Circuit breakers

By Avinash Meetoo from Quatre-Bornes, Mauritius

In front of you is an elephant, a mountain. It is enormous and there is no way you can see around it, or see how you can climb it, but you know that the only way forwards is over the top to get to the other side. The notion of working out how to get to the other side is overwhelming and saps you of all your energies. So instead of tackling this mountain, you crawl back into bed, you cover your head and pretend that this task is not there, that it will deal with itself. When you look back out, it is still there, waiting for you to start. The cycle goes on, and on until you make a decision about how to tackle the mountain.

Sometimes in life there are these moments where I am completely overwhelmed by the number of things that I need to do, and the people who rely on me to get these things done. When I was doing some solo hiking a couple of years ago, walking up those hot and dusty paths that seemed to go on forever became a metaphor on how I needed to approach these things: one step at a time. This is all well and good, and those words are etched in my brain. I have no problem fishing them back out when my list of to-dos is longer than any piece of paper could contain. However, translating this into actually getting on with it can a be another issue.

A few of weeks ago I had more things to do than I had time. Everything seemed to be pulling at me and it was paralysing me. But I couldn’t afford to be paralysed as people were relying on me (a manuscript needed its copy edit completed, lessons needed to be written, family needed support, words needed to written, words needed to be read, relationships needed to nurtured), so on one of these days when my body had melted into the couch and I just wanted to pull the plug on the phone and on people needing me, I realised that I still had some control of my situation. I just needed some circuit breakers. Past conversations with my psychologist sprang to mind about stopping the spiral down to a very unhealthy place, which is where I was heading. I need to find things to help stop me from any more negative thinking, and to help me see a way out of the depths.

I came up with a list on things that I could do that would pop a little more energy into all these moments – mood changers. I think of them as circuit breakers. They include things like a walk, putting some music on, changing clothes, having something to eat or drink, changing where I’m sitting (or standing), picking some flowers, putting some essential oils in the diffuser or breaking my tasks down to smaller chunks. This has been probably the most useful thing for me. I sit down once a week and make note of what I have achieved over the last week, what’s ahead for the next week, what ‘blockers’ are in my way, and how I will get around them. Then each evening I think about the next day and break the tasks into sizeable chunks trying to keep it realistic. Add a little self compassion in there as well to allow me to not get everything done, and I am in a better place mentally.

There is something wonderful about ticking some things off the list, and reminding myself that I am making my way over the mountain – even if it is slow.

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