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10 Tips for Getting Your Sh*t Done When You're Anxious AF

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Before I start my day, whether it’s a work day or a day off, I always refer to my planner to see what’s on the agenda. Some days I am able to tackle each task I’ve written down in that notebook without a care in the world. Other days when my anxiety is so bad that I can barely think, completing everyday tasks seem almost impossible.

Maybe you’ve been there too.

We all have responsibilities to take care of and things to get done. On days you’re feeling particularly anxious, it might feel easier in the moment to avoid these responsibilities. That’s why we asked members of our Mighty community to share their tips for getting stuff done when they’re feeling “anxious AF.”

What works for one person may not work for you, and that’s OK. While we encourage you to try some of our suggestions, if there’s something we missed that helps you, let us know in the comments!

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. Make a Small Checklist

Long lists can be daunting at times, even if the tasks are spread out over multiple days. Mighty community member Susan B. suggests making a smaller checklist.

Make a checklist of no more than five things to do, so it doesn’t look overwhelming. Make another one if you get far enough!

By making smaller checklists instead of a long “to-do” list, accomplishing your goals may feel more manageable. It’s sometimes better for our mental health to go for figurative “seconds” than trying to pile everything onto our plates all at once.

2. Create a Personal Mantra

Sometimes repeating an affirmation or mantra to yourself can help you power through and get stuff done. Examples of positive affirmations and mantras may include, “Anxiety won’t stop me,” or “I am capable.”

Mighty community member Kelly L. shared her mantra for times she’s feeling anxious. “I repeat ‘I can do this’ over and over in my head. Sometimes all day.”

In addition to repeating your mantra to yourself, you can also write it on a Post-it note or piece of paper and stick it where you’ll see it most frequently.

3. Pick One Task to Focus On

Lists might not always work for everyone. For some, like Mighty community member Staisha B., it’s easier to focus on the first task that comes to mind.

“I pick one thing and just do it jamming to music,” Staisha shared. “If I make a list I get overwhelmed with everything, so I just pick the first thing I see or think of.”

Staisha also recommends listening to upbeat music with encouraging lyrics if you choose to listen to music while completing your tasks.

4. Set a Timer

Setting a time minimum on being productive can be a great motivator for getting some things done. Mighty community member Jennifer B. shared,

I give myself a small goal. I’m a quilter and when I’m anxious, I just want to hide and sleep. So I make a deal with myself: I have to go in my ‘cave’ and do something quilting related for one hour and then I can lie down. Sometimes I get in my groove and [my] anxiety subsides, sometimes I make it the hour and nap. But regardless, I feel productive! And sometimes I actually win the battle; even if for just that day.

Whether you continue working on tasks after that set time has passed or not, it’s important to remember you still accomplished something.

5. Listen to Something That Brings You Joy

There are going to be times when you have to do things that aren’t super fun or engaging — but you have to do them anyway. Mighty community member Tamasvi G. shared that audiobooks help them get things done.

The easiest thing for me is to listen to audiobooks. If I do something I enjoy while accomplishing a task, then it makes it less of a chore and more like something that accompanies my book.

You can do this with music, audiobooks or even your favorite television show or movie. Just make sure you don’t get too engrossed in the plot!

6. Try the “5-Minute Hack”

Sometimes a task is going to take a longer amount of time than you have the energy. Similar to Mighty contributor Heidi F.’s 2-minute rule for cleaning the kitchen, you can take a few minutes to do part of that task which might help lighten the load. Mighty community member Meg L. recommended what she calls the “5-minute hack.”

The 5-minute hack: spend five minutes doing a small portion of a chore. Example: if your laundry is folded on your bed, spend five minutes putting it away. If you only make it five minutes and don’t get it all, that’s fine. If you do and feel better, keep going ’til you need a break.

Small bursts of productivity add up and this tip can be replicated with any task that seems daunting.

7. Complete a Quick, Calming Activity Before Getting Stuff Done

Sometimes you have to prioritize calming and centering yourself before tackling any tasks that need attention.

“I start off by doing a little activity like coloring, making pom poms, drawing, etc.,” Mighty community member Amy C. recommended. “Then I am able to get work done as I am a lot calmer and relaxed from my anxiety.”

An activity that isn’t too time-consuming can be a great way to ease your anxiety and get you prepared to tackle whatever is on your plate.

8. Find an “Accountabili-buddy”

It might help you get things done if you share your list of tasks and goals with someone else who can be your “accountabili-buddy” — basically just a trusted friend who can hold you accountable for getting your tasks done.

Mighty community member Alicia E. shared that when she’s struggling to complete tasks while anxious, she turns to her partner. “I have my fiancé hold me accountable,” she said. “Same with when I’m depressed.”

Another way to use an accountability partner is to ask them to check in with you after a couple of hours to see your progress.

9. Try Negotiating With Yourself Using a “Reward” System

Rewarding yourself for getting things done can be a great motivator, especially when it’s a less desirable task you have to do (for example, doing the dishes). You can reward yourself with a movie on Netflix or a piece of chocolate — whatever sounds motivating to you!

“[My strategies are] breathing and making a promise to myself to earn a reward for accomplishing my task,” Mighty community member Terri H. shared. Terri’s go-to rewards are either a cup of coffee or taking a short break.

Think about some things you might reward yourself with for getting stuff done. For example, you might make a goal to save up enough money to see a movie. Every time you do a task you don’t want to do (like laundry!), you put a quarter in the jar. Soon, you’ll have enough to do the activity you enjoy.

10. Accept You Might Not Get Everything Done

Sometimes you might not get everything done that you wanted to do, and that’s OK. Mighty community member Sophie W. shared:

Breaking things down into tiny steps, as it then doesn’t seem so intimidating, rewards (healthy) when I have completed tasks and acceptance of my situation if I cannot do what I set out to.

Accepting that you sometimes won’t be able to complete everything you set out to do may not sound like a tip for getting stuff done right away, but it’s an important thing to learn. I used to think I had to complete every task I put on my “to do” list and I would become more anxious if I didn’t complete everything. By accepting that you may get some things done but not everything, you are telling yourself that you did your best. And “your best” is sometimes all you can do.

No matter what tasks you complete — whether they’re big, small or somewhere in between — you can always share your “wins” of the day by posting a Thought with the hashtag #CheerMeOn.

If the only goal you accomplished was taking care of yourself today, that’s great, because self-care is important for our overall mental health. The rest of your tasks will still be there tomorrow. You’ve got this!

Originally published: May 24, 2019
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