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De-stressing Over To Do Lists

Disregulated eaters often become victims of their to-do lists. Feeling stressed by what you believe you have to do, you’re more likely to turn to food to reduce you’re the pressure you’re experiencing. Here’s how to get yourself out from under.

What helped one client I work with who drove herself crazy with whatever tasks she had left undone was to first and foremost realize that she had created the list herself. Sure, she had a job that required her to work and complete tasks, but she’s the one who felt driven about accomplishing them quickly and perfectly. No one was pressuring her. Too many of you whip yourselves into a frenzy in order to wipe your to-do list clean—only to create a new one the moment you’ve checked off the last item. When you do this, as the saying goes, you feel like a hamster who can’t stop running on his wheel.

The problem is that somewhere along the way having things to do became associated with “shoulds” and anxiety, which turned tasks into compulsions. You write a to-do list which for a nanosecond gives you the illusion that you’re in control of life, but when that instant passes, you’re immediately overwhelmed and flying frantic. The key to reducing your panic is un-pairing completing tasks with anxiety. Who says they go together? Where did you learn this? Can’t a to-do list simply stand on its own without feeling pressured by it? You could, you know, feel neutral or nothing at all about it.

Better yet, you could attach a positive, rather than a negative, connotation to your to-do list. Instead of thinking that you have too much to do, are falling behind, will never get things done, and the world is about to end, give your list a new spin. Tell yourself that you have a lot to do, period. Make it a good thing that your list is full because that means you can tolerate having a great many items on it and still feel relaxed, that your list indicates you live a full life and are overflowing with ways to make it better. Consider the items as a wish list which shows that you think big and are competent and capable.

My point is to pair the list with anything but pressure to whittle it down. It’s your list and you can view it any way you want. Anxiety to get it done is only one view of it. You could be totally neutral and simply tick off items as they get done. Or you could consider it an indicator of a life that is meaningful and varied. Almost any way you think of it is better than associating it with pressure and that you’re not living up to your responsibilities. Remember, the less anxiety you feel, the less inclination you will have to abuse food. Change the meaning of the list and your feelings about it will change too.

What Is Your Food Deprivation Really About?
Memory, Appetite and Mindful Eating

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