I just heard my first reference to Christmas – someone saying it’s only a few months away, so they are starting planning for it now. As well as a feeling of surprise that so much of this year has already passed, I also noticed a feeling of ‘under pressure’. I’m not someone who does a lot of anything for Christmas, so it’s not something I need to be thinking about or worrying about just now, but that mention of the time limit, the deadline, was enough to spark a little feeling of panic in my body.
For me, someone who finds feelings of safety in rules and following the rules, a deadline can be something exhilarating: I like to know the parameters, I can write them in my diary and think about what needs to be done. A deadline means there’s an end, so I’d better get started! But there’s also a panic: what if I forget to do anything, what if I’m going about the task the wrong way? What if I complete the task by the deadline, but I do it wrong, and I fail? What if I miss the deadline entirely? A lot of ‘what ifs’ pop up for me when I’m faced with a deadline. I might even find they can swim around in my thoughts for a while – for longer than I would like – leaving my body with that feeling of panic and worry.
I do know what to do when faced with a deadline and these feelings that go along with it. For me, planning helps, writing things down on paper feels reassuring. Breaking tasks down into steps and small chunks works for me. When I am really struggling with getting things done, I set myself short timers and work on the task for a minimum of, let’s say, five minutes. I might carry on after then, or I might not. I keep the end goal in the front of my mind – and at the top of my written plans. These are the practical things that work for me.
Doing the practical things helps the feelings as well – my body is soothed as it recognises I am taking care of things. But I might also need to devote some additional time to other soothing activities to support my physical feelings. For me, this is more yoga (Yoga with Adriene of course!) and more listening to talks and meditations from Tara Brach. More sitting in the garden listening to insects and birds. More walks in the countryside, feeling the air on my skin. Doing these things builds up my feelings of safety, calmness and joy. It means I can more easily be kind to myself when I don’t tick anything off my list of plans. I can more easily reassure myself when the worrying thoughts reappear.
I wonder what you are like when it comes to deadlines? Do you know what your feelings are around them? And do you know what helps soothe you if you’re worried or thinking about them too much?
Doing a bit of self exploration around deadlines and the feelings can be really helpful – you might find out what deadlines mean to you, and why. You might experiment with different ways of getting things done, and in doing so, realise what actually works for you. You can do this exploration alone, with a trusted friend, or through journaling. You could also do it with a counsellor – someone who is going to listen carefully as you explain what it’s like for you.
If you do decide to seek a counsellor to help you with deadlines, and anything else you’ve got going on, have a look at my previous posts with advice about how to go about finding a good match for you.