You know when you have so much to do, you just can't do any of it? Is that a normal thing that happens? It happens to me all the time. If I let my email inbox pile up, I stop checking it. I get super nervous out of nowhere and I get to this weird place where I just can't bring myself to open my email.
I'll type in "gmail.com" and then close out that tab before it even loads. I just get so overwhelmed so quickly. This happens when my to-do list gets unreasonably long or when I accidentally take on too many clients. I just sort of shut down.
Over time, I have figured out a few ways to get through that block.
The hardest part is getting started. You need to let that email inbox load without closing it out. For some reason, I find it easier to do this in a public place rather than at home in my office. I think this is because if I'm at home, I'm more likely to stall even longer.
Usually, stressful emails don't show up. But I'm braced for it and it's not a fun feeling. When I'm at home, I let myself off the hook. I stand up and I go do laundry, I take the dogs out, I clean my desk. Anything but check that email.
By going down the street to a coffee shop, I make a smooth transition into grown-up work mode. I can talk to my inner child and say, "hey, grown-up Sim is going to deal with this and you don't have to worry about anything scary."
put on your grown-up hat
I know that most of my anxiety is my inner child freaking out. I speak to myself in a kind way (usually in response to a bunch of intrusive and rude self-talk). I also hold myself accountable. Yeah, it's totally okay that this is happening and there is nothing wrong with you. It doesn't say anything about what quality of a person you are.
Also, though, it's not cool to skimp on responsibilities. Yes, for sure, anxiety happens and it slows things down. Be patient with yourself, definitely. Also, do what you need to do to cope with the fact that you need to take care of things -- doctor's appointments, meetings with clients, sitting down and actually writing.
Getting to that coffee shop or making phone calls to grown-ups who are way more grown-up than I am can be intimidating. What helps me speak to myself in a reasonable and motivating way is reminding myself of my values.
look to values
Is my procrastination affecting other people? It's definitely not helpful to me. Is that in line with my values? Definitely not.
It's not kind, it's not focused on connection, and it doesn't align with how much I value work ethic. I want to be the person I want to be. So, objectively asking myself if my behavior is within my values helps a lot to move me forward.
don't hold on to shame
Getting into anxiety blocks where I just can't focus on anything makes me feel like shit. All of the things lead to all of the thoughts. Shame creeps in when I know I'm not living according to my values. I talk shit to myself because if I could just pick up that phone or check that email or go to the grocery store, everything would be fine.
I find myself frustrated because these are such simple things to do, and I somehow can't do them. It's like there's this invisible force of anxiety keeping me from moving.
When I notice negative thoughts, I do my best to let them pass. I put them on a leaf in a stream in my head and I let these shitty thoughts float by.
Remember how good it feels when everything is done and taken care of? Start by focusing on one tiny thing, instead of all of the things. Focus on the inbox, focus on the errands, focus on the phone calls. One at a time. Start with making your bed.
The more you can get those feelings of success from performing responsibilities the more you will accomplish. Allow yourself to feel good when you complete one thing, even if you have a bunch more to do. This helps build confidence and creates momentum to keep going down the to-do list.
In order to best overcome anxiety blocks, look to what has worked in the past. Do you need to let other people know? Do you need an accountabilibuddy? Maybe you need someone to sit with you when you check your email.
Get curious about what causes this anxiety. Is it fear of the unknown? Fear that people are angry with you? Are you trying to self-sabotage out of fear of success or fear of failure? Are you just sick of everything and want to run away?
Ask yourself what you need. This stuff is going to get done, you're going to check your email at some point again. You'll get through the anxiety. It doesn't always feel like it, but it is possible to reach out and ask for help at any point in an anxiety block.
How long do you want to go through this anxiety? What have you tried so far? Can you take a step back and come up with a reasonable plan of action? What support do you need?
By doing these things (after years of trial and error), I've found those anxiety blocks to move through me quickly. I've developed my ability to ask for help (from compassionate and hard working people I trust) to the point that it doesn't feel uncomfortable (even if I'm embarrassed that I need help doing something as simple as dialing a phone number).