This is Part 3 of our mini-serious aimed at improving organisation skills. Click here
for Part 1. In part 3 we discuss ‘Task Anxiety’.
When I was growing up, and during my 20s, I had great trouble trying to do jobs, chores and homework/essays etc. In fact, when I tried to work on an essay that I found difficult, I would find that I couldn’t do the work. This was because as I tried to read books in preparation for an essay, I would find that my mind would go completely blank. I would stare at the page and find that no information would pass into my mind. It was as though my brain had ‘switched off’.
I believe this was my mind’s response to feeling traumatised by the task I was trying to do.
Once my mind had gone ‘blank’, I could no longer do the task. It was as though my brain was so stressed it was just blocking out any external information. There was nothing I could do in these circumstances to override the problem.
A few years ago I decided to do some research into this phenomenon. I used questionnaires to find out if other people suffered from the same kinds of problems. And I found that, just like me, some people suffer from severe anxiety when they have to do jobs and tasks. Here's what I discovered about people who suffer from what I call 'Task Anxeity'
People who score high on ‘Task Anxiety’:
- Frequently find jobs and tasks daunting and get anxious when trying to complete them.
- Get easily overwhelmed and often find their mind goes ‘completely blank’ when they are trying to do things.
Low scorers, on the other hand:
Find Out If You Suffer From 'Task Anxiety':
- Don’t get stressed when doing jobs and chores
- Are not fazed when lots of things are going on around them
- Do not worry about organising their affairs.
Try our Task Anxiety
quiz: CLICK HERE
Low Scorers: ‘Sometimes tasks just feel unmanageable…’
For the person who suffers from ‘Task Anxiety’, most jobs feel like an ‘unmanageable task’. For some reason, thinking about doing tasks feels traumatic. I suggest three responses to Task Anxiety.
- Face your feelings
The Psychoanalytic explanation of anxiety says that when we become traumatised, our mind possesses the capacity to press difficult thoughts out of consciousness. We see this happening very clearly when the 'Task Anxious' person tries to do a task that causes her anxiety. In such circumstances, the Task Anxious person often finds that her mind goes completely blank.
The Psychoanalytic model suggests the following response.
- The Psychoanalytic remedy for anxiety is as follows. It suggests that in order to master this kind anxiety, we must slowly learn to face the pain we are feeling. The Psychoanalytic theory is that this response will enable us to become acclimatised to the difficult thoughts we are experiencing. Over time, if we continue to face our feelings, we will begin to learn to manage them better. But we must be willing to face our feelings instead of blocking them out if we are to learn to manage them.
I have suffered from tremendous Task Anxiety in the past. In my experience, the trauma that can accompany Task Anxiety can be immense. This source of anxiety should therefore not be underestimated. If you become traumatised and your mind starts going blank when you are doing a task, then you must take this stress seriously. Don't simply try to block it out. Perhaps it is best to stop what you are doing. Then try to calm yourself.
When you see a child getting panicked, you will notice that it can often become near impossible to reason with her. We often have to separate her from the situation momentarily. Then we try to calm her as best we can. Once she is calm she is better able to listen to reason again. And this, I suggest, is how we should respond to Task Anxiety.
Once panic kicks in, it can be very difficult to reason with ourselves. Perhaps we need to take some time to sit down and think about how we are feeling. Then we can try to calm ourselves. Once we have calmed ourselves, we are then in a position to try and face the feelings we are struggling with.
- Breaking the task down into pieces
Personally, after I have calmed, I then begin to try to run through the task mentally.
I ask the following questions:
- 'What is it that is making me feel so anxious about doing this task?'
- 'Is there some part of this task that I feel will be particularly difficult?'
- 'How can I make this part of the task easier?'
I try to ensure that I have carefully identified exactly which bit of the task is going to be most difficult. I then try to think about how to make this aspect of the task as easy as possible. Perhaps I can do the rest of the task and leave the difficult bit until later. That way most of the task is finished and I only have the difficult bit left to do. Or perhaps I can do the reverse: do the difficult bit now and then I can relax and do the easy bits with less anxiety. This kind of response is closer to a 'Cognitive' response to anxiety used in Cognitive Therapy.
Question:I'd love to know what you think: Do you suffer from great anxiety when you have to do jobs and chores? Have you found any useful coping strategies to help you deal with this problem? COMMENT BELOW.
- Meditation reduces anxiety
I try to reason with myself, asserting that the task is not as difficult as it might seem. However, this response is typical of a ‘thinking’ type personality. For those who don’t find such reasoning calms them, meditation may be useful. Research has shown that meditation is a powerful way of calming ourselves emotionally. For example, Mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very effective at helping reduce anxiety. It has also been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of a number of conditions including long-term depression. If you are interested in finding out more about Mindfulness Meditation, here is a book that you might find useful: Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world, by Prof Mark Williams & Dr Danny Penman.
Try our Task Anxiety
quiz and find if you suffer from Task Anxiety CLICK HERE
PART 4 - Are you a bit of a hoarder?
Do you find it difficult to throw old items away? In Part 4 we will discuss how to deal with hoarding. CLICK HERE
to read Part 4.
Photo: Nate Steiner