This past week I have been relearning (once again) just how overactive and warped my imagination can be. That the thing that I’m dreading, be it opening a letter, answering the phone, reading an email, sorting something out, is almost always a fraction as bad once I actually do it as I imagine it to be when I’m dreading it. And an evem smaller fraction of how I feel if I try and ignore it and it starts to grow out of all proportion (and maybe actually becomes a real problem).
An example from a little while ago (but unfortuantely not that long ago) – I finally opened some letters and found out that we were about to be switched over to a key meter for our gas and electric due to non payment of bills. Now, to my shame (and quite possibly the entirely justified annoyance of someone actually struggling to make ends meet) this has nothing to do with not being able to afford the bills (for which I’m greatful for our luck) and nothing to do with not wanting to pay them. It’s all to do with me not getting around to sorting a direct debit out after moving house and then not opening the bills because I was feeling all anxious about post. When I finally did open them, my anxiety/avoidance/lack of organisation/I’m not sure what – had actually created a real huge problem – with the potential for a big impact, the inconvenience, the extra cost, the social embarassment of having to explain to family and friends why we were now on a key meter. This was a big enough shock to make me do something there and then rather than shove it onto a to do pile. And actually, paying off the bill over the phone with my card involved no interaction with another human and therefore no stress. And once I was on a roll, even phoning back to talk to a real human and set up a direct debit was not a problem because they don’t actually care – the person you speak to isn’t judging you, they are just doing their job in a call centre, quite probably at minimum wage, and as long as you aren’t rude to them they don’t care that you have only just paid your bill extremely late, they’re just concentrating on entering your direct debit details quickly and counting down the minutes until their next break.
Actually that example was possibly made a little easier coming as it did about a month after a last minute intervention to stop the water company taking us to court for non payment of bills – similarly due to incompetence/anxiety rather than penury.
Anyway, this week has been thankfully less dramatic, but I have been constantly rediscovering that things aren’t as bad as I imagined once I actually bite the bullet and do them (or even read the letter/email and find out what it is that I need to do).
This is something that the logical part of my brain understands. Unfortunately the logical part of my brain is not always allowed to drive.
Yesterday I was footling about on the internet, as you do, waiting for something to become available on i player, and I ran out of things to occupy my brain with and actually started going through my burgeoning inbox. And it felt good. And I did it some more. And I made a mental note to do more of this Sorting Out A Before Crisis Hits stuff. Which is something I resolve to do often, but this time I was doing it from a good place, rather than a post paralysis got myself into a funk and nearly had a disaster place.
Then today I read this piece about what you can achieve in one hundred days. The writer hopes to hone her writing skills in her last 100 days of her contract, before setting off on her boat with her family. Her goal is to improve her long term chances of making enough money from writing, so that they can spend more time on the boat and less time having to join us landlubbers for months on end in order to work at a proper job for a bit to save up for their next stint at sea.
Now I have no plans on upping sticks. But how different would my life be if I spent the next 100 days doing 15 minutes of email clearing or filing (there are piles of paperwork lurking all around the house, plus the box of stuff we moved with, this could keep me going for a while I promise), or even 15 minutes of each. Even if I only managed this 5 days a week. And while I’m at it what if I made an effort to eat breakfast and also a proper lunch when the kids were at school and did more exercise. After all I read recently about the importance that nutrition, sleep, exercise and caffeine intake have in tackling mental health issues.
The link between every day behavoir and mental health is complex. I don’t want to fall into the trap of giving myself a narrative of my anxiety being down to me “Not getting a grip and trying hard enough” – that internal voice that Fi at Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers calls bitchface. Because I think there’s more to it than that. But at the same time I need to start taking some personal responsibility – to manage my life in a way that reduces my chances of getting anxious. I guess a bit like a diabetic who is careful with their diet. The diabeties is an illness, not their fault, but they’re taking responsibility in managing their lifestyle to reduce it’s impact.
So, I’m hereby publicly* declaring that for the next 100 days I will try and do at least 15 minutes of sorting 5 times a week. It may seem small, but I know my tendancy to snowball a good idea and add more and more on until I’ve come up with something impossible to acheive and then I fall short and feel bad for failing. Any extra sorting out, good diet, exercise is allowed and commendable but I’m not committing to that. And then I’ll see where I’ve got to by 31st May.
If anyone wants to join me with their own version of the 100 day challenge you’re more than welcome. (This is the kind of thing you see on sewing blogs where they might have a 100 day stashbusting challenge where you only sew from fabric you’ve already bought and hoarded, with people joining in and posting comments, and congratulating each other on successess and confessing their setbacks. There’s usually a button invovled that you can put on your blog but I’ve no idea how to make one and I’m not sure anyone would be interested).
So excuse me know, I’m off to sort out a section of my filing cabinet before I go to bed.
*ok, so as public announcements go, this annonymous blog that I don’t tell anyone about is not very public, but it’s the thought that counts alright?