Time management is something I have been thinking about a lot recently, especially how it relates to my own anxiety coping mechanisms. A few weeks ago, I put an extension on my Chrome browser to keep me off Facebook and Twitter which helped me manage my productivity for my first week doing freelancing work. But then I had a few big anxiety triggers: namely taxes and travel, and I started really seeing how my anxiety disrupts my productivity.
I guess I’ve always known this, but because I don’t have the distraction of a 9-5 job where someone else held me accountable, I never realized how less productive I’d been when the only person holding me accountable was the girl with anxiety issues. Now I seem to be getting a clearer look at my time management as I wrangle trying to be productive around trying to function with anxiety.
My anxiety seems to come in two major categories: Functioning and Non-Functioning. Functioning anxiety usually is me suffering in silence, sometimes quiet literally. I’ll just go about the day-to-day needs quietly, but I’ll be noisy in my head, battling my demons. My kids often ask me “What’s Wrong?” a lot on those days because I’m less talkative than usual. This is kinda my “generalized” anxiety disorder response.
But then there are very specific, severe anxiety triggers and a lot of those tend to take over my brain and make “functioning” very difficult. Sometimes this is a full-blown, by the textbook, acute panic attack. But I have a good handle on those triggers and tend to avoid them. A perfect example is driving. I have had anxiety attacks while driving and it is NOT PRETTY so I have learned how to avoid those situations which is why I no longer take left turns anywhere and avoid terrible merge lanes during peak traffic times.
However, my reaction to less acute severe anxiety triggers – like taxes or impending travel – looks a lot like a type of attention deficit disorder. I lose the ability to focus on anything when there are severe triggers and I suddenly I’l find weeks disappear before I realize it. It’s like when I have BIG things I’m worried about on the horizon, things with specific end dates, I lose the ability to focus on anything but that looming deadline or event. This was exemplified when we were trying to sell our house and the giant dread of this big looming chaos sent me to medication for the first time.
As I reflect on the last few weeks I’ve realized how unproductive I’ve been towards writing goals and some small looming tasks I’m assigned for volunteer organizations. I could have sat down several times to focus on those things but it was like my brain was so preoccupied with our taxes and my impending Spring Break travel that I never could quite get myself on any rhythm of productive focus. I would bounce around various activities not actually completing anything because I couldn’t focus, or I could totally veg out on episodes of One Day At A Time no problem, because that required zero mental effort. But it was like anything that involved my brain to focus for any length of time could not happen because the second I activated the “thinking” part of my brain…my worry over travel or taxes took over.
I think for a lot of people, this is the “My house is never cleaner than when I had an exam coming up,” phenomena that my Dad experienced. When you do OTHER tasks instead of the one you SHOULD be doing, but for me? I can’t do ANYTHING. Anything except veg on social media or with television. And I solved the social media problem with extensions and now I need to…what? Face my fears? Create lists that separate scary things into small manageable tasks? Take a sedative? Throw away all televisions?
We send off the big check for taxes today, so that’s done. And travel ended last week, so that’s done. So, in theory, I should be able to focus more this week but I’d really like to hear back from anyone else who maybe suffers from this type of thing. The inability to use their brain for any useful length of time because anytime they engage it, they immediately go to OH MY GOD THERE IS THIS TERRIBLE THING I HAVE TO BE WORRYING ABOUT IN THE FUTURE mode.