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  • Writer's pictureSue Gascoyne

Mastering that 'To Do' list

As well as maintaining existing routines as much as you can, now is an opportunity to consider new options and possibilities, try out something novel or simply do something differently. I’m sure we all have a ‘to do list’ that never gets completed? I’m not talking the bungy jumping, swimming with dolphins-type bucket list, but something far more mundane but potentially more fulfilling and impactful. The kind of things that constantly bug us because we tend not to have or dedicate the time to sort them. Niggling jobs like clearing out a cupboard or room, sorting and disposing of out of date foodstuffs, clearing leaves, moss or grass from the guttering, fixing those leaks, touching up paint, spring cleaning cobwebs, bagging up unwanted clothes for the charity shop, or bigger projects. These may not be thrill seeking adrenalin rushing enterprises, but I guarantee that once done you’ll enjoy a new sense of calm and satisfaction and likely ask yourself why you haven’t done it before!

Bringing order to chaos is a vitally important process for helping give us humans a sense of autonomy, control and competence in life, key psychological needs (Deci and Ryan, 2000) which are becoming more, not less, important at times like this when so much else in our life can feel uncertain and beyond our control.

As well as the satisfaction and sense of mastery at achieving a hitherto avoided task, if we’re able to sort, tidy and fix mindfully, such as alone with our own thoughts or with some relaxing music playing, then we will also benefit from the freed up head space and holiday from thinking (known as attention restoration) that our body and brain crave. Repetitive tasks like sweeping-up leaves, cleaning (wall or floor tiles, mirrors or windows are perfect) or stripping ivy from a wall or fence, bring with them opportunities for mindfulness. Key to this art, and something which I am still practicing and have yet to personally master, is being able to stay in the now, letting inevitable thoughts and feelings flow without becoming hooked or side-tracked by these. The kind of response you might have if able to float above yourself in a dream-like state, detachedly watching yourself without judgment or recrimination.

I’m determined to turn this situation to a positive if I can, by tackling those unsavoury jobs and being grateful for the opportunity of being outdoors in the glorious Spring weather, whilst our country’s amazing emergency staff battle on our behalf.

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