In this week’s mental health and wellbeing column, Jane salutes the power of making a simple list to help get through.
Life doesn’t come with a how-to manual. It’s messy, unpredictable and likes to trip and snag us on its thorns every once in a while. Tasks are left undone, things fall apart.
Perhaps we could pinch a trick from the housing trade. At the end of a project, a snag list is compiled, highlighting the small jobs or issues that need dealing with. The small, mundane things that in themselves don’t cause a huge amount of disruption, but that can nag at the back of the mind, or grow worse with neglect.
I’m not suggesting we zealously track round our homes looking for faults, then spend the next three weeks on the phone to contractors (though it may be required). Rather, that we take a step back and look at the small snags impeding us in our own lives.
As an example, my hair is a bird’s nest of raggy edges and excessive length. It throttles me in my sleep. Yet getting it cut seems a monumental task at the moment, being exhausted as I am through illness. I look at it, and it annoys me. Into the circular path to hell we go.
The garden hedge mirrors my hair, and is now an actual bird’s nest. Which is fine, but it’s attacking people walking past the house. Walls need painting, clothes need fixing, I need maintenance.
Sound familiar? Hence, my snag list. A bullet point guide written as honestly as possible to highlight all those small irritants that need dealing with. Then I break them down into those I can achieve quickly by myself (the hair), those that the husband will be deployed to tackle (the hedge), and those that I need help with (the painting).
Add an estimated cost, set a budget. See what can be dealt with quickly, and what needs more consideration. Then, action maybe one or two a day, or a week, whatever you feel you can cope with.
I’m simplifying this, I know. When you’re anxious or struggling with your mental health it can be really difficult to do this. Everything seems overwhelming. I know it did for me, this weekend past, when a job that should have been completed wasn’t executed properly, and I just broke down.
Make a snag list. Include a number of tasks that you know you can achieve. Something as small as changing your bedsheets and having a clean bed. Having a shower, dressing in fresh clothes, taking a short walk. Make an appointment for a haircut or to talk to your GP for advice. Add something for pleasure, like buying something from a wish list you’ve been wanting forever.
Think about what you’ve been putting off, and why. The list doesn’t exist to castigate you for your failures – it’s there to give a step by step guide to the smaller things than are more in your control to achieve.
Take pleasure in it – play music, wear something that makes you feel good. Walk out in the sun, even if it’s just ten minutes on your lunch break. Take five minutes to call someone whose voice you haven’t heard for a while, just to reconnect.
Enjoy striking a line through those bullet points. But don’t sweat the remaining tasks. Just be honest with yourself as to why they haven’t been completed – such as being outside of your ability to pay at the moment.
Enjoy feeling tidier, smarter, more in control. Give yourself a gift. And most of all, look after yourself.
Thanks, as always, for reading.