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What to Do When List-Making and Over-Planning Take Over Your Life

Last Christmas my client, Laura, shared how she bakes bountiful amounts of holiday cookies for co-workers, friends, and family. She meticulously plans her grocery store shopping list by combining the list of ingredients she needs for each recipe together, and then making one huge shopping trip. The list might take her two or three hours to get together over two or three days.

Inevitably during the shopping trip, Laura forgets an ingredient that she had failed to add to her list. Usually it is not one of the big items such as flour or sugar. It’s the unique item like candied ginger or mint extract that fails reach the basket. The pain on her face as she told me her mistake making and forgetfulness was heartbreaking.

Laura prides herself on her excellent organizational skills and when things don’t go as expected, she said that she sometimes cries or even throws a bowl across the kitchen. She said that feels like the whole experience of cooking is a waste of time, if she can’t make the recipe right.



avoidance

How to Stop Isolating and Connect with Others

“Thank God for Walgreens,” my friend Jessa said over wine one night. “I spent the whole day in my house yesterday writing and hadn’t spoken to a soul or seen anyone. I was just going mad.” Jessa is a freelance writer friend of mine who has tremendous medical issues that often keep her stuck in her house.

“I never thought I would be so happy to have to go buy tampons and say hello to the clerk ringing me up,” she finished with a giggle. As I chuckled at her comments, it made me reflect on how much we really need other people. Excuses for Isolation

In my private practice I hear all kinds of reasons why people are isolated:
• I don’t have any friends;
• I like being by myself;
• I don’t know where to meet people;
• I’m afraid of being rejected;
• I’ll start yoga after I lose some weight;
• I have to study;
• I hate driving in traffic; or
• I’m not smart enough to start a class like that.

Whatever they say, let’s face the fact that these are excuses to keep ourselves stuck and avoid socializing. They even become habits. We get pretty good at convincing ourselves that these are legitimate reasons to become a hermit. Guess what, you’re not fooling anyone!

Of all the clients in my practice, the ones that are the most depressed are those that have the fewest social interactions. What may have started out originally as a setback like losing a job, having a major illness, or going through a divorce, evolves into a life style.

Let’s take isolation at its most extreme form: solitary confinement. A forced punishment designed to break someone’s spirit enough so they keep in line and follow rules in prison. Being alone like that is so bad that it can make even the most hardened criminals straighten out for a while. The sad thing is that people are putting themselves in states of solitary confinement every day. Maybe by their own choice or thoughts of what they can or cannot do based on rigid thinking, being overly cautious, or lack of openness to try out something new.

Breaking the Isolation Cycle



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Making Friends with Making Mistakes

I drowned my phone in a pool and dropped my computer at work, both in the same month.

During the phone incident, I felt embarrassed as I watched a friend fish it out from the bottom of her pool. The computer debacle happened at work. I set my bag down on my desk and it toppled over, shattering my MacBook screen. That time I was angry. Angry at my bag, the desk, and any other inanimate object that could receive my blame.

I also blamed myself for being so stupid as to put the bag down in a way that it could fall over. Expensive little “mistakes” to make, but that’s what they were, mistakes.

While I realize that these types of errors happen to people every day, they don’t happen to me! I am very conscientious and take care of my belongings. I remember thinking that these types of mistakes are beneath me.

How arrogant!!!!

Yet there’s some truth to it.

Being Overly Cautious

I tend to be overly cautious about my belongings and take care of them like they are national treasures. Being hyper-vigilant affords me many headache-free days, but when I do break something or loose things, I go into a full shame spiral and beat myself up. I even went so far as to punish myself for dropping my smartphone by not buying a new one for a month and using an old version.



Chronic Anxiety

Judge a Little, Then Let It Go

There is a five-year-old named Kara in my life who makes incredibly astute observations about how the world judges people. She recently watched a G-rated reality family program on YouTube and decided to make her own version about building a Minecraft world. An entrepreneur at five, yes, she will clearly be building a tech empire in the future.

Her mother filmed Kara’s first attempt at a video posting. About halfway through filming, she looked back at the camera with a disgusted look and screamed, “DELETE!” When her mother inquired why, Kara said very matter-of-factly, “People will give that video a thumbs down, I messed up my words!”

Kara stumbled on one of the most important realizations in life, that we are afraid to be judged negatively. Everyone is afraid of this, no one is immune. There is always someone from whom we seek approval or from whom we would hate a negative review. Maybe it’s a mentor, teacher, boss, friend, relative, or spouse who we particularly want to see us in a good light, or maybe we fear judgement on a much grander scale.

Fearing Judgements
In my office, I work with artists, comedians, and performers who comment about the difficult reviews they have received from critics and even fans of their work. One of them commented, “I can’t believe anyone would say something so mean! I doubt they would ever say what they wrote in their online review to my face.” She’s probably right. Being a bully on the internet is a lot easier than going up to someone after a show and tearing that person down verbally.

She further reflected, “I think about how miserable someone has to be to say such hurtful things. I imagine this sad 45-year-old guy down in his parents’ basement typing out his nasty comments while his mom brings him his afternoon snack. It’s the only way I can make it through sometimes, thinking, ‘Well, at least I’m not him. Not that miserable.’”



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Being Kind to Perfection

Usually I am a superb driver, but with my sister and my nieces in the car, my level of distraction and excitement is through the roof.  We headed to dinner Sunday night at our favorite burger place and were discussing a store that just closed on the opposite side of the street. I began to turn into the restaurant parking lot and was not paying full attention to my driving. I hit the median and busted up the bottom door paneling of my Volvo.