Here’s a version of a scene that I hear about in therapy all. the. time, and especially in fall and winter. Let me repeat: I hear this ALL the TIME.:
So the other night, There were stacks of dishes in the sink and project deadlines looming and groceries to be bought and appointments to be made, and the garbage disposal needed fixing, and the dog wasn’t exactly going to walk himself, and when was the last time someone got the mail? And holiday shopping and power–washing, and email-returning, and school paperwork also needed to be done, and the way-too-peoply pta meeting was that night, and the health insurance plan needed to be selected…. But- can I be honest? – shoving Halloween candy in my face while holing-up under the warm covers and pretending to be invisible felt sooooo much better than facing that stuff, so I didn’t do anything on my to-do list and therefore felt even more stressed the next day; Only then I had a layer of self-loathing added to the stress, so when my husband simply asked me why I didn’t go to the PTA meeting, I straight up shanked him with a stale Heath Bar.
Ok, you get the idea.
So, how does one manage to effectively “adult” without all the paralyzing overwhelm, subsequent shame, and basically inevitable murder-by-sugar?
Here are six tips to remember when adulting sucks:
1) when stressed, many people make up stuff to do that doesn’t NEED to be done immediately so they FEEL productive. (It’s true. Nature’s cruel joke is the stress-putzing-compulsion.) Be aware of the stress-putzing-compulsion and ask yourself what needs to be done NOW? (The lady outlined above probably didn’t NEED to be Christmas shopping and power-washing on November 1st.)
2) “OMG it needs to be done NOW or I will either FORGET to do it or will not have TIME to do it” is the cruel, cruel mind game that lives at the intersection of ADHD street and anxiety lane. Lists are your friends, but not the to-do lists you’re used-to. I mean the kind of list where you break up your tasks into SmALL, REALISTIC chunks, and write WHEN you are going to do each one. And also, actually cross out anything that is not essential. (Take four minutes to do this during times that you notice that you are acutely stressed.) And yes, you can revise the list if Jimmy gets pneumonia or the car breaks down at the last minute. Because I know your anxiety just reminded you that planning and lists are for suckers.
3) Notice the overwhelm creeping up? Do seven burpies. For real. I joke around on this blog, but never about random explosions of kitchen-exercise. Physical exertion decreases acute emotional overdrive. And if your kids ask you what the heck you’re doing, you can honestly respond “trying to reach a happy medium between exploding my fury all over you innocent darlings and completely shutting down into a near-catatonic state.” And then at least your kids will leave you alone for a while.
4) “The sucktastic feeling of boredom and misery that emerge while completing this task is long-lasting and intolerable” = the cruel, cruel mind game that lives at the intersection of depression avenue and anxiety lane. Initiation of a task (the first 90 seconds) is as overwhelming as it’s going to get. Notice that you really, really want to avoid those 90 seconds because they feel like they will swallow you into oblivion. And then remind yourself that this is not true, as you either verbally-dictate, miniacally-sing, or count through the beginning of the task.
5) Lets recap on two items: Even the adultiest adults don’t do it ALL at once, and also it’s necessary to tolerate the momentary agony of doing SOME intentionally-selected items. Now is the fun part: don’t forget to congratulate yourself and pat yourself on the back or doing stuff that was NOT automatically easy. (Self-validation quells the shame that paralyzes progress.)
6) no, really. Reward yourself. Sprinkle some fairy dust on that steaming hot pile of adultness. Maybe hold off on the candy until you call back the dreaded insurance company, or turn on your favorite show after you nail the project power-point. But give yourself a tangible way-to-go only AFTER the amall, realistic goal is accomplished.
From, the therapist that says to adult is to own your feelings, yes even the yucky, seasonal-affective ones, because I said “adulting,” not “roboting.” And also, can we talk about what a difference sleep makes when it comes to mental clarity, emotional management, and energy?