I worry less with a ‘Worry List’

One day at work I was having a mini mental melt down. Stressed would be an understatement. I, like most of my colleagues, was juggling WAY more than one persons workload and that day it was all a bit too much. As far as my thoughts were concerned, I could not see the wood for the trees.

I had so many worries running around my head, that I became overwhelmed and couldn’t even pick one to try and tackle, because the next worry would then pop to the front, as if I was watching my worries like horses on a merry-go-round… there were loads of them but they wouldn’t stop moving for me to be able to even touch one, let alone analyse it. My whole head was like a dense fog.

By this point, I’m feeling like such a failure, that I had to take myself away from my desk for a minute because I was too anxious to focus. It actually took me several minutes to even leave my desk to do that, because even though I was too flustered to be productive, I also didn’t think I could spare a single second away from my desk because ALL THE WORRIES.

I sat in the stairwell, looked out of the window for a minute and just let myself breathe. I had a subconscious chat with myself which went a bit like this:

Ok what’s the matter?
Well, I’ve got all this stuff to do and it stressing me out, its too much *sigh*
What stuff?
Oh, erm, I dunno there’s just so much
Ok, lets list the stuff, so we can see the problems in black and white, and figure it out like we would any other project?
*rolls eyes* yeah ok, when you put it like that (I think the other me is a bit of a smart ass at this point)

So I opened up the notepad on my phone, and I start to list the issues. I get to 3 issues, and I was so ready to write the 4th issue, but I couldn’t, because there wasn’t one.

Just in that moment I was gobsmacked. If you’d have asked me before, to guess the number of issues on my mind before I’d left my desk, I’d have told you at least 10. Because that is genuinely what it felt like. At the time I could only think about the last issue that I caught a glimpse of as it passed me on that merry-go-round, whichever one was screaming at me the loudest in the last few seconds. My mind felt full, no more room at the Inn.

For a minute I still don’t believe there are only 3 issues. I read over the 3 I’ve got, and I do some real searching. I was willing to write down the tiniest of issues to make sure I’d written them all out. But I still just had 3.

Still skeptical, I look at each issue and decide what I can do about it. I don’t remember the exact issues, but they were something like this:

  1. Update project plan A
    Oh jeez, that’s not hard, I just need to ask [colleague] for x,y,z so I can crack on
  2. [customer] doesn’t want to pay because [reason]
    This has been escalated to the MD now, there is literally nothing I can do, because its beyond my level of authority (why the hell is this on my list?!)
  3. There might be a serious bug with project B
    Shit happens, I didn’t create the bug, and it’s not in my skill set to actually fix it. My skill is getting the people who can fix it, to fix it as quickly as possible, for the smallest cost possible, whilst also keeping their current projects on track. So I’ll go do that!

In this example, issues 2 & 3 weren’t even my issues. I was feeling uncomfortable and responsible in some way, but I wasn’t. I had done my job, and there was nothing stopping me from continuing to do my job, I was just letting emotions get me all distracted because they weren’t pleasant. It’s like I was taking on board the negative emotions that I expected other people involved in those issues would be feeling. Issue 1 wasn’t an issue at all, it just got caught up in the unnecessary chaos.

What I learnt

  1. It’s never quite as big or as bad as I think it is
  2. I can’t move forward, if I can’t clearly see and digest what’s holding me back
  3. I am quite good at picking up baggage that isn’t mine, that nobody asked or expected me to carry

I’ve learnt to recognise that horrible niggling feeling of anxiety, lurking in the background. I used to let it hang around and mess with my well being, because I didn’t know how to deal with it. Creating a Worry List, brings it out into the open for me, to a place where I can use my common sense to figure out what I can do about it, if anything. In my last post, This little mind of mine, I talked about changing or accepting. This is very similar, but feels a bit more like – do, or accept.

Worrying is often dismissed as silly, especially when the dismissive one doesn’t relate to that particular worry. I hate that. Everyone that’s ever shared a worry with me, can testify that I would never ever class any worry as silly. If it’s worrying you, it is categorically not silly. It may not be necessary to worry, but that’s somewhat irrelevant, until you work through what is worrying you and why, to be able to come to that conclusion yourself.

That’s why the Worry List works so well for me, because I get to see what is worrying me and most importantly think through why its worrying me, so I can choose to do something about it, or accept it. Either way the goal is to understand it enough to be able to make a choice, to move forward, and get off that flippin merry go round.

If you’ve related to this post at all, give the Worry List a go. If you only get so far and hit a brick wall, give me a shout and I’ll do my best to help you get to the point where you can understand it enough to make that choice to move forward.

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