Monday, September 9, 2019

The Art of Pacing Myself

Lately I've been practicing a concept relatively new to me - the idea of baby steps.

I've always been the type to wait until there was a pile of something and then jump in, grinding my way from start to finish in one, long, exhaustive endeavor. I'd push far past the point of misery and exhaustion, but I couldn't bear the idea of breaking it up over time. When I was ready, I wanted it done ALL THE WAY, IMMEDIATELY.

Erm. Ask how that worked out for me.

The answer is not well, really. I am not an organized sort of person, by nature. I was simply never taught the ways of the organized mind, for which I can thank the chaos of my upbringing. It actually didn't dawn on me that it might be more pleasant and much easier to tackle any given project one bit at a time. I think that sounded and felt like torture to me. Oddly, organizationally challenged though I might be, I'm also a bizarre kind of perfectionist. I can't bear to see something half done, so I'm not going to start it until I can wind myself up and muster the colossal energy and time commitment to tackle a behemoth in one fell swoop, fast and hard.

In hindsight...that was always beyond draining. And maybe even counter to perfection. I mean, when you think about it, you're probably more likely to do an even more impeccable job when you pace yourself and don't feel stressed or resentful in the process of doing it. SO, I set up some rules for myself. Roughly. As follows:

- I may work on a task--maybe even a couple of them--on a week night, but only short bursts. If it's a big job, I'm only permitted to bite off a chunk. I can gnaw off the rest later. (I guess this really applies to mindful eating, too. But one thing at a time.)

- If, at any point in working on a task, I start to feel that sense of drudgery, like I'm pushing myself to keep going when my insides are groaning and whining and feeling burned out---I STOP--come back to it later, or tomorrow. I go and do something relaxing or fun.

- Completing a project has a reward. For instance, I have to take the time to complete my Fall cleaning and organizing before I can decorate for the season, so I use that a motivator to slowly and steadily walk the marathon. I have a timeline when I hope to be finished--but it's not the end of the world if it takes a little longer.

This is all VERY different for me. Normally I wouldn't have been able to bear waiting or pacing my tasks or taking it slowly. Honestly, these are just mindful and self-loving practices, but I don't think I trusted that before. Pretty sure I thought I'd hate it, but turns out I am appreciating it tremendously.

There's another reason this method has been a lifesaver for me. Namely, depression and anxiety.

It's easy to get buried when you are trying to manage a 'bout of depression. It's easy for things to slide and a small job becomes a big one when you're stressed and avoiding it. Then you feel overwhelmed and even more anxious and it all just feeds into procrastination and dread. When you're battling the exhaustion, you don't typically have ginormous stores of super energy to climb that metaphorical mountain all in one go anyway. The self-loving practice is to eat the bear one bite at a time. If only I'd given it a shot when I was younger, I would have been a lot more methodical and a lot less overwhelmed.

So there's something.

I'm looking forward to putting this ideology into effect in other aspects of my life, as well.
It feels good to go about things with a more tempered method, working on gracefully shifting between personal time and work time in a more balanced way. Contrary to prior flawed programming, that doesn't take away from the fun of life. It seems a lot easier to just enjoy the moment this way. Fancy that.