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5 Things to do When Life Gets Messy

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Things have felt a little messy recently. I found out that my book was stuck on a port in a far off place, and that after months of planning the timing of every last detail to correspond with the launch date, I would have to delay my launch by three weeks. Starting to travel for my next book project has been both exhilarating and exhausting. I didn’t sleep or eat well, and one night there was a man who screamed outside my hotel room for three straight hours. I came home to an empty refrigerator and a basket full of unopened mail and a to-do list a mile long. My phone is doing weird things. I’m anxious about climate change. Somewhere in there I started eating reckless amounts of sugar…

Under normal circumstances, life can be messy and overwhelming and painful – and with Covid… yikes. I don’t presume to have all of the answers, but I’m going to share the top five things that I do when I feel completely overloaded.

life gets messy

Cry it Out

I’m not kidding. Holding it all together all of the time is exhausting. Try surrendering to the overwhelm/anxiety/pity party. If you need privacy to let go, schedule a time when you can be alone, and allow yourself the catharsis of a good old fashioned cry. Don’t hold back. The uglier the better. Let. It. Out.

Get Some Rest

There’s really nothing like a good night’s sleep to help get you back on track. Do things that help you wind down at the end of the day. Take a hot epsom salt bath. Put your tech away. Get in bed early. Pro Tip: My husband tells me that the only thing that rivals a good night’s sleep is a solid nap. I say pro tip because he is a semi-professional napper. Anywhere, anytime. Lucky duck.

Talk It Out

A good venting session with a dear friend, family member, coach or therapist can help you get things out of your head and give you some perspective. Sometimes it just helps to commiserate with someone you love and trust even if they can’t solve anything for you. A session with a good empathic listener can go a long, long way.

Move Your Body

Exercise can be the best medicine and an instant mood booster. If you tend to get stuck spiraling or overanalyzing like I do, get those walking shoes ready and head right out the door. Even fifteen minutes of fresh air and movement can help completely reset when the going gets tough.

Take (tiny) Action

When everything feels like too much, it helps to get laser focused on what’s right in front of you. It will feel empowering to make a list and find items that you can cross off by taking small actions. Knock out an important email or phone call. Tidy up. Do the dishes.

Above all else, try to be kind to yourself and not work yourself into a full lather. Do your very best not to eat marshmallows straight out of the bag (I told you, it’s been MESSY). Accept that life feels hard, then take a deep breath and focus your attention on the things in your life that are going well. And always remember that the only constant in life is change, so whatever storm you’re weathering is sure to blow over soon enough.

Anyone else going through it recently? I’d love to know the simple strategies that have been helping you.

Photography Credit: Vivian Johnson 

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9 comments on “5 Things to do When Life Gets Messy

  1. Love it!! Just moved to Seattle and I thought Saturday night I was going to lose it. I cried for an hour, went to bed and resumed attacking one room at a time the next day. Great advice!!!

    1. Welcome to Seattle! I hope the blue sky today helps you to feel at peace here. It really is a wonderful city and time of year to arrive. Best wishes as you settle in!

  2. I agree with all of the above. Movement and exercise seem to have the biggest impact on my mood and general well-being but it’s often the first I cut from my list when the day gets busy. Not wise! My friends and I started a daily movement challenge to prevent this from happening—nothing holds you more accountable than peer pressure:) The other item I would add to your list would be to make ‘fun’ a priority. I decided to start golfing again, and it has given me so much joy!

  3. It makes me feel so much better knowing that I’m not the only one who begins a sugar rush when things get stressful! Thank you for this post and I hope things calm down for you soon.

  4. When things seem like they are out of control — which is right now, as it happens — I have this one-room-of-the-house-at-a-time approach that often seems to be a good strategy. I just tackle whatever messes are in the room of choice. I usually go back to front, starting with the kitchen. Probably not entirely wise, since my office always needs the most attention and it is at the front of my house, but I do work my way to the front eventually.

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