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.
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