Skip to content
Home » News » Is Your Anxiety Spiraling Out of Control?

Is Your Anxiety Spiraling Out of Control?

Without knowing your particular situation, I think I can help you put a cap on your anxiety, and then make it go down. Most of us without realizing it chase a particular outcome. This causes anxiety because an outcome is a moving target. For example, are you trying to “meet the needs of your child, spouse, parent, etc.”? Instead, decide what you will do to care for the people in your life. There isn’t enough attention, time, money, etc. to meet even your own needs, because once you achieve a positive outcome, your expectations change to keep you in a loop of trying, trying, trying to hit that target.

The antidote to chasing a moving target is rationing. Wish I could think of a better word than rationing, which has negative connotations, but I hope I can get the concept across to you nonetheless. If you’ve ever watched Project Runway, you have seen rationing in action. The contestants are given certain materials, a certain amount of time, and a task, and then told to “make it work”. That’s it. That’s all there is. And the amazing thing is how creative the contestants are! They can take candy wrappers and turn them into a dress! The idea is that you can achieve your goal using what you have.  You can do the same thing in your own life.

For example, instead of trying to “clean your house” (“clean” is definitely a moving target!), decide you will spend 10 minutes vacuuming, or that you will put a load of laundry in in the morning and fold it up and put it away at night. You have rationed your time and energy to address the situation (housecleaning), and you have gotten something done. Is it perfect? NO!  But it almost never is. You don’t have to keep scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing until it is “clean”, or until it is “good enough.”

In order to have success with rationing, you need to determine ahead of time what you are going to do, how much you are going to do, and when you will be finished. “I will spend 15 minutes cleaning my house every day. During that time, I will run a duster over the tops of things; I will run the dust mop over the floor: I will swish the toilet brush in the toilet; I will run through the house and put stuff away. When the 15 minutes is up, I’m done for the day.”  That is very different from “I will clean my house every day.”, or even “I will keep my house clean.” “Clean” is an outcome, and a moving target; “15 minutes” is rationing.

Here’s a different example: “I will make sure my kids have a happy childhood” is going to cause you anxiety. “I will tell my kids I love them every day; I will drive them to one after school activity; I will spend one night a week playing games with them” is rationing. Rationing will calm you down. Will there be times when you fail to stick to your game plan? Yes. But you can just start again the next day. Or if your game plan is too ambitious for your current resources, you can change it to something you can do.

Rationing respects boundaries. You can apply this concept to almost anything – your wardrobe, food plan, money, relationships, housework, etc.

Before you decide that rationing is too limiting, no fun, etc., please try it.  Please conduct your own experiment with it. The limits of rationing are what cause creativity to happen, and dare I say it? It’s actually fun.