Feeling Frazzled? Try Resetting With the 1-2-3 Strategy
November 12, 2018
What might be even worse than being in the thick of a bad day?
Plotting how to escape that rut.
Sometimes it’s harder to see solutions when you’re in the middle of a rainstorm, even if you know that it’s going to end soon.
That's where the 1-2-3 strategy can help.
Cassie St. Onge, an executive producer for television shows, tweeted about the technique, and it struck a chord with self-care Twitter:
Doing my tried & true 1-2-3 survival strategy for tough days. 1. Do something you have to do. 2. Do something you want to do. 3. Do something for somebody else. Done #1 & have 2 & 3 picked out. If you want to, share how YOU’RE keeping YOUR shit together! Maybe it’ll help someone.— Caissie St.Onge (@Caissie) June 26, 2018
Seeing responses to St. Onge’s tweet about this technique is incredibly inspiring, with folks doing all sorts of good things for themselves and others through this 1-2-3 method.
Anything that’s simple to follow and will help me cope with a bad day sounds great to me—but I wanted to know a bit more about why it might work. Turns out, research backs up St. Onge's go-to move.
Here’s what I found.
1. Do Something You Have to Do
This is arguably the hardest part of the 1-2-3 strategy. When there's something we have to do, the pressure can go one of two ways: It can push us to get it done, or it can cause us to freeze up and avoid it.
Sports psychologist Martin Turner, who studies athletes under extreme pressures, dug into why we operate like this. In Forbes, he explained that we either enter a "challenge state" or a "threat state" when faced with something we have to do.
When we're in a "challenge state," our brain receives optimal amounts of blood from our increased heart rate, which means we’re able to think more clearly. In a "threat state," blood vessels constrict when heart rates increase, so our brain isn’t operating in its peak form.
If you’re having trouble doing the dang thing that needs to get done—maybe it’s the outline of a presentation you’re nervous for, or maybe it’s a conversation with a loved one that you aren’t sure how to handle—try mentally shifting from a threat state to a challenge state. See the task as an opportunity to conquer, not a roadblock.
2. Do Something You Want to Do
Who doesn’t want to add this one to their lists?!
In the face of a tough situation, it can be hard to allow yourself to enjoy something or prioritize you. The beauty of the 1-2-3 strategy is that it forces you to make time for your desires, not just the necessary things. It gives you space to find pleasure in something, which makes swallowing the first point—something you have to do—so much easier.
In Parks and Recreation, Donna and Tom said it best with the three words that deserve a spot in a culture museum of the future: Treat yo' self. That phrase has now made its way into everyone’s lexicon, but is treating yo' self actually good thing?
In short, it depends. Like most things, when we reach the point of overindulgence, it does more harm than good. But studies do show that immediate rewards (like doing something for ourselves!) can boost our overall motivation.
Maybe doing something for you is as simple as a nap, or as elaborate as a trip. Whatever it may be, take a moment to savor your success after finishing task #1. It’ll give your brain a break and your happiness a boost to make it through.
3. Do Something for Someone Else
That warm glow you feel when you do good for someone else? That’s real.
Spreading good vibes not only positively impacts others, but it also gives you some psychological boosts, too.
Research shows that you actually do increase happiness by being generous. Studies have also uncovered that even doing something for somebody else in the form of talking things out and helping them process their emotions can help you regulate your own.
Maybe it's offering a shoulder to a friend, taking a few hours to volunteer at a local event, or just finding moments for small acts of kindness. Regardless of how big or small your actions, find joy in doing something for someone else. See it as the ultimate ending celebration for your 1-2-3 strategy.
Now Go Forth and 1-2-3
The 1-2-3 strategy creates balance in a time when we can feel anything but balanced. Stepping into the mud of a task or conversation is a lot easier when you’re sandwiching it alongside things that can create a chain of joy in your life.
Next time you’re in a rut, push through with the 1-2-3 strategy. It's your tool to turn that "I'm so frazzled" mood into "I got this."
Read next: How to Ease Your Way Out of a Little Rut