Set Small Goals to Stress Less
by Risa Williams, LMFT
Time is blurring together. That’s the main thing I’m hearing from people these days. Many can’t remember what day of the week it is, many are having trouble keeping track of what month it is, and it is challenging to mentally process how much time has already gone by and what the near future will look like. Time is starting to feel really surreal to most people, especially here in Los Angeles, where many of us have been stuck inside since March.
Before March, our brains were used to a daily story that happened: We got in our cars to commute and/or drop kids off at school and we eventually arrived at our work destination. Sometimes, on good days when we remembered to stop working, we took lunch breaks. After a few hours, we picked kids up from school and/or returned home, made dinner, and sometimes relaxed for a little while. On top of that, there were seasons to divvy up the time. In the summer, the kids’ schedules changed, and sometimes, we went on vacations or trips, and all of this helped us keep track of where we were in the year. Now, all of this has drastically changed. We are navigating our offices from inside our bedrooms (or hallways/dining rooms/living rooms), our kids are wearing headsets like mini-office workers, and everyone is shushing each other to avoid accidentally saying something embarrassing while on calls with supervisors/teachers. As a result, our brains no longer know what day/time/month/season it is, it just feels like one endless stretch of Zoom meetings.
So, how do we break up our days to help us navigate the time ahead? My solution has been setting mini-goals for myself each week. It’s something I’ve been working with my clients on, and it generally helps people feel like they are making progress, moving forward, and creating more of a personal journey during these stressful times. Our brains like to accomplish small goals and to feel rewarded for doing them. It can help reduce anxiety, it can give us something to look forward to, and it can help increase the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is associated with the reward center in our brains. Also, it can help ground you in what feels like a sea of indistinguishable time. Here are a few simple goal-setting techniques that might help you:
Therapist & Coach. Writer & Professor. Brain Trainer.