10 Aug Manage Worries with Monotonous Tasks
“Worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.”
Mary Schmich (1997)
I was recently told worrying is like how a rabbit eats grass. A rabbit munches on one patch (a worry) until it finishes chewing it over and over, then moves onto another patch (another worry) and so on. Unlike the rabbit eating grass though, chewing over a worry is not nourishing us. Some people may even literally work through their worries by eating, but unfortunately not on rabbit food – more likely to be sweet things, junk food or high fatty foods; an example of unhelpful coping strategy.
So, what does work? Well, it has been found that worrying and negative thoughts are not so domineering when conducting a monotonous task, tasks that are methodical and have a repetition to them. For example, tasks around the home like washing up, ironing, or hoovering.
Or maybe something more creative like sewing, knitting or painting. Some more active options could be gardening or running/walking. Exercise has the additional benefit of releasing the happy hormones (endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline and endocannabinoid – these are all brain chemicals associated with feeling happy, feeling confident, feeling capable, feeling less anxiety and stress and even less physical pain) and of course, by taking up exercise you’ll be increasing your physical fitness and health.
In putting your energy into completing a monotonous task means that those worries you may have had during the day are not going to be given the attention they crave to cause further harm to your mental health.
This does not mean that the cause of the worry will go away, but what it will do is park it so energy is not going to be wasted on it, not until your brain is in a place that it can take on that thought and manage it better, hence, investing your time in completing the monotonous task so it can be reaped later – it’s all part of your self-care.
I have put this into practice. When I have a worry or concern, it saps the energy out of me. The last thing I want to do is run or cook, clean etc. But when I push myself into remembering how it is going to feel on the other side of doing that type of activity, it has helped me. I come out the other side of completing the monotonous task feeling a whole lot better as a result and sometimes even have an solution to my worry.
So, I encourage you to put down the chocolate bar, step away from the wine rack and stub out that cigarette and instead take up your trainers, spades, dish cloth or paint brush and channel that worrying energy into a monotonous task instead.