You know what I mean – when there is so much that needs to be done, and such tight deadlines, that you feel your guts knot up into a giant stressball. You can’t sleep, you forget to eat until it’s so bad you’re weaving on your feet. You can’t focus, because your thoughts are racing in a thousand directions at once. You make a list, but for every one thing you check off, three others pop up that still stand between you and completion of the full task. Even when you have a little downtime, you can’t unwind enough to relax.
I’m not going to give you the cure. I don’t have the cure – I’m not sure anyone does. I can talk about some of my coping strategies, though. I’ve been trying to keep up with my obligations, and for some reason this last Friday they were piling up faster than I could pack them away, so I had a very interesting weekend. What follows are notes for myself, for the future, and perhaps you can gather something from them as well.
If you can’t do anything about it today, write it down and set it aside. The physical act of doing this helps me shut my brain off on the topic. Doesn’t always stop my brain, but it does help.
For that matter: make a full list. Add to it often, and don’t let it get you down. Break big tasks down into smaller pieces that can be accomplished and checked off one thing at a time. I’m working on one thing right now that requires me to first line up about a dozen other things that have to be right before the one thing can be completed. Breaking that down helps.
Don’t be afraid to ask. I solved one of the big ugly tasks today by just asking if there was any wiggle room in the deadline. It turned out there was some, but first I had to do a couple of little things. I was able to do those, which was a huge relief to have the big thing backed off enough to be ready for it when it comes.
Don’t procrastinate. I wound up with one of these things in my lap – and disappointing my daughter – because I hadn’t made sure it was done earlier in the year. Yes, I’ve been busy, and I didn’t have all the ducks in a row, but I did procrastinate, so part of this stress is my own darn fault.
Do prepare. I found that calling around helped with a few things, but also, going in and talking to people was even more helpful. Something about the person standing in front of you asking questions makes people a lot more prompt about their responses. It might take more time and effort, but just like in business, it can pay off to invest a little up front.
Clean your d*mn desk off. Things will get eaten by the paper monster if you don’t. Besides, it will make you feel better if you aren’t staring at visual clutter all the time.
Stay off social media. No one wants to hear you whine, all the depressing stuff will float to the top of your newsfeed when you’re having trouble keeping your spirits up, and besides, you’re bored with waiting until the next thing that can be done, it’s not ‘friends’ job to amuse you. Instead, go for a walk. Or find some handcraft that will help you focus on it and not on the waiting process. Read, if you can concentrate. Write, if you can. Stress is the creativity-killer, so that may not work.