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The Listing Life: Taming Anxiety


I love a good to-do list. This is mostly because I have developed wicked anxiety. Like “needs medication” level anxiety. The best way I can describe it is to say that my brain starts with one thought. That one thought becomes a little ball. My anxiety is the plunger on a pinball machine. It pulls WWAAAAYYY back, and lets that little thought-ball go. Then it bounces around endlessly, making all the bumpers ping and lights flash until it’s moving so fast you can barely keep track of it.

Is this ringing any bells? (haha, get it?)

Not to mention the fact that I’m getting old. That memory loss deal? It’s no joke, people. I’m surprised I can remember my kids’ names and when to feed them.

So I’m on meds. That’s a start. I don’t get the racing heart, feeling faint in the middle of watching Netflix- type physical response to the anxiety as often. But the pinball-like thought processes haven’t come to heel like I thought they would. What to do? What to do?

Brain dump onto paper. This is my solution. As an English teacher, I should have known that writing would be part of that solution. I guess my brain was too busy to think clearly. Now that I have discovered how much this helps, a to-do list has become an essential part of my everyday existence. I have a tiny notepad in my purse, a list for the family to write down groceries on the kitchen island (and they know if it’s not on the list, it isn’t getting purchased), and an ever-present list on my desk, whether at home or at work. I even had to create a customized list for my desk at work that separates stuff to do at home from stuff that needs doing at work. It’s really cute. You can see the Harry Potter font, and the little round things to the side of each line are Remembralls (think Neville Longbottom). Precious!

Why don’t you use the notes in your phone? one may ask. For some reason, the act of writing things by hand is part of my anxiety-erasing process. Typing just doesn’t cut it. Honestly, typing doesn’t cut it in a lot of areas in my life. I still keep a paper gradebook and calendar. I know, I’m a dinosaur. I’m fine with it.

Lately, things in my life have gotten exceedingly more complicated very quickly. My oldest daughter is about to start college, so she needs a lot of stuff. And she’s not mastered the to-do list concept yet, so we are constantly being surprised by her saying, “Oh my gosh! We need to do ____________________ by tomorrow!” It’s maddening.

This morning I actually broke down to my husband because I was so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of pinging and flashing my inner pinball machine has been doing in the last couple of days. We are buying her a new car to take to college, well new to her (hello Carmax!), and I had completely blanked on the fact that I would also have to add said car to our insurance.


So that thought came crashing in and triggered a chain reaction of bouncing from bumper to bumper.

But we’ve already had to pay for the AC to be fixed in the house, doctor’s visits, and vet bills.

And we still have my car’s AC to fix, things to buy for her dorm, paying for her housing and meal plan, finishing paying for her sister’s dance team bill, the truck’s AC is going out, and the dog needs to be groomed.

Jeez, people! Do you see my problem? (the ACs in our life are apparently out to get us)

After this meltdown this morning, I need to bust out the trusty to-do list and start taking care of business. I need to tame to the thoughts and unplug the pinball machine.

I would love to hear your go-to methods for taming your anxiety, so share them in the comments!



4 thoughts on “The Listing Life: Taming Anxiety”

  1. Call me a dinosaur as well! I handwrite just about everything. I feel that writing something on paper just further sears the task in my brain.

    And the big pay-off?! The satisfaction of crossing off the accomplished task!! It is a great feeling!

    1. Yes! Sometimes I even write something I’ve already done on the list just so I can cross it off. 🙂

  2. That is EXACTLY what my anxiety/ADD is like – pinging. Always pinging. For the last three nights, my brain has been singing one line of a song, over and over. Very, very little sleep. “if I could rewrite the stars….”

    At work, I typically have 8-10 projects I’m working on. Lately, I’ve been writing my top 5 priorities on a post-it, and setting a timer for 45 min. I work on project #1 for 45 min, then I get up and walk a lap around the building. Then I repeat with #2, #3, and so on. Oddly, it keeps me productive.

    Do I sound like a crazy person?

    1. Absolutely not! That sounds like a great way to focus as well as get your steps in! 🙂

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