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Life out of control? (5-minute technique)

Life out of control? (5-minute technique)
There’s something I’ve been doing a lot when life feels out of control.
I’ve mainly done this at work, but you can use this technique in other areas of your life as well.
It’s a simple technique, and all it requires is 5 minutes, a blank sheet of paper (printer paper is perfect), and a pen!

When to Use This 5-Minute Technique
Now, no techniques will be useful unless you know when to use them.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a mental health technique or a cooking technique.
If you can’t pinpoint when a technique is relevant, you’re not going to get much out of it.
Use this clarity-increasing technique whenever you feel like you’re in way over your head–when you just can’t make sense of what’s going on around you.
For instance, I use this technique when:
  • There are multiple systems competing for my attention
  • My head is starting to hurt from thinking about so many moving pieces
  • Multiple people are having a hard time agreeing on something
  • My anxiety is increasing from lack of clarity and focus
5 Minutes From Blank Page to Clarity
Ooo, look at those blank pages. They're so blank.
Ooo, look at those blank pages. They're so blank.
Ready for the magic to happen?
Let’s start from the top with step 1.
Think about what’s bothering you.
Is it a family-dynamics problem? Is it a workplace issue? Does it have to do with too much information–or maybe the lack of it?
Step 1 is to properly title what you’re trying to figure out.
Write an appropriate title at the top of your blank page. (Orient your page however you want, landscape or portrait, hamburger or hot dog. Play around with this, it may change how you think about an issue!)
Done that? Good.
Next up, step 2, is to write out all the main categories you’re dealing with.
If it’s a workplace issue with your colleagues, maybe you should write out all their names. If it has to do with multiple departments not communicating, maybe you should write out the department names instead.
You don’t have to be perfect–you just need to get something down on paper.
Step 3 is where you start to make sense of things.
Now, under each category, write down anything you know about the problem that relates to each individual category.
If Johhny Jon has been dropping the ball a lot lately and keeps lying about how he’s doing with his work tasks, write that down under his name.
If your Zoom calls go horribly wrong at a certain point, write that down under whatever category you have related to your video calls.
The point is not to write a novel under each category. The point is to use your brain to identify the most relevant information and get it situated under the most relevant category.
Step 4, the final step, is where you start to make meaning.
Once you’ve written down everything of relevance that you can think of under each category, take a step back and look at your no-longer-blank piece of paper.
This step is really important.
Stepping back to reflect is not a waste of time. It’s where all the magic happens. It gives your brain a chance to spot connections you couldn’t see before when you were trying to figure it all out in your head.
And this is the part where I can no longer guide you, but I’ll give you some final words of wisdom.
The more you do this 5-minute technique, the better you’ll get at it.
What I mean is that you will start to notice better ways to identify your categories.
You’ll start to see when you should orient your blank page in different ways. And you’ll begin to add on additional steps after step 4.
Getting your anxious thoughts on paper can seem like a waste of time, especially when everything else seems so urgent, but it’s powerful stuff. There’s lots of research to back it up.
But this newsletter isn’t about boring research.
It’s about simple strategies that actually work to help you feel better.
And for that, the 5-minute blank page technique is pure gold.
Please try this, and let me know how it goes. FYI, I’ll be going into more detail about this technique for Mental Health Update members in a members-only email going out tomorrow morning.

Thank you for reading. I hope this helps you. Have a great Wednesday. Talk soon.

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Jordan Brown - Mental Health Newsletter Writer, Poet, Social Worker, and Advocate

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