How List-Making Helped Heal My Anxiety

list making

Perfectionism, obsessive overthinking and fear-based decision making have ruled my life since I was young girl. With a mother who suffered from mental illness, I believed since age 8 that I was to be an example to and a source of safety for my little sisters. If that sort of high standard for oneself doesn’t spur anxiety, I don’t know what does.

And that’s how list making came into my life. It seems trivial, but it was the one thing I felt justified taking time to do for myself while I devoted the rest of my time to trying to live as an example to my sisters. So, I started writing lists. And unbeknownst to me, these simple exercises were actually organizing the chaos in my mind. Bullet point by bullet point, I could see a clearer version of myself—my inner thoughts, my greatest interests, desires, passions and fears.

My simple new hobby was actually creating space for myself to see myself, to create a visual representation of the me that exists outside of my family and the stresses that had clouded my vision and buried me in anxiety for so long.

And let’s be honest: Writing a list is so much easier than journaling in full sentences. 

Today, writing lists is still the fastest and most efficient way for me to practice a little self-care, not just to keep track of my tasks (which, obviously is incredibly helpful), but also to tally the me I feel and see within. 

So how do you create a list? 

For me, I love a simple but insightful prompt. Some examples: 

  • What are difficult things in the past that have changed you for the better?
  • Which characters in books have you read do you most relate to?
  • How have my friends made me feel grateful this year?

As the prompt inspires you, try not to edit yourself as you write your list. Let the prompt take you where it takes you. You may wind up with a list of 159 items or just three. Either way, you've done great. And what you've put on the page can help you discover all of those thoughts that were hiding in the tiny corners of your brain. 

My lists have taught me so much about myself, my thoughts and my self worth. So grab a pen, some scratch paper and start finding yourself. 

MOOREA SEAL is a Seattle-based author, fashion and lifestyle retailer, designer, and avid list maker whose books have been praised on among others. Her passions lie in helping readers and writers discover their own resiliency through list making, positive contemplation, and self-expression. She is the author of The 52 Lists Project, 52 Lists for Happiness, 52 Lists for Togetherness and 52 Lists for Calm.

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