Last week I made an art form out of feeling sorry for myself.

I stomped. Cried. Pouted. Made a significant racket putting the dishes away. I acted like the most childish member of the family, without all the chubby-cheek cuteness of my littles to take the edge off.

The week started off fine. A handful of ordinary days sandwiching a beautiful 4th of July with family. But then Thursday happened. And Friday. And everything that could’ve gone wrong seemed to.

In hindsight, several factors contributed to my downward spiral into reality TV behavior. The holiday interrupted our routine, and I should’ve adjusted my workload to accommodate. Add a couple sleepless nights, a car in the shop, a funeral for my son’s 19-year-old buddy, three tired littles, a major family decision, and … Let’s just say when I whipped my legs out of bed Thursday morning, I tripped a land mine. My overwhelmed self spewed shrapnel every direction.

By Saturday morning I was in quite a funk. Bleary-eyed, impatient, teary, exhausted. My husband took one look at me and said, “You need to leave.”

What?! I know I haven’t been myself this week—alright, I’ve acted like a nap-less two year old on a steady diet of gummy bears. But LEAVE???

“Take a break,” he urged. “Do something for yourself. I don’t care what. But you need to leave.”

So I did. I left and didn’t come back for a few hours. And when I did, to the relieved joy of my family and the great chagrin of Jerry Springer’s talent scouts, I returned a different woman.

I didn’t do anything elaborate. But my brief Saturday hiatus turned out to be the fastest way out of my funk. If you’re overwhelmed and need a break, here’s my secret Saturday sauce:

Solitude: When overwhelmed, added stimulation is about as dangerous as rain showers to an already flooded creek. We need silence, quiet, peace to rediscover our boundaries and ourselves. But true solitude is difficult to come by. Saturday I went to the library, about the only place where quiet is strictly enforced, protected. I found a cubicle in the back near a window and soaked up peace like a desert the rain.

Delight: Too much fun doesn’t overwhelm us; too little of it does. Sometimes we’re too grown up. We need to be child-like (not child-ish), remember what it feels like to play and imagine and laugh. In all the pressure we heap on ourselves to accomplish, we forget to breathe. Enjoy the delight of living and loving. On Saturday, after finding my library corner, I could’ve tackled my to-dos. Instead, I turned on my favorite classical music and allowed myself four hours of creative writing. Just for the love of it.

Exercise: Exercise might be the single greatest means of de-stressing. At the end of my break, before returning home, I went to the gym and worked out. Hard. All that intensity and sweat had a cleansing effect, emptying me of the angst that had been building over the prior couple days and actually giving me a dose of needed energy to head back home.

Positivity: Negative thoughts breed like bunnies. Give audience to one, and a dozen more result. The only way to stop the cycle is to stop the cycle. This is perhaps the hardest part for me. When I’m exhausted and overwhelmed, I don’t have the energy to restrain and retrain my thoughts. But that’s exactly what I must do. As it turns out, positivity breeds like bunnies, too.

How do you recover from an overwhelming day?

 

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