One of the sneaky, evil side effects of anxiety and/or depression is its ability to incapacitate its victims. You’re normally productive, healthy, active. When suddenly, small things become mountains you can’t scale. Paying bills looks like an obstacle course of getting all the way out of bed, walking to the mailbox, opening it, opening the letters, setting up autopay with the bank, responding!, doing the work!!…
You get the picture. Becoming an active participant in your own life and staying on top of things can be a challenge. And then everything piles up and you feel like a failure. I’ve watched myself hesitate to invoice clients for work I’ve literally completed—when they owed me money—for no good reason! To combat the snowball effect of this scenario, I began crafting weekly contracts with myself.
Every Sunday, I’d set down, on paper, a short-list of things I could, should, and (hopefully) would knock out within the next 7 days. Small things. Easy things. Things that I somehow was struggling with because I was looking ahead at too many weeks. But, broken down into the next few days, with the added bonus and promise of kindness and rewards, I was able to get through it.
Here are my steps:
1. Your contract can only be one week long.
Long-term goals are overwhelming and have a higher fail rate.
You need to focus on what you can do today, then tomorrow, then through this week.
Small things add up.
2. Include tangible, attainable tasks and give them measurable amounts.
Have Sleepy-time tea before bed 3x.
Email client and follow up on late invoice #311456.
3. Think small.
Under no circumstances are you to commit to doing anything every day of the week.
Do not tell yourself you’ll run every morning for 3 miles. It’s an ambitious promise and you do not need to feel extra disappointed right now.
Instead, commit to showing up at the gym for 30 minutes. Even if all you do is walk on the treadmill.
Think about a small move you can make to feel better, like messaging an old friend or taking a long walk with your dog.
Putting away your laundry or eating a salad on Wednesday, going to bed early Sunday night before the work week.
4. You must include at least 3 nice things you’ll do for yourself as if someone else were doing them to treat you.
Buy yourself flowers.
Thank yourself for taking care of yourself. You deserve it. Be a good friend to yourself.
Self-care includes taking care of bullshit like paying bills and calling people back. And sometimes, that’s hard work.
Think of something you really enjoy, even if it’s just your favorite take-out place. Maybe it’s just a bubble bath. Put it on the list to remind yourself that you’re doing something good.
5. Sign it.
Your signature. Put it on the bottom of the list and agree to the contract.
6. Check in and forgive.
Keep this contract with you and check off tasks. I usually have a small journal with me where I write my weekly lists.
If you don’t get to everything this week, it’s OK.
You are the boss and you are not allowed to be a dick, asshole-boss to yourself.
No one likes working for someone who belittles their direct reports for making mistakes, forgetting details, or messing up. You are a human being, not a human will be. Not a robot, and not some version of self-hate manifested from your bosses own insecurities made real for them to rage on (cough, cough). No more beating yourself up.
I’m not a doctor or a professional mental health expert. But, I think this method helps. Try it, see if making small commitments is a positive step. And be kind to yourself. You’re in your own head, and you alone know how it is in there.