“My goal for today is to find out what is causing the RANCID smell in my refrigerator!” -My friend, Heather, mother of 4
I have been planning to write a blog on small goals for quite some time. I must say my friend Heather, quoted above, inspired me on Monday when she said this with such passion! She was in the kitchen and I was in the living room playing with the kids. My ears perked up when I heard such passion and the sentence start with “My goal for today….” I knew it would be something profound. So I literally laughed out loud when she told me what her goal was.
When you are overwhelmed, going through life, and sometimes just surviving day to day, to achieve a goal that simple can mean so much to your mental health. Every time Heather opened the refrigerator she was reminded of something she needed to get done and something that made her feel negative. So today was the day to end the madness.
When we feel overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious, it is important to not make it worse by looking at the big picture. Looking at our situations as “forever” or “always” makes us want to give up. It is more helpful to break things into smaller pieces. What part of the picture can I do today to make the situation better, bearable, or make myself feel a little better?
I was reminded of the importance of this on my maternity leave. With 3 children at very different stages of development, having completely different needs, I often felt very overwhelmed and inadequate for the task at hand. I had to live in the moment and put out fires one by one. After awhile, I started feeling down on myself. I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything. In reality, I was accomplishing a lot. I was keeping 3 little ones fed, bathed, safe, and healthy every day. But I couldn’t see that at the time. So I pulled a tool out of my mental health tool box. It was a tool we used when I worked in the Stress Center. Every morning we would have a group and everyone would state their goal for the day. What is one thing you can do today to help yourself feel better? So I started doing this. Some days it would even be as simple as I wanted to wash my hair or call and make an appointment. Or one day it was that I want to take a shower without an interruption. It sounds silly but that would take planning on my part. It was amazing how accomplishing that one thing would make me feel like I was accomplishing something! One day I remember sharing with my best friend that my goal for the day was to get the kids outside on a walk. It took us literally an hour to get us all out the door only to have 2 of the 3 poop their pants before we got around the cul-de-sac! She asked why I even bothered going back out after cleaning them up. I told her I was determined because it was my goal for the day!! I felt better after accomplishing it.
So when you find yourself very overwhelmed or feeling too depressed to do anything, ask yourself, “What is ONE thing I can do today?” and try to accomplish it. Then the next day, try it again. Take things in smaller doses, look at the puzzle in smaller pieces, and take a small step.
By the way, Heather, what was that smell????
*Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Natalie enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, and couples counseling. We also specialize in family counseling, child, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield, and Zionsville.