July 22, 2020

A Brain Hack To Overcome Anxiety & Get Stuff Done

We have both a large-scale purpose, and a set of micro-purposes that guide our daily actions.

The act of identifying your purpose and bringing it to life on a consistent basis, however, can prove challenging.

I don’t know about you, but there are times when I feel overwhelmed when I begin a new project or am pursuing a purpose-driven goal. Here’s some of the reasons:

  • I preemptively experience a fear of failure. I don’t know exactly how things will go and I can sense that this is untrodden territory. 
  • I battle with perfectionism and become concerned that whatever I’m working on is not good enough.
  • I don’t know how to get started. I distract myself by reading a whole slew of rich, informative content, but fail to actually dig into the work itself.
  • I somehow decide it’s not “the right time.” I formulate some excuse, I reason that it’s too early, I tell myself that I already have too much on my plate and don’t have time, I’m not ready, it’s too expensive, yada yada. 

I shared these with you not because I want to hire you as my therapist, but because I want to let you know that I have experienced these feelings, and have had them wreak havoc on my purposeful plans. So if you’ve been putting something off because it’s overwhelming or scary, you’re not alone! 

Going through this cyclical pattern causes regret, guilt, and frustration — and it reinforces our brain’s unwillingness to dive in the next time. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Now I’m not saying that you necessarily have this problem, but perhaps you have a friend that is struggling with it. So, for your friend’s sake, I wanted to share a few tips that help me to not only overcome these feelings, but also help me take on my purpose with full-force, but in a manageable, mindful way:

  1. Pause. Before you chart your journey into the unknown, allow yourself to experience what you’re feeling. You may be experiencing sensations of indecision, stress, or uncertainty. Accept them and allow yourself to feel these sensations entirely and how they manifest in your body and in your breath. When I’m in the thick of it, closing my eyes, breathing, and acknowledging that my feelings are valid helps me put them in perspective without shutting them down.
  2. Make a list. I am notorious for handwriting out all 500 tasks that are in my queue — even, and especially, the micro-tasks. I use symbols to notate which are the most pressing of the day, which can be completed tomorrow, and which are important but take less brain “gas” and so are perfect activities for when my prefrontal cortex is tired of making decisions and needs a little breather. Choosing ONE of those tasks, and focusing on just that task ignites the fire of your purpose and instills confidence in your capability. You can do this — let yourself feel that!
  3. Do one thing. This is the secret ingredient for me. I set a timer for an allotted time, depending on the activity, sometimes 10 minutes, if it’s a more substantial task, sometimes I choose a 25 minute block, ala pomodoro(check out this fun tomato timer!). I turn my phone on OFFTIME, I turn off music. I just complete that task. I only focus on that task. Once the task is complete or the timer goes off, I take a break, get up from my desk, sometimes do some sort of movement, reassess. The idea is to experience and recognize whatever you’ve completed as a small win towards the one item, even if it exceeds the limit of the timer. 

I’m not saying that employing these steps will eliminate the fear and doom rattling around in your brain. But this process allows you to re-wire your thinking at a micro-activation level, and most importantly, can help you take steps towards realizing your purpose without getting overwhelmed. 

Hang in there. You’re doing great work.

Hi, I'm Laura.

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