Clients present with anxiety for a lot of different reasons. For some, it is basic genetics; they are predisposed to be anxious. Others engage in patterns of negative self-talk and are prone to “catastrophizing” or over-generalizing. And some have been exposed to difficult life experiences that have reshaped an otherwise previously adaptive self and world view.
Anxiety is also caused, worsened, and maintained by stress. And unfortunately, there is no shortage of stress in the daily lives of your patients. Interspersed between the consistent, low-grade, wear you down over time type stress, your clients also experience days of fast-paced, unrelenting, and “sharp pain” aggravations. One of the more common (and curable) aggravations is shouldering too many responsibilities.
Taking on too many family, work, school, or other life tasks is a common source of stress for many people. When this occurs, people become overwhelmed. They start to feel helpless or hopeless. Their aggravation levels increase, which leads to reduced work efficiency, relationship strife and a general sense of feeling that life is too much to handle. That is why delegating tasks to others is a great way to reduce anxiety.
It is true that your client may worry about whether or not the person he or she assigns the task or tasks to gets the job done. But, the stress associated with juggling numerous responsibilities throughout the day is less. As a result, they are less stressed, more efficient and effectiv, and avoid the nagging thought of “how am I going to get everything done today?”
Below are a few delegation tips you can share with your clients to get them on the road to successful delegation. If they follow each step in order, they are virtually guaranteed to gain better control of their anxiety and stress levels.
Tips on How to Better Delegate
- Learn to let go.
Help your client understand that he or she needs to let go of the notion that they are the only one who can do things correctly. This is not about narcissistic tendencies or over-inflated self-esteem. It is normal to want to manage things and not rely on others because we know we can usually trust ourselves. But, help them see that the world is filled with lots of competent people that can be trusted. Reassure them that they can trust those around them; people
- Choose the right person and task.
Before your client starts handing out responsibilities, help them figure out what they think they need to do versus what others can do for them. For example, if a wife asking her husband to pick up their newborn from daycare will prompt a day long worry fest, then she should probably just go ahead and do it herself. Instead, maybe she can ask him to pick up the dry cleaning. This will relieve her burden and not cause too big of a problem if he forgets. The goal is to let go of time intensive tasks that will have minimal consequences if they are not done while maintaining control of those responsibilities deemed to be highest priority.
- Be clear and specific.
It is an undeniable fact that people do better when they know exactly what is expected of them. Therefore, when your client assigns a task to someone, make sure they are clear with the person on what they need done. For example, instead of saying “can you help around the house tonight?” say “can you give Kaitlyn her bath, help Marie with her homework, make sure they have lunches packed for tomorrow and take the dog for a walk?” Avoid ambiguity as much as possible. Remember, most people don’t have the power to read minds. Keep it clear, simple and to the point.
There is no surefire better way to support someone in not completing a task than assigning a task and forgetting about it. An important part of delegating responsibility is to follow-up and make sure the task is completed. People are more likely to come through when they know someone is going to check on the final product. Think about your work with your clients. If you assign homework outside of sessions, and don’t ask about it, do they do it? No, probably not. The message you are sending is that what you have asked the person to do is not important enough for you to follow-up on it. But, that does not mean you should badger or hound the person. A friendly “were you able to do what I asked” will suffice.
*This article is based in part on a chapter in Dr. Moore’s book titled, “Taking Control of Anxiety: Small Steps for Getting the Best of Worry, Stress, and Fear.”