Feeling Frazzled? 7 Simple Steps to Take Right Now
I have a secret.
One I haven’t ever shared with anyone. Not even those closest to me.
I spent a good part of the last decade on the absolute verge of a nervous breakdown.
I don’t say that tongue-in-cheek or (for those who know me) with my typical snark and humor, but from a place of brutal honesty.
In 2012, we moved my mother-in-law into our home when she was diagnosed with vascular dementia. I’ll spare you the glut of my gory details from that experience, but the gist of it is that I spent six years as her 24/7 primary caregiver while also homeschooling my daughter and running my business from home.
I had way too many things on my plate and I never took time for myself, never made time for friends, never made time to nurture my marriage, and I let my health slide.
It was around a year ago that I hit a wall and I knew that wall was my breaking point if I didn’t make a change.
This runaway train was going to end with me collapsing into a blithering, incoherent heap of nonstop tears and an inability to adult any longer if I didn’t get a grip on my life.
In a world where so many of us have a million responsibilities pulling us in a million directions, reaching a point of being completely frazzled can seemingly sneak up and overwhelm us.
“Sneak” is, of course, a misnomer. None of this actually sneaks up on us. It’s just that we tend to put ourselves on the back burner and continue to trudge onward through the struggles and overwhelm of everyday life.
Often, we do this because we’ve convinced ourselves we don’t have time to take a break, or we feel guilty for even thinking about putting ourselves first.
Over the course of the last year, I’ve learned how to take time for myself and not feel guilty about it.
I’ve found simple steps to help take control back over my emotional well-being, and over time, they’ve helped me regain my emotional composure, which has helped me be a better mom and a better wife to my husband.
These steps truly are nothing complicated, nothing time-consuming, and nothing that requires weekend getaways or spa visits.
Most of them can fit easily into just a few minutes of your day. Over time, you may even find that you crave these things once you begin to implement them and you see… no – FEEL…. results.
So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, frazzled, stressed out, and like you can’t even take a breath for yourself most days, read on.
1) Bust out the Tunes
It was the summer of 1995.
I had finished working my way through business school the year before and now found myself in the midst of my angsty early 20’s with no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I was bored, fed up with the relationship I was in, and I just felt restless.
Alanis Morissette had just released her Jagged Little Pill album and it was my absolute anthem album for months. Nowadays when I hear those old songs (on classic rock stations – where have the years gone?!), it gives me a little twinge of mixed emotions.
I don’t miss that awful relationship or the struggles I was going through at the time, but the music from that period in my life can also awaken memories of people and places and experiences that I look back on with bittersweet fondness.
A time in my life that I didn’t realize would one day be “the good ol’ days” for me.
Music can transport us to a completely different place and time. It can energize us, make us weep tears of joy or tears of sadness, make us long for times gone by and people we haven’t seen in decades. It can soothe us, serenade us to sleep, or help us stay awake if need be.
When was the last time you listened to music just because it makes you feel good?
I have built an extensive collection of music over the years. I still have old albums, CD’s, and a massive digital library on my iPhone.
I put my earbuds in (or connect to my Bluetooth speaker in the kitchen) and just listen when I need a mood boost or when I really need to relax because I desperately want to throat punch some deserving dipstick. Ooops…. did I just type that out loud?
2) Spend Some Time With Mama Nature
If you’ve ever stood in a grove of trees or next to a river or waterfall and felt overcome with a deep sense of peace and calm, you’ve experienced the benefits of negative ions.
What are negative ions? They are odorless molecules that are found to be plentiful in certain types of environments.
For example, mountains, waterfalls, and beaches are all areas loaded with negative ions and when we spend time in these areas, we inhale an abundance of them.
Once the negative ions reach our bloodstream, they are believed to produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of serotonin, which can help to ease stress.
This is why nature can have such a deep impact on us if we take the time to experience it. If you’re curious about the impact of negative ions, you can Google the term and find loads of information.
I realize that getting out into nature may be easier said than done for some. I am fortunate to live on a ranch in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, so getting out into nature is a luxury I can enjoy as often as I’d like.
Of course, in the depths of a sub-zero Wyoming winter, nature doesn’t always feel like a “luxury”… I kid! I kid!
For those who live in urban areas, spending time in nature may not seem so easy, but getting out into nature can be as simple as a patch of grass and a tree found in a median at your apartment complex parking lot. I’m not joking!
Trees and grass and a little conscious attention to clearing your mind and just soaking in the energy of the outdoors for even 5 or 10 minutes can do you a world of good.
That said, don’t be surprised if hugging trees in the median and walking barefoot in the grass gets you some sideways glances from your neighbors. But hey, just tell yourself that they don’t know what they’re missing out on.
If you live in an urban area and have your own outdoor lawn space, take the time to create a little sanctuary in a corner of your yard for yourself that you can spend time in everyday – even if it’s just a few minutes.
A comfy chair and small table, or even just a blanket and outdoor cushions on the ground will work. Containers of flowers or potted veggies will add a little something extra to the overall feel.
Spend time walking barefoot in your grass. This is known as “earthing” or “grounding” and it can have a deeply calming effect.
If you don’t have your own outdoor space, do you have a park near your home? A nature trail or bike path nearby? If so, take the time out of your day to visit.
While you’re there, find a large tree you can sit down near and lean against, then close your eyes and take a few deep breaths as you concentrate on clearing your mind. Listen to the sounds around you – a breeze through the leaves, the sounds of birds or other wildlife in the trees.
Each time you exhale, imagine that you’re releasing any stress and anxiety that you’ve been holding on to and that it just dissipates into the air around you.
Each time you inhale, imagine yourself breathing in calm, peaceful energy.
You’ll likely soon find yourself craving time outdoors.
3) Make Time to Do Things You Love
This is one of those things that sooooo may of us are really bad about.
We tell ourselves we don’t have time to do the things we love because we have so many things on our plates that have to get done no matter what, so it feels like there’s no room for anything that’s not a “necessity”.
I’m here to tell you that it’s absolutely necessary to your overall mental and emotional well being to make the time for things you love to do.
For me, it’s watercolor painting. Even if I can only spend 15 minutes to sit down and do a quick sketch, it is so cathartic and relaxing. Why? Because it forces me to stop thinking about everything else bouncing around in my head and to just focus on the details of what I’m painting.
Need some inspiration? If you’d like to start painting or drawing or learning really just about anything you can think of, SkillShare is an AMAZING community! They have both free and premium memberships. It’s where I got my start when I first began dabbling in watercolor, and I can safely say it is has changed my life in a very positive way. ♥ Check them out!
Total disclaimer here in case you’re wondering: No, I did not paint those perfect blueberries up there. In my dreams, yes. In reality, my scribbles are just that – scribbles. But they make me happy.
Whatever it is that you love to do, make time for it.
Maybe it’s not something you can just carve out 15 minutes a day for, maybe it’s a hobby that requires a larger time commitment so everyday is out of the question.
If that’s the case – write it on your calendar, jot it down in your planner, whatever you use to track your time and your to-do list. Schedule it in and then stick to your plan.
Whether it’s a weekly thing or monthly, make it happen . You’ll thank me later.
4) Just Say No
This is one that I know almost all of us can sympathize with.
We often find ourselves spread too thin because we don’t practice the art of saying “No.”
Look, here’s the thing. Saying yes when you really want to say no doesn’t do anyone any favors, least of all you. It oftentimes creates resentment on your part, which can damage friendships as well as work relationships over time.
You have absolutely zero reason to feel bad when you say no to someone, but sometimes it can feel awkward if you’re not prepared and are put on the spot by someone asking you to do something that you really just don’t want to say yes to.
I used to struggle with this myself, until I came up with some fool-proof little mental scripts I can draw on when necessary. That sounds cheesy, yes, I admit, but they’re a lifesaver for me sometimes.
For example, if you’re invited to an event you really don’t want to attend, graciously bow out with something like “Thank you so much for thinking of me, but my schedule is already packed for that weekend.”
It doesn’t matter if your plans for the weekend are to hang out in your jammies and binge on Netflix, your schedule is packed. No one needs to know exactly what your schedule is or what your plans are. Stop feeling the need to explain yourself to people.
Asked to organize an event you really don’t have the time nor desire to handle? “I’m so flattered you’d trust me with this project, but my schedule is already so full that I just couldn’t devote the amount of time it would take.”
If it’s an event you’ve organized in the past but you’d like to bow out, try something like “I know you’re going to be disappointed, but I’ve decided to not volunteer this time around.” If pressed, fall back on your schedule that is already overflowing and don’t cave. Again, doesn’t matter if your schedule is overflowing with movie nights and pizza, your schedule is full. Don’t feel guilty about that and don’t feel the need to explain yourself.
Think about how you can use this concept in multiple scenarios, whether it be for someone asking to borrow money, asking for your time, volunteering or organizing something your heart just really isn’t in, etc.
Trust me – if you do this, then you won’t find yourself feeling like a deer caught in the headlights when someone puts you on the spot with a request you really just don’t want to say yes to.
5) Dear Diary...
When I was in middle school, junior high, and high school (back in the Dark Ages, in the time before giants from the Social Media Universe and the blogosphere ruled the land) I loved to journal. Some days, a diary entry might be just a single line. Other days, an absolute novel spilled out onto the pages.
Whether you choose to use an actual paper journal or to go the digital route by keeping a journal on your computer or phone (or, hey, by starting a blog!), personal introspection and just getting things out of your head and onto a piece of paper (or a screen, as the case may be) can be a great stress reliever.
Journaling can make you really focus in on what you’re doing, which helps you tune everything out other than the words appearing on the paper (or computer screen).
I personally prefer the paper journal method because then I’m not tempted to click away from my word processor screen and over to social media, completely sabotaging my efforts to de-frazzle.
Plus, there’s just something rather nostalgic for me about putting pen to paper in our digital age.
If you haven’t journaled in a while, or haven’t ever journaled at all, getting started can feel a bit awkward just because we don’t know where to start.
My best suggestion is to just start writing. Trust me, it doesn’t matter about what, but once you get going, the words will just start to come.
If you’re anything like me, sometimes just a good old-fashioned brain dump of ideas can make you feel as if the weight of the world has been lifted off your shoulders. I often feel like I have a million things that belong on my to-do list flying around in my brain and it can make me feel like things are spiraling out of control. Just getting those things out onto paper, or actually written down in my planner or on a calendar, helps to put my mind at ease from the fear of forgetting something important that needs to be done.
Another way to get started is by using writing prompts to give you a starting point. Here are some ideas to help you get going:
- The one thing I really wish others knew about me is…
- If I could have three wishes, they would be…
- If I could talk to my teenage self, the first thing I’d say is…
- My favorite way to spend a Saturday is…
- In five years time, I hope to be…
- The three things I can’t imagine living without are…
You get the idea.
Some people even like to keep a jar or box filled with journal prompts so that they can pull one out to use when they need inspiration.
You can create your own container of journaling prompts by taking a few minutes to brainstorm some ideas of topics for journaling sessions, or draw inspiration from things around you. TV, radio, music, billboards, conversations with other people, etc. Write each one down on its own small piece of paper, fold it in half, and drop it into your container. Anytime you have a random idea for a journaling topic, take a moment to jot it down and add to your container. Before you know it, you’ll have plenty of ideas to draw from.
You can also do what I do – if I have a great idea for a journal prompt, or a thought pops into my head that I want to explore in my journal and I’m out and about, I just open up the “Notes” app on my phone and quickly type the question in to save for later so I don’t forget about it.
6) Step Away From Social Media
The digital landscape has changed our lives. In some ways for the better, but in some ways… we’ve definitely suffered.
Seriously, I am as addicted to social media as anyone else so I know the struggle this can be.
But… I also know the immense sense of relief I feel when I take social media breaks.
The other amazing side effect? I miraculously find so much time that I thought I didn’t have! Funny how that works, right?
For most of us, if we took hard look at just how much time we spend on social media every single day, we would be shocked to find where all those missing hours go. Those hours are often spent mindlessly scrolling through our feeds looking for…. looking for what, exactly? I think mostly it’s fear of missing out on something.
Look, I totally get it. Completely disconnecting from social media feels like an impossible task (it definitely feels like one for me), so I’m not even going to ask you to do that.
What I am going to suggest, however, is that you take social media breaks. When you have a few minutes to kill somewhere, don’t hop onto social media to kill that time. Take that time to read a few pages in a book, to jot down a few lines in your journal or, GASP, just sit and stare out the window. Yes, you read that right. Just sit and do nothing.
Plan social media breaks that are longer in duration. A day. An entire weekend. A whole week. Spend that time doing something you love (refer to #3 above) instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media.
When you first begin this, you may feel like an addict desperate for that next fix…. like you have an itch you’re dying to scratch but it’s in a place that isn’t socially acceptable to scratch when you’re in public… or… well, you get the idea.
Giving up the instant gratification of social media can be hard. Ease into it.
How happy will you be when you realize you’re finally reading books you’ve been meaning to read for eons and actually finding time to catch up on laundry and organize your spice cabinet… or you know, to just catch up on naps?
7) Spend Time With *that* Friend
I’m not just talking any friend here.
If we’re honest, we all know that not all friendships are created equally and spending time with just anyone isn’t the same as spending time with that person who makes you feel happy and energized when you’re around them… not like you need to go home and hide in bed from the world for three days to recuperate.
Spend time with the friend who you know leaves you in a better mood at the end of your date than at the beginning.
If the person who elevates your mood is a quirky character who gets your snarky sense of humor and obsession with tarot cards and incense, spend time with that person. Invite them out for a beer… or tea.
If the person who elevates your mood and helps you to de-stress is the friend who loves classical music and fine art museums, call them up and make a coffee (or wine) date with them.
If the person who elevates your mood is your outdoorsy friend that loves to hike, make the time to enjoy some time outdoors with them. Refer to #2 above – you can hit two points on this list at once.
Be protective of your emotions and your mental well-being. Don’t squander precious time on people who don’t deserve you. People who bring you down, drain you emotionally, or who make you feel small and unimportant don’t deserve your time.
Act accordingly and don’t you dare feel guilty for it.
And that, my friend, is my simplified list of suggestions to help you de-frazzle your life. These are just a few of my own preferred acts of self-kindness. My hope is that this will give you some tools to help you de-stress, which in turn may encourage you to seek out other solutions that work for you in your own life. I’m sure you’ll have some that differ from mine. If you care to share, drop a comment below.
Til next time… happy de-stressing!