Avoid a mental breakdown by adding margins to your life


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.


5 favorite ways to unplug

My life is pretty much spent in front of a computer. My full-time job is being the online content producer for my local newspaper. This means hours and hours of sitting on my duff, perusing the Internet, chatting on social media, and collecting news stories. When I’m not at work, I’m writing, or I’m reading my Kindle, or I’m staring at my phone, or I’m…going crazy.

Too much screen time makes for a cranky Crissi. Therefore, here are 5 ways that I temporarily unplug from the world so that I can maintain my sanity.

  1. Go to the ocean. I’m lucky enough to live near Bodega Bay, the coldest and most beautiful ocean in the world. just a 45-minute drive away, and I’m suddenly breathing in salt air and organic peace. I don’t know if I could ever live in a place far away from the coast. The ocean is just home to me. As Isak Dinesen is quoted as saying, “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” It’s also a great place for the soul.img_5860
  2. Pitching a tent. There are a few ways I love to camp. The first is the spa retreat my husband and I escape to every few months. Something about hot springs in the middle of a forest brings healing to the soul. The second is actual camping, complete with campfires, smores, and stories. The third is the summer camp my kids and I attend every year, where we sleep on planks under the stars and are separate from the world for a whole week. There’s always a slight adjustment period when we re-enter civilization.
  3. Take a hike. I’m not naturally prone to exercise. Sure, I go to the gym (and actually like it). But if given the choice of staying in bed all day or hiking up hills, I’d choose bed every time. However, once I’m on the trail, I realize that this is the true right choice. There’s something magic about putting the phone away, working muscles that haven’t been worked in a while, and taking in the scenery. One of the favorite hikes I’ve taken is on the Cascades Trail in Marin County. The trail goes along all these waterfalls, and is among tall trees, sprouting mushrooms, and fresh air. It’s definitely good for the soul.
  4. Doing yoga. It always amazes me how much a few stretches can help me exhale when I didn’t even know I was holding my breath. My favorite pose is One Legged King Pigeon with Forward Fold, where you fold one leg in front of you and have one leg behind, and then fold your body over your front leg. It’s a great hip opener, and an incredible release as you breath into the stretch.
  5. Reading a good book. When the world is crazy and I just need to hide out, there’s nothing like curling up in bed with a good book. I’m a re-reader, so if I’m feeling particularly crappy, I’ll pull out an old favorite. The authors who fall into my re-read list are Colleen Hoover (because no one can write about falling in love like Colleen can), Liz Gilbert (I’ve read Eat. Pray. Love at least 3 times), and Paolo Coelho (I swear my soul expands every time I read any word that man writes).

How do you unplug when you’re feeling stressed?