Avoid a mental breakdown by adding margins to your life

doingbest

I’m keeping this image huge so that you don’t miss it. I shared this from another page on my Facebook yesterday. It not only hit a nerve for me, it hit the nerve of people who came across it. How many of you can relate to this? Are there commitments you’ve made that are now consuming your life? Are you really required to keep those commitments? Can you take something off your plate for an hour? For a day? For a week? Forever?

Last weekend I had a nervous breakdown, melting into a crazy, sniveling, pathetic creature right in front of my husband. I’ve spent months caring for his mother, something I’ve taken time off work to do. But in doing so, I’ve gone weeks without any kind of break except for collapsing into bed after putting her in bed. I’ve spent every waking moment with her. This is not exhausting work, except, it is.

Thing is, I was the one placing the shackles on me. I waited until I was going out of my mind before I finally pleaded with my husband that I needed a break. It got to the point of desperation before I said anything because I was determined to be strong and white knuckle my way through this. Also, I was the one choosing to remain in the same room with her instead of going up to my own room for some moments of solitude. I was choosing to be a martyr, giving until I couldn’t give anymore.

But that does no one any good.

This past week, I have made it a point to take at least an hour or more to myself. The difference has been amazing. Before, I felt resentful every time she needed something, and if I wasn’t careful, it showed in my attitude. But once I took regular breaks, my attitude changed. The resentment disappeared. I began wanting to spend better quality time with her instead of being in the same room and hating it.

On Thursday, my husband gave me a full day off. I slept in until 7 (I start my caregiving at 5), sat in a coffee shop for 4 hours, took a nap in the afternoon, and went to the gym in the evening. I did everything I wanted to do, which wasn’t anything exciting or glamorous, but amazing just the same. I took a day when I wasn’t needed for anything at all, and that was exactly what I needed. The next day, my MIL and I had coffee together, then we watched a movie together in the afternoon, and in between, I went grocery shopping without her and read.

If you’re life is filling up too fast and you’re feeling like you’re being pulled in all directions, it’s VITAL that you take a break. You need a margin, that empty space beside the busyness of your full-time life. It may mean you can only take one hour. If you think you can’t, you’re wrong. Ask for help. You need it. If you can manage a whole day, do it. If there’s something taking up your time without adding anything to your present or future, LET IT GO. Seriously. Remember that you’re only one person, and we’re all so much better when we let others step in and give us a hand, and when we rest so we can recharge. You are not a machine, you are human. So give yourself some grace and space.


Looking for ways to create space in your hectic schedule? Check out my book, Reclaim Your Creative Soul.

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Focusing on one thing at time

busy

This morning, I found myself in between the craziness of finals. I have no more homework left to do, I have enough time to study for my next final, and the essay I’m working on for English needs a day of rest. My morning was free and clear to spend on the other things I have been wanting to do. Naturally, I picked up my manuscript for Hope at the Crossroads, and resumed editing it. I haven’t been able to work on it for weeks, so this was a rare opportunity.

But guilt and distraction reared their ugly heads, and they started whispering in my ear. What about those short stories you promised to edit? You really should be taking the time out to study. You sit all day, why not go to the gym? I know, write a blog entry!

Okay, so I folded on that last one. However, I’m going to make this short. There are always going to be other things you *should* be doing, or *could* be doing. But you can’t do everything at the same time. Right now (after this blog entry), I am working on my manuscript. Just my manuscript. Tonight I will work on my short stories. Everything else will have its time, but it’s not right now. If I keep focusing on everything I *should* be doing, I’m doing a crappy job on the one thing in front of me.

Doing one thing at a time is faster than trying to do all the things at once.


Do you lead a busy life and wish you had more time for your writing? Are all the responsibilities of your day eating up the time you wish you could spend on your craft? Do you often wish you didn’t need to work full-time so that you had more time to write? Learn how to have both a full-time job AND a fulfilling writing career with Reclaim Your Creative Soul: The secrets to organizing your full-time life to make room for your craft.

Being the school kid at 38

booksLast month, I went back to college. Actually, back isn’t the right word. I’ve never actually been to college before, unless you count that time when I taught a college class (true story). While my peers were racking up college loans to further their education, my world was filled with diapers and sleepless nights, and trying to find new ways to soothe a colicky baby. I was so jealous back then, even though this life path was my choice. But when I was stuck at home with a crying baby, I would have given anything to be out doing stupid stuff with people my own age, plus taking college courses.

Of course, I would never have appreciated it as much as I do now—the college courses, not the stupid stuff, lol. The first time I had to meet with my English professor during office hours, I must have repeated how happy I was to be in college at least 3 times. But I am. I’m sitting in classes with students who are 20 years younger than I am, learning stuff I’ve almost completely forgotten since the last time I was in school. There are a few new ways to do things (like, when did all the rules change in math???). But there are also a few things I do remember how to do. And it just feels good to learn new things. In the adult world, things are the same day in and day out. But in school, we’re on this steady incline of learning. I feel stretched and pulled, and I like it.

Plus, I’ve been on top of all my homework. Back when I was in high school, I managed to keep my homework levels to a minimum. Often I’d be doing my assignments during tutorial on the day they were due, or studying for a test the night before. I had the freedom to do this back then, as time was only my own. But now, I have a full time job, a family, and other obligations outside of school. Being lax on my homework is not an option. This week, for example, we had a huge essay assigned on Monday, due Wednesday. I knew this was coming, so I researched my topic over the weekend before it was assigned. I started writing the essay on Tuesday morning before work, then I worked on it during my lunch break, and finished it Tuesday night after my math class. If I hadn’t researched the topic beforehand, I would have choked on this assignment. It really helped to have an outline of what I was going to write before I wrote it.

The one drawback of being in school, however, is my writing is taking a backseat—at least in novel form. This was fine with me when I signed up for classes. I was ready for a break from novel writing so I could catch my breath a bit. But now, I keep getting jolted by novels I want to write, the ideas pulling at me when I’m supposed to be studying. I’m getting bit by the writing bug bad! I’ve even started an outline for my next novel with hopes to write during NaNoWriMo. But honestly, I don’t see how I’m going to be able to write a novel during November. My classes will be in full force at that point, and I use my writing time now for homework. There just isn’t a pocket of time for me to write a book at the speed I need to write for NaNoWriMo.

This is all ironic, of course, since I just wrote a book on finding time for your creative endeavors, even while living a full-time life (Reclaim Your Creative Soul). However, there is one passage in this book that is offering me the grace I need in this busy season of my life:

Your time is important. And if you are dividing your time between your art, a full-time job, raising a family, and the many other arenas of your life, you don’t have much time to waste.

Or, perhaps you feel like you have no time left for your art.

I want to pause here and acknowledge that your time is different from my time, and the time of everyone else who is reading this book. I do not know your circumstance, and I cannot dictate how you spend your time in your life. Some of you who will be able to uncover a few extra hours for your art after reading this chapter. And some of you may only be able to uncover a few minutes. Different priorities require different responses. For example, you may have very little wiggle room if you have a full-time job or are raising a family. However, I’m certain you can amend the time you spend perusing social media or watching TV.

I also want to remind you that there is a season for everything. Parents of young children probably feel more than frustrated about the lack of time left over for their creative endeavors. However, children don’t stay young forever. Eventually they become more independent, and require less of your devoted attention. Same with your job. You may be frustrated because you are working so hard at making someone else money, when you really want to be devoting your time to your art. Your time will come. You may only have an hour or so a day to give to your art, and are a slave to your cubicle for the rest of the day. This makes that one hour so much more valuable. But if you keep at it, using that hour as best as you can, the day may come when you can decrease the amount of hours you spend working for someone else, and increase the amount of time you spend creating. (Reclaim Your Creative Soul: Chapter 8, Managing Your Time)

Here’s where the grace comes in. This season is about furthering my education. It’s where my focus needs to be. In the long run, it will help me to be a better writer. Novel writing will happen, but I have to be patient. Winter break is coming up, and I’ll have 3-4 weeks to lose myself in the novel writing process. Summer break will give me a full 3 months to write seriously. But now? My writing muscle will stay toned through journaling, blogging, and, of course, school and work writing. And this is okay! I’m just getting stronger for when my writing season begins again.

How to take a soul retreat, part 1

Yesterday, I took the day off of everything to come back to center and seek answers to the path I need to take in some very perplexing areas of my life. I called it my soul retreat, as it was my chance to reconnect with my soul in ways I hadn’t been able to for months.

Let me start out by saying that the day was a success. I accomplished everything I had hoped I would, and received some very clear answers to my dilemmas, offering me a sense of peace. I won’t share all of these here, as they are very personal. But I do want to share some of my experience. Because this is kind of long, this post has been broken into two parts.

The day started out with a drive to the coast. I set my drive to the soundtrack of Sigur Ros, one of my favorite bands for getting out of my head and immersing myself in the task at hand. Usually, it’s my writing music. Today, it was my transition from a too-busy life, to time with my spirit.

I was battling two overwhelming emotions on this drive: fear and hope. I was hopeful that I would find the answers I was looking for, and looking forward to this time I’d set aside to seek them. But I was fearful that I wouldn’t find the answers. Even more, I was afraid I would find the answers, but they wouldn’t be ones I was happy with.

There were tears on the drive, and it took almost the whole Sigur Ros album to get there. I found the exact portion of the coastline I’d envisioned, and pulled into a parking spot that faced the ocean. Then I let the album finish out as I stared out at the ocean, losing myself to the vastness of the sea.

When ready, I came out of the car and found a spot on a picnic bench. I brought with me a box of Kleenex (which I had to buy on the way there since I’d forgotten!), and my journal. Then, as I watched the waves crash against the rocks below, I began my soul retreat.

Throughout the day, I felt myself being told two things: BREATHE and LOOK AROUND. These were the central answers to the dilemmas I brought to the table. Take a deep breath in and let it out slow. Pause.  Take a moment. Open your eyes. Look at your surroundings. Breathe.

Most of my stress has been the result of extreme busy-ness. In my life, I have many hats I wear throughout the day, and it’s hard to not feel pulled in all directions. But that busy-ness isn’t necessarily caused by those different hats in my life, it’s really about what I do with the time in between.

Let me ask you, what do you do when you’re bored? How about when you have a moment when nothing is being asked of you? How about when you’re waiting for dinner to be done simmering? What do you do the moment you wake up, or right before you go to bed?

For me, I reach for my phone. I check my email. I peruse Facebook. I check my book stats. I watch interesting videos. I play a game. I do anything that will keep me from doing nothing. I remove myself from being where I’m at, and place myself in dozens of different places via my phone in a matter of minutes.

This is true for many of us. And in doing this, we’ve lost the ability to just sit and breathe, and to be aware of our surroundings. We’ve forgotten how to see the world around us. Maybe it’s because life is unpredictable. We can’t control what happens to us in the real world. We can’t control the hurt, the anger, the sadness, the boredom, the fear. But when we’re immersed in a little 2”X3” screen, we can control everything we watch, feel, and experience. We make ourselves feel better through a heartwarming video. We share a moving article and feel like activists. We comment on a friend’s Facebook status and feel as if we’ve socialized.

But we’re not living in the moment. Me. I have not been living in the moment. I’m not allowing myself time to breathe and take in my surroundings. I’m filling my pockets of free time with moments of busy-ness instead of taking a deep breath in and letting it out slow.

Breathe. Take a look around. Be where you’re at. Such concepts…

See part 2 here.