Anxiety & Shame
I've really been struggling with my anxiety lately. I've been feeling many of those old familiar feelings of totally overwhelmed and can't figure out where to start so I anxiously worry about starting instead of starting.
Yesterday was a big rollercoaster of anxiety. While I'm at the point of my experience with anxiety to be able to identify it when its happening, or shortly thereafter, I'm not quite at the point where I can consistently pull my brain away and deal with it.
There are some techniques that I've learned that I can employ in these situations. It depends on the severity of the anxiety whether or not I can actually interrupt the process.
One of these techniques is breaking down tasks into extremely small steps. This is a great idea for any type of task, whether I'm in the midst of an anxiety storm or not. How much I have to break things down generally depends on the severity of my anxiety. Yesterday this meant breaking things down into 5-minute increments. That's pretty small. I had 6 items that I needed to do for 5 minutes each, so about half an hour total. (Disclaimer: remember this is only a portion of a task. I had a helluva lot more work to do than 30 minutes, but the achievable starting tasks had to be 5 minutes or less). So, I sat down with my notebook, journaled a bit about the anxiety and what I was avoiding doing. Then I wrote how I could break down the things I was avoiding doing into one 5 minute task per larger task.
After doing this I had a disconcerting thought process. My thoughts instantly went to shame:
"Really, Briana, 5 minutes? That's it... You're 32, you know... An adult. Real adults work for 8 hours a day. 5 minutes is pretty bloody pathetic. What can you accomplish in 5 minutes anyway? Nothing, that's what. Seriously, why even bother. That's pathetic."
I'm learning more about shame. I'm grateful that in that awful moment I was able to identify what I was feeling as shame and realize that the thoughts spinning in my head were complete crap. I was able to pull myself away, and actually start working on the tasks. Some I only did the 5 minutes, some I ended up spending much more than 5 minutes on (this is very common, its the starting thats the hardest part.)
I think shame often goes hand in hand with anxiety. Shame seems like the primary tactic that western culture has used to motivate people for a bloody long time now. It's not a good thing. It feels shitty, whether you are feeling shame, or realizing you've made someone else feel shame. I think we need to find a new way. Something that's less hurtful.