Anxiety can feel incredibly disempowering. An anxious brain can make normal every day experiences seem overwhelming or even dangerous. Every bit of information you process buzzes around in your mind, looking for a place to settle, while dreadful thoughts fester in an obsessive loop. Anxiety turns a perfectly good mind palace into a disaster area faster than a toddler trashes his bedroom.
To-do lists can help. Or they can become obsessions themselves. A to-do list which encompasses the whole day's worth of tasks is going to look overwhelming, even when your intention in making the list was to feel more grounded. This is because when you look at it, you see what you need to do without really connecting to what you have already accomplished. When you are at your most anxious, creating small measurable goals can help sooth the sense of chaos you are likely experiencing.
Create your own empowerment by making tiny, three-item to-do lists. Make them very specific. For example: as soon as you wake up, make your first to-do list simple.
- Use the bathroom.
- Drink a glass of water.
- Make coffee.
As you cross each one off your list, your brain will reward you. Completing these simple tasks and cataloging them will give you an energy boost right away. Now you know you can finish something, and you can move on to your next three tasks with confidence. Write a new three-item list, and complete those.
Tiny lists give you the flexibility to handle unforeseen circumstances without throwing off your whole day. They empower you by proving that you can finish your goals. They section your day into bite-sized bits so you can take your day one baby step at a time. Give it a try. You may surprise yourself.
As a side note - I also really like this visualization exercise for worry.