Mental Health

To-do vs Can-do or Obligations vs Opportunities

I sat down early this morning to start work on a to-do list. It’s time to snap out of holiday mode (I’ve been back for weeks) and continue progressing some of my goals for this year.

As I started writing

– greyhound media campaign
– kindness crew and other volunteering
– rally fundraising
– podcast
– reading list
– army painting
– listening list
– videos
– apply for citizenship
– apply for Masters
– writing projects

I felt an all too familiar panic starting to rise from the pit of my stomach. Thoughts immediately began to manifest physically. Physical pain, shaking, sweating.

Anxious me is terrified of obligation. He would rather stare at a wall than make a start on something. I’m going to get trapped in apathy. Again.

I caught the panic in time to realise I needed to reframe.

Why was I feeling sick? I really want to do all of these things. They all progress my goals, most of them are actually pleasurable activities or for worthy causes.

The root of my anxiety around doing things is partly due to my thought process.

I’ve spoken to you many times about my ‘thought storms’. When an idea enterers my head it rapidly spawns off shoots and related concepts. Within seconds a massive complicated mind map starts to appear. This works very well for me professionally. I can use it to solve technical or creative problems quite quickly. The thought storm rapidly shows me all the options and when I lock down the most likely one I can shift to a more linear and systematic approach to working through the problem.

However when I am thinking in an area without clear boundaries the thought storm can expand outwards so rapidly I never get to the point of locking down a path to concentrate on.

If I multitask something like a to-do list all these thought storms manifest concurrently and I end up staring at walls feeling sick.

For reasons I won’t touch upon now when I realise I have to spend time on something for a while I immediately get fidgety – inside and out. It’s a feeling that makes me feel so uncomfortable I will do almost anything to avoid it. Even if that means staring at a wall.

Combine the gift/curse of the though storm with this deep seated fear of being locked down into any one path for any significant amount of time and we have trouble. Paralysis is not a surprising result.

Usually my approach to this problem is to try and focus in on taking one step at a time. This can work to get tasks done but doesn’t really do much to treat the overall feeling of dread that having things to do can create.

This morning I had a lightbulb morning. My to-do list is actually a can-do list! I don’t have a list of terrible shackling obligations I have a list of wonderful amazing opportunities! 

As I took a moment to really consider the items on the list – instead of just assembling them together I began to feel better.

The greyhound media campaign is a cause really close to my heart. I am getting involved again with Gone Are the Dogs and working with them on a campaign that will show representations of men who are kind to animals. Now whilst I am nervous about being in some of the imagery I am passionate about reframing views on masculinity, kindness and caring. This is a can-do that absolutely aligns with my core values. This is not an obligation – this is an opportunity to live authentically and true to myself, to really stand up and be counted.

I owe the Wake Up Project a lot. Their kindness cards are what helped me get started with active kindness practice. I always keep a set on me and try to remember to engage in random acts of kindness whenever I can. This has helped me doing kind as well as being kind (I word good). Jono’s podcast series has been inspiring and I love the mission of this organisation to share a message of kindness and courage. I have the opportunity to give a little back this weekend where I will be volunteering at an event they are running. What an amazing opportunity and a wonderful thing I can-do!

Entering the Mystery Box Rally is probably the biggest leap I have taken forward this year. We have already hit our $3k fundraising target and now we have the opportunity to raise even more. We have our costs covered so have no obligations. The more we get now the more goes into cancer research. I have an amazing partner in this journey and I know we are going to give it our all. We have the opportunity to make a massive difference in our lives, to be the people we want to be and all whilst raising money for a cause very close to our hearts.

I won’t bore you with the details of each list item – but I have found something to be grateful for and excited about in each and every item.

I don’t feel trapped or paralysed any more. I feel energised and excited and am overflowing with a powerful lust for life.

How we tell our stories and how we frame them is so important to our wellness.

The difference for me between ‘I have so much I can do’ and ‘I have so much to do’ is staggering. I’ve gone from physically manifest sickness to energetic joy just through managing my perspective.

What is particularly exciting to me is how many of these list items involve connections with you my friends and with friends I am yet to meet.

I feel like my actions are starting to truely align with my beliefs and core values and this brings me an amazing sense of peace and self-worth. I can feel a confidence growing in me that I never expected to find. I can feel those seeds of self-kindness that I sowed so timidly staring to find firm roots.

Exciting times my friends, exciting times.

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