Written by Harold Robert Meyer, MBA, BCC, SCAC and Susan Karyn Lasky, M.S., BCC, SCAC
Weâ€™d all like to improve the quality of our lives, and one way we can do this is by reducing the amount of stress we experience. (Some stress is â€œgood for the soul,â€ in that it challenges our complacency and motivates us to move forward.)Â But too much stress is debilitating. It can cloud our thinking, freeze our progress and destroy our joy of life.
When we think about stress in our lives we usually focus on the big things: our children, parents and partners (or lack thereof), money, employment, etc.Â However, on an everyday basis, itâ€™s often the minor things that add up â€”sometimes to the point where we feel overwhelmed and incapacitated. The number of stressors in our lives can often play more havoc than the severity of individual stressors.
Minor things (the phone call you didnâ€™t make, the gift you havenâ€™t sent or papers you havenâ€™t filed) can create feelings of guilt that are worse than those you have about more important matters. After all, improving your financial situation or love life isnâ€™t easy.Â You may not like things the way they are, but you donâ€™t expect them to change overnight.Â So in contrast, the minor tasks seem easy.Â After all, itâ€™s no big deal to make a phone call, send a gift or file a stack of papers.Â So why canâ€™t you manage to just do it?
When these relatively minor tasks hang around for too long, youâ€™re not only burdened with the undone choreâ€”you also feel guilt (or even disgust) that you canâ€™t manage to accomplish even such seemingly simple tasks. And when too many tasks add up, stress multiplies.Â Where to begin?
Not necessarily at the beginning. Resolving the major stressors in your life is critical, but working on these shouldnâ€™t always top your â€œTo-Doâ€ list. But with some effort you can resolve some of the minor stressors.Â Â You can experience a feeling of satisfaction, completion and relief (itâ€™s done!).
Make it easy on yourself. Choose just one or two shoulds.Â Pick one thatâ€™s really quick and simple (replace the burnt out lightbulb in the hall closet) and another thatâ€™s really pressing (a euphemism for â€œlong overdueâ€), like pulling together the deductible receipts you need to file income tax. (Notice we limited work on the taxes to â€œpulling together receipts,â€ which is just one part of the overall tax filing process. Anything more at the same time and it can become overwhelming, and so less likely to get accomplished.)
Determine when youâ€™ll work on each task, and make appointments with yourself to get them doneâ€”write down the assigned time in your daybook.
Attack the tasks with a positive attitudeâ€¦ (Iâ€™m doing it!) and try to follow through to completion. Consider these two relatively simple tasks as your major priorities that day.Â Tackle just one or two stressors each day and youâ€™ll feel freer, and a lot less stressed.
If you find you canâ€™t manage to accomplish a minor task, take another look at itâ€¦ odds are it isnâ€™t so minor.Â Either thereâ€™s a heavy emotional tag on it, or itâ€™s something you donâ€™t think you can do successfully, so you avoid it.Â Perhaps youâ€™re correct. Some tasks require skills we may not have, but think we should (â€œIf I can create a successful global marketing campaign, I should certainly be able to balance my checkbook!â€).
Donâ€™t drag down your self-esteem by clinging to erroneous expectations of would-be perfection. Some things that seem simple trigger an emotional hot-button that makes them difficult to deal with (â€œI should clear out the old baby clothes and give them to charity, but if I do, itâ€™s admitting Iâ€™m not going to have any more children, and thatâ€™s so final!â€). Delegate, ask for help, reformat the project or forget about it (if feasible).
People with AD/HD also tend to have too many projects going.Â They have a lot of interests, and assign themselves â€œto-doâ€™sâ€ based on faulty reasoning: thereâ€™s a strong sense of, â€œThis is something I should be able to do,â€ combined with a mistaken belief that “I can get it done quickly.”
Also, ADDers tend to feel guilty about all the things they havenâ€™t done, so they attempt to make up to their family or employer by taking on tasks they shouldnâ€™t.Â The unfortunate result is a continually accumulating pile of unfinished tasksâ€”and a growing stress burden.
Parents should discourage children from making promises that may be difficult to meet, or taking on too much.Â (This doesnâ€™t mean a childâ€”or adultâ€”shouldnâ€™t set goals and try to attain them.Â It does mean that frequent reality checks are advisable.)
Begin to eliminate unnecessary stress in your life by focusing on wiping out your minor stressors, so you can experience success. But itâ€™s not a good idea to totally ignore the â€œbig things.â€Â Major stressors (like any big project) wonâ€™t be resolved unless you break them down into components (â€œbaby stepsâ€ or job chunks) that are do-able in one sitting (or appointment with yourself). Use the 12-Step approach, and take it:Â â€œOne task, or baby step, at a time.â€
Harold Meyer and Susan Lasky are both Board Certified and Senior Certified ADHD Coaches.
To contact the authors:Â firstname.lastname@example.org
ADD and ADHD are used interchangeably for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
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