My New List to (Literally) Corral Worries!

4 Feb

I’ve been really stressed out lately. I’m moving and planning to sell my house, and just as I was beginning that process, I got COVID-19, which I’m still not fully recovered from. As I write this, I’m having a surge of the post-COVID fatigue, or a really bad fibromyalgia flare … and I really can’t tell which, or is it both?

I’m frustrated at feeling terrible. I’m frustrated at not making enough progress on my move. I get these feelings that I’m failing.

I’ve had to do a lot of mental work to keep perspective, and I thought, why not try actually writing down my worries?

To start, I just made two columns. One is “real problems” or “real stress.” That’s the stuff that’s legitimately reasonable to worry about. Like living with chronic pain that’s only going to get worse.

Then I made a column that just reads, “uh, yo…” at the top. You can call it the “get a grip,” or “first world problems,” or “let it go” column. This is where I put stuff that’s not actually life-or-death or seriously causing problems with my life. They are little worries. I’ll refer to it as the “non-problem” column for the rest of this article.

Here’s the little rough draft I jotted down to get me started and have something to show you:

One column with header "real problems" includes "COVID aftereffects, fibromyalgia, progressing arthritis, sleep interruptions, and prepping/selling house." The last 2 items on that list have a small box drawn to the left of each. The second column, with the header "uh, yo..." includes "where to put my books, snug clothes, missing drill bit, loud dryer buzzer."

I recommend keeping this just about you and maybe those immediately close to you. I started listing things about people I love and worrying for them, and then that was a rabbit hole that started me thinking about all the problems of the world, and it doesn’t get any more counter-productive than that.

When I just kept it about me, it started to work, and here’s how it seems to be working:

  • It acknowledges that my real problems are, in fact, very real, so I don’t go acting like they’re not and cause further harm.
  • It acknowledges that my real problems are real and alleviates guilt about feeling bothered by them.
  • I put little boxes, like check boxes, beside the real problems I can actually solve, so that delineates problems that require action from problems that require acceptance.
  • The non-problem column assigns proper perspective to the minimal bothers, helping me to just let them go. I got real problems and this ain’t them.
  • I’m still not being dismissive of the non-problems and shaming my worries, as I am literally giving them space; this tiny space.
  • If I catch myself worrying about something, I can just write it down here and encourage that to be its space instead of inside my brain.
  • I can show this to my partner to let him know how I’m feeling without having to say all the words … and he’ll fix that dryer buzzer for me.
  • The non-problem column doesn’t have check boxes, because they’re not worth worrying about!
  • I can certainly cross off non-problem items, though. In fact, I can be as intentional as writing it down and immediately crossing it off to affirm it’s not anything to worry about. (I’m going to cross off that bit about the tight clothes this very moment … and DONE.)
  • I can also cross off items as I resolve them, or they self-resolve. I’m sure at some point, I’ll cross off “missing drill bit” and then add on “foot wound” until *that* heals, because we all know how this is going to end….

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