years was done in less than one week. And hard core done in only 6.5 hours (including a dinner break). We need to remind ourselves sometimes that our minds tend to overemphasize the problem and if we just start small and make consistent movement we will be able to get on track. We also need to know when to ask for help and that it is ok to ask for help- we all have our strengths and our weaknesses- that is normal too.