I recently worked with a client who was in a negative and agitated state because a large amount of things she had left unfinished. She hadn't done her taxes for the past two years, she had overdue and unresolved traffic tickets, she had a stack of papers that needed to be paid, filed, or filled out and sent in, plus about ten more tasks. Each in and of itself wasn't that bad, but the collection was too much for her. She couldn't do any of it. She said it felt like her head was on fire.
One of the forms clutter takes is unfinished business. Everyone has a point where they get overwhelmed. Once that happens, we shut down and things start to pile up, which makes us shut down more. Then we look at the things we need to do, and see that we can't do them, and feel badly about that.
I asked my client what she wanted to do. I avoided using the words, "had to do." I treated it simply. Once she started to tell me, I repeated each one back to her matter of factly. I said it in a way you'd say, "Look at that cloud in the sky, it kind of looks like a turtle." This got her in a calmer state.
I picked a traffic ticket to start. I had her call the police department. She felt terror. I said, "Let's call and see what they have to say." She called. The person she spoke with was very friendly. She said there was a small fine. I encouraged her to pay it. She did. She had a feeling of relief. I congratulated her. She sat up in her chair. I had her call H & R Block to set up an appointment. We went down the line doing each task. With each thing completed, I could see that she was getting more confident and stronger.
When we were done I said to her, "You look like you've been gone for a week on vacation. The heaviness and strain you were feeling are gone. You took care of things and you got yourself back. Congratulations!"