My list of things to do sits in front of me. It’s long, but only one item is crossed off: shower.
I have four hours to cook and clean and get ready to host the people I’ve invited over and all I can do is look at the list and judge myself.
The ridiculing voice in my head sounds like this.
There wouldn’t be so much cleaning to do if you weren’t such a lame ass about getting things taken care of each week.
Why are you such a loser sometimes?
You wouldn’t be so stuck if you’d decided on what to make a week ago and bought food yesterday.
Maybe you should just cancel. Maybe no one really wants to come anyway. You could say you’re sick.
There’s no way you’re going to get this all done.
What if I shop and cook but don’t clean? Will they judge me? See that I’m a loser? Never come over again?
Meanwhile, the time I could have spent knocking things off my list is ticking away and I’m still paralyzed.
The particular instance I’m recalling happened 17 years ago when I had a couple young kids and we lived in a house that was full of all the stuff children bring into your life: toys, art projects, books, clothes that get changed five times a day and left on the floor. As soon as things would get picked up in one room, the kids would have taken over another room to play in. It was never “a place for everything and everything in its place”.
I felt so much pressure to show up, be a good person, not be judged as a do-nothing, have a clean house no matter what—things that had been so ingrained in me.
And most days I felt I was failing at it all.
This is common for Highly Sensitive people when we’re faced with nerve-wracking deadlines, too much on our plates, or for some other reason we hit a patch of pressure and overwhelm.
When this happens you likely go into fight, flight, or freeze. Your thinking brain turns off—which is why you can’t make a good decision on what to do next.
And you feel like you want to get out of it somehow. Could I run away and disappear? Could I hunker down and pretend I’m not home? Maybe the fight response kicks in and you feel angry that you have to do these things, or mad at yourself for creating the situation.
Now that I'm aware what shuts me down I can usually orchestrate things to work well. I no longer put every last thing on my list for the day because I know that I get overwhelmed just looking at it. And if I look at it and blanch I can find a way to whittle away the day and not go back to the list again.
Until the next day. And then I guilt myself that I accomplished nothing the day before. It becomes a vicious cycle.
The best days are when I remember to put only three things on my list.
The three things I choose are whatever are the hardest next steps in moving forward. Not a whole project that has 47 steps embedded in it. Just the next step that needs to be done. If you put a whole project like “Make quilt” on the list you set yourself up for failure.
Instead put “Choose pattern” or “Buy 1.5 yards of blue fabric” or whatever is the next actual baby step you need to accomplish.
These days that seems like a no-brainer to me, but eight years ago I was scratching my head because no matter how good my intentions, or how many times I wrote “Design website” on my to-do list, it never got done.
Not until I got wise—and stopped overwhelming and paralyzing myself—did it finally happen.
Using prompts like “Write first paragraph of About page” or “Look through emails of recent clients and collect testimonials” allowed me to take the steps to finally get there.
These hard won life lessons, along with study of the latest research on Sensitive Introverts, are at the core of my new 8-week course: Sensitivity Source Code.
The program is designed to give sensitive women just the right amount of information—not so much that you’re overwhelmed.
It details the essentials you need to go from being what HSP Psychologist Julie Bjelland calls an “untrained Highly Sensitive Person” to someone with the tools to, among other things:
If these are things that would change your life in a positive way, stay tuned. What would the winter holiday season feel like for you if you had solid tools to keep you out of overwhelm, the courage to say no to gatherings that would overextend you, and the self-worth to communicate your needs without guilt?
Intriguing to think about, isn't it? A different kind of life awaits you.
Registration will open next week. I know that contemplating change can be scary. I want you to think about whether you’d like to enter 2020 with the new skills and mindset to have your best year yet—or if you’re okay getting through at the level you’re at right now. Either way is ok, it’s just what choice is right for you.
I look forward to sharing more with you soon!