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So, when the world feels overwhelming and I have way too much to do, all I want to do is play Plants v. Zombies. Seriously. At those points in life, I could work all day, and my list would be just as long tomorrow as it is today. Although Plants v. Zombies is a great escape that takes my mind off of my current challenges, it isn’t really helpful – not in the long run.

We often use coping mechanisms that aren’t really helpful when we are troubled. We might drink too much alcohol or head to a mall for some therapy shopping. I am not the only one who uses video games as a distraction. Facebook and blog browsing are other ways that we get a break from the pressures of reality.

There is nothing wrong with any of these in short doses, but they aren’t useful as long-term strategies. If we never face reality or our challenges, we get stuck – and often depressed. Once we’ve been using a non-productive coping mechanism for a while, it’s even harder to get going.

First, if you are seriously stuck and depressed, talk to a professional. Get a therapist, or hire a coach. You can do both; many of my clients work with me and a therapist. In general, the therapist helps you examine and deal with the past. A coach focuses on what to do now in order to get to the future that you desire.

For run-of-the-mill funk and feeling overwhelmed, I use a simple process that gets me moving forward and makes me feel like I am accomplishing something – I take a step.

Let’s say that tax preparation is weighing heavily on my shoulders. I have to file for my business, which requires collecting, compiling, and presenting a ton of information. When faced with working on the taxes or playing Plants v. Zombies, there is no contest! However, when I finish a level of Plants v. Zombies, I’m still facing the same situation.

I tell myself that I can kill a few zombies after I’ve done one thing that will move me forward on the taxes. It doesn’t have to be a big thing like “find all your deductions.” It can be a small thing like “pull out the stack of bills from the year, and sort out the ones that you need.” I get a mental break from worry because I am focusing on the task. Also, I take a step forward, which relieves some of the tension around doing the taxes. Often, I do a few more things. It’s easier to take a few more steps once you get started.

So if you are feeling upset, worried, or overwhelmed, take a moment and figure out what is really bothering you. Then do one thing that will move you forward on that challenge. Take a step! Focus all your attention on that task. You will have gotten a break from uncomfortable feelings, AND you will gain a feeling of accomplishment, WHICH will motivate you to do more.

After all, success in life isn’t achieved all at once. It’s built one step at a time.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com.