Self-Care is a new series of articles in which I share my experiences and findings related to day-to-day stress, setbacks and other roadblocks.
This is especially geared towards introverts and high-sensitivity (Empath) folks, but since we are all a unique mix of different things, anyone can find comfort and direction in them. These are relevant, both as long-term lifestyle changes or specifically dealing with the current times (as of writing, year 2020 and Covid-19).
What is the Impossible Task?
The Impossible Task doesn’t refer to bigger things. It refers to a small task which can be done in 15-30 minutes, and yet fills you with dread and anxiety, so you keep off dealing with that task. It could be something mundane like cleaning out the refrigerator, folding clothes after laundry (a big one for me), setting up a hair appointment or calling up a friend you haven’t spoken to for a while.
The more the task is kept off, the more difficult and impossible it becomes. This often spills over to other dependent tasks in your to-do checklist, thus spiraling into a massive black-hole of zero productivity.
Is it just Laziness?
Could it just be plain old laziness? I often wonder this. But, the answer is No. Laziness generally is characterized by a casual and relaxed attitude. When you’re lazy, you are simply confident that a task can be done later, or, is unimportant. An Impossible Task is the exact opposite of that. You know it’s important and you have low confidence in finishing it.
Furthermore, what adds to the pointless-ness of an Impossible Task is that asking for help can be mistaken for laziness by other people. Sharing frustrations with people can lead to judgements, precisely because, the task is simple. This often adds to the looming feeling of being alone in your frustration, and the assumption that all other people around you are highly productive in all of their simple tasks.
Sometimes, I have an intuitive resistance to a task. This happens when one’s past experiences have informed them that similar tasks generally lead to failure or are pointless. For example, calling up my internet provider on their customer service feels dreadful because of my past unsuccessful experiences.
In this case, analyzing why this time my approach is different, or why it is necessary to do this task despite past experiences of failure, is useful. Once the nagging internal voice is reasoned with, the task becomes easier.
Sometimes, a certain task, in our minds, is connected with bad experiences and confrontations with people.
For example, learning to drive was hard for me, because it reminded me of childhood instances when my parents and neighbors chided me for putting a scratch mark on their vehicles. This created a deep association of cars with confrontation in my mind, and learning instructions from an irritated older driving instructor was near-impossible as it opened up old subconscious wounds.
But with the help from friends and loved ones, and a lot of youtube videos, I am a competent driver now just as anybody else.
Sometimes, the ability to complete a task is associated with self-worth, based on our own or other people’s perceptions of who we are. For example, if you are a math-whiz and do complex calculations in your field, doing your taxes and getting it wrong might lead to ‘feeling stupid’. If you are a programmer, and unable to install a new operating system, it might lead to feelings of self-worth being hurt. In my case, I think of myself as kind and stoic, hence, being assertive and demanding things for myself feels fundamentally wrong to me, because of my inner judgement of being ‘kind’ and ‘stoic’.
A good solution to this is the Zen method – just let go of yourself – or rather the story you made up in your mind about yourself. I focus on the task alone and repeat that who I am relation to this task doesn’t matter – what matters is the task itself. We are learners throughout our entire life. Every single moment is a new moment. We are children of all ages learning new things – and sometimes re-learning old things.
For introversion – interacting with people uses up our battery, while solitary tasks like reading a book recharges us. For high-sensitive people, engaging with high-sensory stimulus (like bright lights, noise etc.) and high-emotion stimulus (such as asserting yourself before avoidant customer service or an unreasonable friend) drains out the battery.
Sometimes, the task you are dreading is a task needing a lot of charge and you just don’t have it. I have learned over time to go easy on myself, take a break and make time to recharge.
If none of the above describes why a task is impossible for you, it may be an indication of larger issues. Larger issues may include –
- High Stress / Anxiety – In which case get professional help. And if not possible, seek online mental wellness resources from qualified professionals.
- Sleep Disorders – Either not getting enough sleep, or having apnea or breathing issues while sleeping, thus not resting enough.
- Unsupportive Environment – You don’t feel connected and supported by the people around you, and this means it’s time to seek new friends, a new job or a change of place.
- Lacking Goals – Having major setbacks in life, or going through quarter-life or midlife-crisis. In this case, if you no longer believe your long-term goals are achievable, and then, short-term tasks may seem irritating and pointless. Re-assessing your life and reaching out for help is the best step forward.
- Other Health Concerns – Such as body-aches, tiredness, diet, exercise etc. being ignored. Get medical checkups done.
Have you faced an impossible task recently? What has helped you in overcoming it?