Ever have times when things feel generally, insanely overwhelming? Your eye starts to twitch, your meals mostly come out of a can or a box, and the coffee guy is commenting on how nice it is to see you so often. It feels nearly impossible to stop the waves of demands without a shear stroke of luck. While we can’t always control our circumstances, there are a few simple things that can make them more manageable. Read on to learn how.
1. Get Back to Basics
When things feel chaotic, you may get tempted to think about changing big things like switching your job, moving cities, or starting a healthier routine. While these might be great options moving forward, I recommend postponing these “higher level” thoughts when you’re in over your head. Instead, focus what little energy you have on the basics. Eat as well as you can, limit alcohol intake, get some short bouts of exercise, and go to bed early-ish so you have energy to tackle the next day. Make notes about the bigger changes you're mulling over and pick them up at a later time. It reduces pressure and helps you stay accountable to the bigger picture once the chaos has slowed.
2. Reduce Unnecessary Stressful Input
Most of us want to be an informed and connected member of society, but when you’re struggling with the stress of your own life, adding more input from news, dramatic shows (fictional included!), or even friends who want to vent can be a bit too much. It’s ok to take a break from these sources until you have the room necessary to process what’s coming in. Trust me, it will all be there when you return!
3. Create Go-To Ways To Set Expectations and Buy Yourself Time
When your task list get long, it’s really common to push off responses to everything from work items to weekend plans. Before you know it, so much time goes by you’re almost embarrassed to write back at all. To mange this, identify ways to reply quickly in a way that sets expectations. For example, “Hey, wanted to let you know I got your message, but will get back to you in the next few days when I have time to be thoughtful about it.” can buy you time and reduce pressure that paralyzes you later. Be sure to keep track of what you need to return to and you'll likely find it's easier to complete everything with a little less pressure and guilt.
If you’re feeling a bit over your head right now, remember, this time will pass. With a few adjustments, you’ll feel more in control, making the chaos a bit more manageable. If you liked this article, pass it along to your friends and leave me a comment below!
Ah Memorial Day. The start of the magical season. Weekends by the pool, tiny tank tops, rooftop rose with friends. MAGICAL. There are only a few little problems. All your friends always seem to be busy, your body has never worn anything described as “tiny”, and the only person you know with a pool is your Aunt Jody who relentlessly asks about your relationship status. So while the whole world seems to be on extended vacation, you’re thinking of creative ways not to sound lame on Monday morning at work. Sound familiar?
Summer can be great, but it can also shine a spotlight on lots of things that stir jealousy and feelings of underachievement. Great bodies, second homes, family barbecues romantic partners, and friendships are splattered all over Instagram, making it seem like you’re the only one still going to work and struggling for legitimate weekend plans. So, what can you do to get the most of this season and keep those feelings in check? Read on.
1. Create a Personal Mission for the Season
Here in the Northeast Summer spans about three months, which just happens to be the perfect amount of time to commit to a new goal. Getting into a fitness routine, learning a new skill, or exploring career options can all get well underway in that amount of time. This might not be as fun as sipping mojitos poolside in the Hamptons, however it WILL give you something to discuss when people ask what you're up to and as an added bonus, you’ll feel quite accomplished come September.
2. Plan at Least One Thing to Look Forward To
Large or small, this will help alleviate the feeling of having the exact same existence every darn day. Shoot for a couple things each month if possible. Try cooking classes, sailing lessons, a visit to see a friend in another state, or plan a solo trip for the Fall. Looking forward will remind you why you’re working so hard and also keep you in touch with the good stuff life has to offer. Life is pretty cool, but our own bubble can get crazy boring. Look for things to shift you a bit and get you out of your ordinary.
3. Remember No One’s Life Is Perfect
While making yourself feel better by poking holes in someone else’s Instagram happiness can feel like a low blow, it’s sometimes a necessary step to keep one foot in reality. Anything that looks perfect isn’t and most of us are on a more equal playing field than you think. Some get lucky in certain areas, while others in less visible ones. If you need to, take a social media break and recenter on YOU.
A little planning ahead and making sure your mind is in a good spot can go a long way toward having the next few months be really great. At minimum, get some sunshine, get some rest, and get some things done. You’ll feel so much better come Fall. And as always, if you enjoyed this article, please pass it along and leave me a comment below!
There you were, with your sleeve of Oreos reading your fitness magazine asking yourself, “What the heck is wrong with me that I can’t do what these skinny people are doing? It seems so simple and yet I can’t figure it out.” Your conclusion: I’m a weak human who can’t complete simple tasks. Yup, that must be it. So you take another Oreo out of the sleeve, perfectly separate it to get to the filling first, and then you feel a little badly you’re better at that than getting your butt to the gym. So you eat another (just so they won’t tempt you tomorrow).
Sound familiar? It’s a story I hear all the time and quite frankly I lived for most of my life. First and foremost, I want to state something one of my lovely clients says all the time.
The struggle is real!
I’m not just saying this to make you feel better. I say it because when we get comfortable with weight loss being is a complex problem (and not just about willpower), the likelihood you’ll have a better outcome grows tremendously. To help you build self compassion and use that as motivation, here’s a few reasons this is the HARDEST thing I treat.
You Can’t Stop Eating
Well, you could, but that wouldn’t go well. Most people are programmed to think in black and white terms and managing a healthy lifestyle is a balance game. Unlike many things we want to “fix”, it can’t just be cut out. We need to mange it. Constantly. This often requires training a black and white brain to think in gray. Very achievable, but it doesn’t want to.
We Overeat for Literally Every Reason
Sadness, happiness, celebration, anxiety. And the list goes on. I equate it to a game of whack-a-mole. The second you get one, another pops up. This requires a diverse set of coping strategies and more pre-planning than you’d like. The good news is it’s all able to be figured out. Is it easy? No. But it’s far from impossible.
Seeking Comfort is an Instinct
Your brain is there to protect you from danger and when it feels threatened it tries to re-regulate as soon as possible. Eating slows the body down and sometimes makes you zone out to the point you don’t feel discomfort at all (like during a binge). There’s lots of ways to take food out of this equation, but if you’re wired to use food for this purpose, you may need an upgrade.
Body Image is Everything
How we feel about ourselves and how we fit into the world guides almost every move we make. It dictates what we think we can achieve, whether we believe people will give us a chance, and the picture of how we see our future. Weight loss becomes a chicken or egg cycle because how we feel about ourselves also dictates if we think we can succeed at mastering a healthy lifestyle. And sometimes whether we are comfortable stepping foot in a gym or workout class. Luckily there’s ways to work with an unconfident belief system in the beginning that helps you get to the part where you feel ok enough to take bigger leaps.
And you just thought it was because you weren’t strong enough! The good news is all these things can be worked on and figured out. You’re not broken, you were likely just looking at the problem through the wrong lens. I’ll continue to offer tips on ways to work on all of these, but I’m always available if you need some help. Please pass this along to anyone who might be struggling with this and all those body shamers who try to tell you it’s “easy”.
Caretakers. You know who you are. You’re the one everyone calls when things start hitting the fan. You eat an entire meal with friends without a mention of what’s happening in your life (and you didn’t even notice). Your list of priorities for the week clocks YOU in around #15. Sound familiar?
In the current day of self care and the “do you” mentality there’s strong pressure to push off other people’s issues until we are well cared for. While the benefits of taking care of yourself are huge, it can be harder than it sounds. The thought of “doing you” while you sense someone else is in need is like stabbing your hand with a fork. So, how do you tend to yourself if this is your personality? Here’s a few tips to get you started:
1. Spot Early Signs You Need Something
It’s completely normal that self care might not enter your mind until it’s an emergency. By emergency I mean that Friday breakdown when your eye is twitching and you’re screaming for wine or worse, you’re constantly sick. To catch it sooner, notice subtle times you could use a little care. *Warning* They may be difficult to notice because you’re used to ignoring them. Some examples include being impatient with perfectly nice people, drinking more coffee to “get through the day”, or skipping workouts. Catalogue these things and tune in. The sooner you can jump in, the more you can avoid self destruction.
2. Define What “Self Care” Means to You
Caretakers often fall into the “making other people happy makes me happy” rut, which may be true, but leads to less information on what brings them joy as an individual. Start taking note of what looks appealing to you, activities other people seem to enjoy, and which moments in your day lift your mood. It’s perfectly normal if these things are uncomfortable at first. For example, if you try taking a bubble bath, you may get in and immediately ask yourself, “What am I supposed to DO in here?”. Don’t worry! Self care grows on you when you train yourself to disengage and make it your own. Start small and work your way up.
3. Make Helping a Choice
Many caretakers are naturally empathetic. You instinctually sense when someone needs something and run to their aid. It’s an amazing gift, but also leads to burnout or resentment. Slow the process down by noticing when your “empathy bell” is going off and make a deliberate decision whether or not to help. Part of the reason we help is it’s incredibly challenging to feel someone else’s discomfort without acting. If you improve your ability to do this and actively choose when to jump in, you’ll increase your sense of control and power. It will also help you find times to say “no” and create time for yourself.
It may seem like a basic and instinctual skill to care for yourself, but many have zero experience at this. You probably became a caretaker at an earlier time in your life because it was natural, useful, or necessary. Take this on like a new skill to be mastered and you’ll really start to see a difference.
If you liked this article, please share it with your caretaker friends (or those who don’t seem to get you!). I’d love to hear which parts rang true in the comments below.
There you were, walking through life, kind of bored, but minding your own business. Same sh*t, different day. Wake up, work, exercise, Netflix, bed. Repeat. You may even sprinkle in a series of dates looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right, but they all seemed awful. Then, out of nowhere, someone shows up and everything changes. It’s that magical connection you’ve heard about, but maybe never experienced. It’s not always a love a first sight moment. Sometimes it grows over time, but regardless, you know things aren’t going to be the same and as much as you’d like to, you can’t ignore it.
One theme I’ve noticed with many of these is the situation tends to be highly inconvenient. Maybe you’re married, or they’re married, or you work with them, or they live in another country. Long story short it makes no sense and perfect sense all at the same time. So, what do you do and what does this mean?
As much as I’d like to brush this off with the science of pheromones or go overly-psychology to say it must be you're attracted to someone who represents your father (sometimes this does happen actually, but not in every case) I’ve seen enough people experience this to hold a different view. It’s exceptionally special, and my advice is pay attention, but try not to jump to conclusions. Here’s a few things to consider.
There’s Likely a Lesson Here
In my 10 years as a therapist, I’ve seen these cosmic meetings bring a huge amount of growth and change. For better or worse, chemistry makes us think, consider, reconsider, and view the possibility of our lives from a new angle. Pay close attention and it will likely come clear.
Strong Feeling Doesn’t Always Necessitate Action
One mistake I’ve seen people make is they jump to the conclusion it’s “meant to be” and therefore feel they need to act on it. Not always the case! Although sometimes it does lead to unbelievable new outcomes, remember you have conscious choice as to whether this is right for you. Try not to let the chemistry alone dictate this.
Chemistry is Sometimes Created by Crafty People
A tiny word of caution. Some people are better than others at creating connection with people. It’s not always malicious, but it can certainly confuse things. Some are good at mimicking what your’e looking for and some are just plain charming. Be on the lookout for this just in case. There may still be a lesson in it, but when you're heart is on the line, the last thing you want to do is give it to someone who isn’t responsible.
Enjoy the Ride
If you’re lucky, you might get a few of these in your lifetime. It’s completely scary to feel as out of control as overwhelming chemistry can lead you to feel, but that’s living. Even the sadness of losing it feels more alive than watching Netflix on your couch for the 100th day in a row. Be careful with yourself and all involved, but enjoy the feeling of being alive and take it one step at a time.
Why is it so hard to be patient and what can we do about it?
So often we are frustrated with the timing of things- job changes, marriage, weight loss, you name it. We want things to happen quickly (I know I do). So what’s the reasoning behind this great impatience and what can we do about it?
Some reasons it’s hard to be patient:
We are really uncomfortable!
The most typical reason people want quick movement in their life is because something is making them uncomfortable. It could be financial trouble, loneliness, insecurity in their relationship, or career concerns. The hope is that if something changes, our feelings will change and we will be more comfortable as a result. And seriously, the faster the better.
New information helps us plan
If you’re like me you love to have a life plan. As much as I’ve found the old adage about “the best laid plans” is completely true, my brain still searches for ways to organize my next steps. Without knowing if we are getting that big promotion, getting married, or even what a medical diagnosis is, we can’t mentally create the picture of what’s beyond it.
What can we do about it?
Become more comfortable with the discomfort
Use the time to examine the root of the discomfort and see if the change you are waiting for will actually fix the problem. Does a new relationship always make you feel less lonely, make you more financially secure, and increase happiness? Ahhh, “No”.
Meditation really does help- even 5 or 10 minutes per day
There are lots of apps to help you with this (www.headspace.com is a great one), but any kind of stillness and breathing will do the trick. Especially when I’m feeling impatient, I throw a mantra in there about letting the universe give me what it’s got for me.
If you are waiting to make a plan, feel free to plan
Sometimes having a sense of control in our lives is exactly what we are looking for. As much as we try to be ok “in the gray”, do what you can to exert a little control. Try to lay out several options for plans beyond what you’re waiting for. Diagrams, lists, and buying new pens and notebooks reduce my anxiety every time.
Be aware of your coping strategies
Make a list of how you usually cope with uncomfortable life events and strategize how to manage in a healthy way. Remember, you’re going to want to reduce discomfort. Drinking, emotional closeness (sometimes the unhealthy kind), and eating fatty/ carby foods will temporarily change how we feel. I’d recommend substituting or limiting your usage of unhealthy behaviors in order to reduce lasting negative impact in your life.
Take care of your basics
Sometimes while we are waiting for things to happen is the absolute best time to take care of stuff. Clean your home, get to the gym, organize your taxes. Nothing you probably want to do, but if a big change is coming, you might as well be ready. It will also give you that sense of control you’ve been looking for.
Remember, the best advice from the Rolling Stones: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes well you just might find you get what you need.”
Follow these tips while you’re waiting and know you can handle anything that comes your way!
Dr. Lynn Saladino
I am a New Yorker, clinical psychologist, fitness and food lover, and a woman on a quest to bring a REAL spin to finding balance in hectic lives. As my clients know, there isn't much I won't say whether it be about sex, relationships, crappy bosses, or "strange" eating habits. The goal of this blog is to share what I'm learning from my unique position as a helper of hundreds to bring you a greater sense of understanding and calm.
Lynn Saladino, Psy.D.
Dr. Lynn Psychology, PLLC
Clinical Psychologist and Coach
All rights reserved © 2015 Dr. Lynn Saladino
Life Changes and Transitions
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