Anxiety How-To: Email

I was inspired to write this post when I realized I do not give good email. And when I say realize, I mean I was told. By several people. With love, though. I think.

How come do you not be good email? Amazing question!

First off, I don’t always reply. I know, I know, one of the basics of email. But let me explain. And by explain, I mean justify my rudeness.

Here’s what I do when I get an email:

1) I read the name and preview line to see if I can even deal with reading the full thing right now.

If it says “Cameron, we’ve heard some disturbing news regarding your…” I probably won’t click on it. It seems like something that might require a thoughtful response. And I need time, my keyboard at home (too much typing for phone), and a good mental state to reply to important-looking emails.

However, if it says something like “Hey Cameron, we’ve heard some incredible things regarding your…” I probably still won’t click on it. Sounds too formal.

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2) If I do click on the email, and something needs a response (Warning: most emails need a response, that’s why people send them), I think about how best to respond.

I want to be clear here that I don’t actually reply, I just start thinking of what I should reply. While I’m thinking, I generally check facebook, where I do step 1 again, in facebook form.

Tip: It’s especially important not to commit to a message when you’re on facebook, where they can see if you’ve read it or not. If you’re not ready to deal with it, avoid it.

I should point out right now, this is not advice, but a play-by-play of how, when it comes to emails (and texts, phone calls, dealing with things, etc.) I still have some of my old anxiety-related hang ups.

3) I’m in the middle of dinner or a show or something, and it suddenly hits me that I never actually replied to that email. I pull out my phone and think, “I should reply now” but it takes too long to type on the phone so I think, “I’ll message when I get home.”

4) I remember when I’m out again. Fuuuck!Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 12.07.02 PM

5) I remember when I’m home. I sit and feel bad for a bit, then go to the computer. I start the email with an apology for not getting back to them sooner, then wonder if they even noticed how long I took. Is that a weird way to start an email if they don’t think it’s been a long time? I erase the apology, read the original email, and think about how to craft the perfect reply.

Warning: I’ve been known to loop back to step 2 on this one.

6) Depending on the professionalism needed, I open a Word document and write the email there. No chance of accidental send. Also, Word highlights my grammar and spelling errors. “No chance of accidental send” is apparently not good grammar. Screw it. Cut and paste.

(Imma point out here that Word has no issue with “How come do you not be good email?” Just sayin.)

7) I retype the apology and read it over, checking to make sure it’s to the right person, from the right email account of mine.

8) Hit send. And instantly feel regret and panic. Then the endorphins of doing a good job kick in, and I feel like a big boy today.

This has been a “How To” on emails. I hope you learned a lot. If you have any other…

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Obviously you can see from the scroll bar that this isn’t over. Now that you know how I email, I hope that a) you forgive me for not getting back to you, and b) you know that I’m trying to learn not to be an idiot when it comes to emails. (I can say that because I have long established that I love me. Even though I’m an idiot. In fact, because I’m an idiot.)

Anyway, here’s how I would like to email:

1) Read the whole email.

Don’t just read the preview line and judge whether or not to reply. The preview is enough to plant the thought of the email in your head. And that’s enough to keep the brain thinking about it until you actually read it.

Also, anxious people have a tendency to “what if” more exciting end-of-previews:

“Hi Cameron, just wanted to message you to let you know that…” can seem harmless, but if you’re in an anxious headspace, it ends “…your business is failing and everyone hates you and the doctor needs you to call her back about removing a leg. Love Mom.”

So you might as well read it.

2) Hit reply right away.

Don’t walk away or get distracted by the youtubes. Reply right here, right now. You don’t have to have all the answers, you just need to reply. You could simply say:

“Great question (person’s name), let me think about it and get back to you.”
Or:
“Hi (person’s name), let me check my schedule and get back to you.”
Or:
“Hey (person’s name), this new drug does sound interesting, let me measure my current penis length and get back to you.”

The point is to send something. It lets them know they were heard. I’ve noticed people would rather have a terrible response than no response at all.

Ideally you get to the point where you actually reply on the first go. But that’s some pretty advanced email shit, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re not there yet.

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(Confession time: I’ve started “flagging” emails that I know I’m supposed to deal with, because it buys me time without totally forgetting about them.)
(Warning time: I have about 20 “flagged” emails over the past couple weeks and they’re starting to pile up and get daunting, so I wouldn’t recommend the flag cheat.)

3) Hit send.

Seems obvious, but it’s the scary part, so we sometimes avoid it. Remember send is better than no send (get T-shirt made?).

All of this is just to help get things off your plate. Your brain plate. Every email that comes in, gets served on your brain plate. Then you look down at all the different kinds of food and you feel overwhelmed. But when you reply, you take something off your plate. You eat that thing. The more things you eat, the fewer on your plate. Which is good. What the fuck is this analogy?!

Analogy attempt two: When you open an app or program on your phone/computer, that program keeps running in the background until you consciously turn it off. Better.

For every email, part of your brain is aware that there’s something that “needs to be done.” The fewer of these things you can have going at once, the calmer you’ll be. Replying to the email is closure. Replying to an email in your mind and not sending it, just keeps the brain thinking about it and how you SHOULD reply and that is something to add to the list of all the things you should be doing right now and it becomes overwhelming.

It’s like eating all the food on your brain plate.

Deal with stuff as stuff comes up. That’s it. (T-shirt?)

Happy emailing!

 

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2 Comments on “Anxiety How-To: Email

  1. This is me exactly. I’m staring down the barrel of 11 unread eMails. I want to get to inbox zero by the end of the day. It’s very satisfying.

    • Oh man, my gmail currently sits at (1,288) unread. The concept of getting to zero seems so foreign to me. But possible, I guess. Maybe. I’ll see if I can get it down to a cool thou, and share some of that satisfaction.

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