Calming the chaos: I'm overwhelmed!

It's not my first rodeo folks...

Perhaps you're a stay-at-home mom, juggling picky eaters, sibling fights, and daily chores. Or you're on the career path- navigating early meetings, and paperwork with your dwindling home life. We all feel overwhelmed from time to time. There are some days when I have seriously considered volunteering for a cloning experiment. It just doesn't feel like there is enough time in the day for all the demands I'm faced with. I'd rather not admit it, but this has been my baseline functioning for years. It's not my first rodeo folks. Perhaps this track to crazy-town began the day I brought my daughter home from the hospital. I put her tiny baby-burrito-body on my bed and thought, "These people actually expect me to keep her safe and alive forever? I didn't even take a test!" Or the first day of grad school when I looked at my syllabi and realized that no human being was created to complete the tasks that had been assigned, while sustaining mental health. Luckily for me, I was able to adapt. 

 Some of the sweetest people I've met, lived in homes like this.

Some of the sweetest people I've met, lived in homes like this.

Hang with a guy who has a pet mouse in his oven...

I didn't adapt overnight. Boy-howdy. That was a fumbling mess of tears, tantrums, and accidents (I'm talking about me, not my child.) What I learned from this process was priceless. Probably the most overwhelmed I ever found myself, was after I started my career in hospice as a fresh new grad. Literally every single thing I did was out of my comfort zone. Social workers are versatile creatures. Sure, we want to talk about your feelings, and point out all of your strengths. But when we aren't able to do that, we try to fix anything we can. You want me to feed a non-verbal 97-year-old demented patient? Sure. You need me to drive into a town with the population of five, and hang out in a trailer with a guy who has a pet mouse that lives in his oven? You bet. For at least six months, I was living in a shell-shocked crisis that was masked with faux confidence. You can only function on adrenaline and fear for so long.

As you can see, my daughter has survived 11 years without any major fumbles. To boot, my career has advanced clinically, and I'm rarely shocked by things people say or do anymore. I've survived! Woo-hoo! That being said, I still flirt with chaos on a regular basis. I decided to take my experience and put it to use. Here are the top 6 ways to de-escalate when the world is swallowing you whole:

6 ways to de-escalate when the world is swallowing you whole...

1) Breathe. I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but when we are highly elevated, our bodies tense, (as if for impact) and most people will also hold their breath. A reminder to breathe is amazing. If you choose to do this through yoga, or meditation. Just do it. Take the time. 

2) Prioritize. You have 7,522 things on your to-do list. Only a few are absolutely necessary for survival. Ask yourself, will anyone die if I don't make the cupcakes from scratch? Absolutely not. Do I have to sign up for a book club because my neighbor asked me to? Heck no. Reduce your "to do" list by order of importance. A lot of this has to do with our own internal perceived pressure. Your kids don't care if you got rotisserie chicken from the deli for dinner, but they do want to see your face at the piano recital. Prioritize. Before you know it, you'll be breathing again. I swear.

3) Stop caring about what other people think. I have wasted so much of my headspace on this. I'd like to say I'm totally immune at this point, but I still experience a sting from time to time. When you are driven by others' judgements, things are just BAD. You lose your authenticity, your drive, dare I say- your soul. People start bending over backwards with nagging insecurity. Let it go, friends. Haters don't deserve rental space in your gut. Let them live with their sour faces (they age faster), and gossip. One word. Karma.

4) Chill with the comparisons. Your friend may have the spare change to take her kids to Disneyland twice a year, and you don't. It's cool. Don't overdo, or over-stress about it. Your kids aren't going to grow up deprived if they don't join soccer, orchestra, and swim team. Kids care about quality time. You could be having a dance party in the kitchen to P!nk (like I did this week), and they will remember it forever. You took the time to dance. Don't take on a 3rd job to keep up with your facebook buddies. Be present with your family. You are blessed with what you have. 

5) Ask for help. I hate this more than the average person. I tend to operate from theory that I can probably accomplish everything I need to- more efficiently on my own. I have bad news. That's not actually true. I'm one person. However, I have a fantastic support system, IF I utilize it. They can't help me a bit if I don't speak up. 

6) Schedule down time. People make time to eat, go to the bathroom, floss (semi-regularly), but don't see the same value in relaxing. When I suggest this to patients, they will hit me back with, "But it seems like a waste of time! I could be getting so many things done while I'm sitting here meditating. It doesn't even help!" Not with that attitude, Buster. You don't have to do one specific thing. I'm just saying, make time to have coffee with a friend, schedule yoga into your evening, even schedule slacker Netflix time. Few things are better than sinking into the couch after a long week of chaos and mindlessly soaking up a Gilmore Girls marathon (I resemble this remark.)

Life will keep life-ing on you...

As I tell my patients, life is going to keep life-ing on you. Some folks continue to be surprised when things go wrong, their plate is overflowing, and the water heater explodes. These things will happen. Focus on what you have control over. You have control over the boundaries you make, your reaction to the event, and the way you care for yourself. Snuggle up my friends, take a deep breath and prioritize.