Working With Your Anxiety Style


Can a person be too deadline-oriented?

Note: The term “deadline-oriented” refers to a style of working with our anxiety that is supported by the pressure of deadlines. The alternative style, task-oriented, is supported by the satisfaction of doing things ahead of time. These anxiety styles are discussed in the book What Motivates Getting Things Done by Mary Lamia.

This month’s Ask a DEI Professional question is about anxiety style. Our questioner writes:

Hello! 🙂 Is it possible to be too deadline-oriented?

Thanks for your question! We have replies from two of our Dynamic Emotional Integration® professionals.

Bobbi McIntyre answers:

Photo of Bobbi McIntyre, a smiling woman with brown eyes and brown hair.
Bobbi McIntyre

Hello,

Thank you for your great question. Being primarily a task-oriented person, I can tell you from my experiences that being too task-oriented is possible. I get so focused on completing the task that I tune out everything (including access to my other emotions) and everyone while I’m working on the task. My anger comes up when I’m interrupted in my work and I can get snippy and sometimes even rude. (My anger and I are working together to bring forth appropriate levels of shame to change that behavior!)

Achieving Your Goals

As you know, being deadline-oriented is a valid way to use your anxiety to accomplish tasks. The deadline-oriented person will be working with their anxiety in the background, depending on their ability to pull things together at the last minute. It’s a style that works for many people. If you are able to keep up with your deadlines and complete your tasks on time to your standards, then I would say you’re working effectively with your anxiety, and it isn’t a problem.

I think that it is possible to be too deadline-oriented just like I can be too task-oriented. If either style leads you to become rigid and unaware of your other emotions, resulting in boundary violations or less than thoughtful treatment of others, it is probably too much. As long as you can flow with your anger, shame, fear, sadness, and other emotions with a deadline-oriented anxiety style, I think it will be just the right amount.

Warmest regards,
~Bobbi McIntyre

Jen Asdorian answers:

Photo of Jennifer Asdorian, a smiling woman with green eyes and light brown hair.
Jennifer Asdorian

I associate the gifts of anxiety with deadlines. Anxiety helps us get our tasks done and meet our deadlines. It asks, “Have I done everything I need to do to complete this task?” or “Am I ready?”

If I have an important deadline approaching, I want my anxiety to be leading the way. I want to have its energy and focus to complete all the hard work I have ahead of the deadline.

When the project is complete, ideally, I would notice that anxiety would step back because its work is done. I may notice contentment arise to say, “Great job.” I may notice shame arise to offer help with a self-evaluation. I would also expect to experience some sadness, which would help me settle, relax, and recharge.

If I completed the deadline and right after I notice anxiety asking what needs to be done now without any type of rest or sense of accomplishment arising, I would assume that anxiety was stuck or obstructed for some reason.

Working With Anxiety

In DEI, we have a supportive practice called Conscious Questioning for Anxiety that involves engaging with the wisdom of our anxiety by asking a series of questions. If I’m noticing that anxiety is present and/or stuck at an intense level, I would want to investigate further by consciously asking it some specific questions. Some examples of the questions in this practice are:

  • Have I achieved or completed something similar in the past?
  • What are my strengths and resources?
  • Do I need more information?
  • Can I delegate any tasks?
  • Are there any upcoming deadlines?
  • Is there anything unfinished?

So yes, being “too deadline-oriented” could be a problem for me. I used to find that my anxiety interfered with my sleep. I’d wake up in the middle of the night compiling a list of things that needed to be done. Anxiety is an action-oriented emotion, a “let’s get this done!” type of emotion, and it did not understand that 3 am is not the time for me to take action. It was a signal to me that my anxiety was stuck in the “on” position. I had to learn to consciously work with it so that I could rest at night and meet my deadlines during waking hours.

I love getting my tasks done. Thanks, Anxiety! And after I check that last box on my “to-do” list, I also enjoy the relaxation of soft sadness or glow of contentment.

~Jen Asdorian

In this video, Karla explains the difference between the two anxiety styles:

We hope this is helpful!

Thanks so much for your question and for working to welcome and understand your emotions.

What’s your anxiety style? Have you ever felt too deadline-oriented?

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