In these stay-home times, reading is a welcome distraction. But clearly you read differently. Covid19 is never far away. I just finished “How to Think More Effectively. A guide to greater productivity, insight and creativity” from The School of Life (no credited author, always anonymous). I want to share the following section with you.

Write down what you are anxious about; find at least eight things. Each entry should be only a single word (or just a few words) at this point.

Don’t worry if some of the anxieties look either trivial or dauntingly large. The mind tends to be an almost comedic blend of the two. If you’re having trouble, search for things that may be anxiety introducing under the following categories :

  • work
  • relationships
  • children / parents
  • health
  • money
  • things I have to do

Feel the curious release that can come from just making a list of these items. Huge relief can come from what we call ‘unpacking’ an anxiety. There are two kinds of unpacking we might do around any given anxiety.

There is practical unpacking : talk yourself through the practical challenge. Ask the following questions

  • what steps do you need to take ?
  • what do others need to do ?
  • what needs to happen when ?

It is useful to have a calm and sympathetic part of yourself listening in on the detailed description of what needs to be done to address an issue. It’s no longer merely an anxiety; its a set of steps. they might not all be easy, but at least you are clearer about what they are.

There is emotional unpacking : talk yourself through an emotional challenge or set of doubts.

Describe the feeling in more detail. What do you feel it points to ? Imagine trying to piece it together for a considerate friend.

The aim here isn’t to solve all anxieties; it’s to get to know them and to experience relief that comes from clarity.

“How to Think More Effectively”, The School of Life, London 2020