THE BLOG
01/22/2016 02:55 pm ET Updated Jan 22, 2017

Overwhelmed and Over 50


Before I learned to say, "Mama, Dada" I was coached to say, "Plan of Action."

Okay, a little harsh.

My mother was the most organized human being I have ever known. And lucky for me she was also the most loving. Her words of wisdom were rooted in practicality as is, what's your goal? Now let's work backwards to get there.

When I was young the conversation would go something like this:

"Mom, I have a Social Studies project and I don't know how to do it."
"Yes, you do. Go get your pencil, a piece of paper and a ruler."

I'd create a chart and label the boxes on top Sunday through Monday. What I needed to make it happen would run down the left side. Then my mother encouraged me to think small; what little task could I do everyday to pull the project together and fill in those squares. Presto. I had a plan.

I teased my mom about her gung-ho "let's get it done!" persona over the years but in retrospect, and now as a therapist, Muriel's Plan of Action was brilliant in its simplicity. Here was a doable, easy to understand way to accomplish the overwhelming. An actual path to lessen anxiety, a way to calm down.

Take your exercise routine. WHAT exercise routine, you ask? Ok, time to channel Muriel. Have you put fitness or some other nagging but important goal on the back burner because it seems overwhelming?

If the answer is yes, you're not alone. Let me share with you something I've noticed about baby boomers who leave stuff on the back burner: In their excitement and zeal to "change" their lives, they want to change EVERYTHING! So, they pile on MANY projects at the same time.

Trying to simultaneously accomplish a lot of "good" often results in failure.

For example, you decide you're going to exercise every day for half an hour. That's good.
But at the same time you're determined to do a massive overhaul of every closet in every room of your house. Oh, and you're also frantically finding new recipes because you've decided to completely change your diet.

You know it and I know it--there's more than a good chance life will get in the way and an even better chance you won't follow through. And that's a prescription for a damaged ego--feeling bad you weren't able to live up to your well-meaning expectations.

One thing at a time. When you concentrate on one project--like you want to exercise more and better--the chances for success are greater. Then add the "plan of action" --what small task can you do, realistically, everyday that will make this a reality.

So, go ahead, get out that ruler, pencil and paper and make the chart. I gotta confess, it's fun. And Muriel would be smiling!