Recipe to Ease Overwhelm

Recipe to Ease Overwhelm 20150805

 

Sometimes, in spite of all of the self care practice you can muster, your day just goes off the rails.

Maybe it’s because a bunny chewed through the fuel line on your car.

Maybe it’s because you didn’t get enough sleep.

Maybe it’s because you took a few days off for vacation or because you’ve been ill.

Maybe it’s because you mixed up the dates on a deadline.

Maybe it’s because someone else mixed up their dates and suddenly hands you a deadline.

Maybe it’s because life can just get life-y and throw a whole lot at you all at once.

You look up and you’re in overwhelm. It’s a horrible feeling — having a whirling dervish of panic flying around in your head — and just makes a difficult day even harder.

My hubby was in overwhelm recently and told me so. I couldn’t remove anything from his proverbial plate, but I could help him walk through the process of collecting his thoughts and sorting through them so that some of the anxiety could be set aside. Having a clear head and remembering to breathe makes those pressing tasks much easier to accomplish.

When we’re worked up, we just don’t think clearly. We feel like we don’t have time to stop and make a plan. The reality is that we must pause and assess before we can get anything of value done.

So, when I encounter someone in overwhelm — or am feeling it creeping into my day — here’s what I do.

(1) I tell them to breathe.

It’s essential. You’re going to do it anyway. Give it your attention for a moment.

(2) Then I walk them through a dervish dump and sort.

Basically, you get it all down — everything that’s flying through your head — and then sort those items into what really must be done today and what can wait.

(3) Then come more reminders to breathe.

It’s amazing how our bodies respond to intentional, slow breathing.

At that point they are usually calm enough to take it from there. If not, we rinse and repeat.

Overwhelm happens to the best of us. It’s not a sign of weakness or failure. It’s a sign that you need a moment to pause and plan. So, next time you hit overwhelm, remember to stop, breath, list, breathe, sort, and breathe.

The image is a colorful, painted background with the Recipe to Ease Overwhelm written on it.

Inspired by Judith Snow…

Hasbury on Snow

 

This month’s SCDot6 post is given over to two dear friends on the occasion of the Celebration of Life for one and the incredibly poetry she inspired in the other.

There are hundreds of articles and videos and tributes written by and about Judith Snow. She was just as influential and funny and pointed and impatient and thoughtful as those pieces make her out to be.

Judith challenges us to question our assumptions about what folks can and cannot do and where they can and cannot live. She thumbed her nose at our low expectations and exhortations about safety. Yes, it took a whole team of folks — her circle of support — to get her out of that institution and into “the community”, but, ironically, Judith created community wherever she was and that institution was hardly a barrier to her — except that it was.

So, dear one, on this 6th day of June, question your assumptions. Then do it again on June 7. And again on June 8.

David Hasbury — a deep thinker in his own right — captures it so well in his grief-and-gratitude-laced poem.

We’re sad, but we celebrate.

And we keep on truckin’.

 

—-

The image is a colorful, painted background with David Hasbury’s poem written on top of it.

Inspired by Judith Snow…

What more can life ask of us?
…be present in the form that carries our spirit
…follow the questions that call our name
…embody the visions that enter our mind, finding rest at home in our heart
…uncover the gifts that we carry, placing them within reach of those who need the magic they hold

Self Care Day on the 6th: July 2014

July 6

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes get so caught up in trying new stuff — spreading my wings, looking for opportunities, taking more classes, seeking bigger challenges — that I need something to snap me back to the old tried and trues that have always nurtured me. It’s like making a big ole batch of mac ‘n’ cheese after eating exciting, foreign flavors for weeks. Yes, I love pad kee mao and sweet potato enchiladas and eggplant dashi, but some days I need some supper a la Tennessee circa 1940.

I’ve shared a bunch of “try this” ideas in previous SCDOT6 posts because I like to support people in learning new ways to take care of themselves. Maybe you’ve never given yourself permission to put your own needs on the calendar, or to write off some needling goal that you don’t really want to achieve, or to change up how you do gift giving. It does my heart good when I get a comment or an email or a phone call saying, “Hey, Gina, I tried that thing and it was awesome!”

However, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to “snap y’all back” to the old tried and true ways that help you feel nurtured.

When I do some archeological digging into my own timeline certain themes make themselves very clear. I have always crafted in some form. I have always read tons of material. I have always loved music. I have always loved sitting outdoors. The content may change a bit over time, but the fundamentals are the same.

Given a day to do what I want and no pressure to perform, I’ll happily listen to music while reading or working on a craft. Ideally, I’ll be working on a craft — like a simple knitting project — that allows me to read and listen to instrumental music. Or better yet, I’ll take my craft and book outside and listen to my windchimes.

So, what nourishes you? What can you count on to refill your empty cup?

Take a little time to think back to those comforts and activities that truly restore your energy.

Hint: It may be those things you told your-child-self you could do as much as you wanted when you got to be an adult.

Bigger Hint: It may be those things you feel a little guilty doing instead of the list of “should be doings” you carry around in your head.

Got your list? No, not the “should” list… the “nourishing and restorative” list. Got that one? Good.

Now when was the last time you made an appointment with yourself to do exactly that?

Go on. You can do it.

Gee whiz! A bowl of mac ‘n’ cheese, followed by reading a book with some lovely background music sounds pretty good to me right about now.

Novel idea, no?

Self Care Day on the 6th: March 2014

March 6

As many of you know, I’m all about self-care. If I can manage to add a post to this blog at all, it will usually be the monthly SCDot6 post. What you may not know, unless you’ve been around for a couple of years, is that the real impetus for the day was about breast cancer and those silly games on Facebook that supposedly increase “awareness” by confusing people.

Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they do, somehow, increase “awareness” of breast cancer. As my dear friend, Ona would say. “I’m aware. Now what?”

Well, the current conventional wisdom about breast cancer is that, if you’re going to have it, it’s better to find it earlier rather than later. This seems to be the case with the folks I love who have been treated for various stages and forms of breast cancer.

The reality, though, is that it’s kind of a weird cognitive dissonance that allows us to walk in and have a test done that will pitch us into the land of pink ribbons and decisions about surgeries and chemo and radiation. There’s this part of us that would just rather stay in the dark about this whole possibility.

It’s nice that we have that choice, though. Well, at least we have that choice about this particular cancer.

Unfortunately, there are other cancers — many of them way more aggressive — that don’t have the benefit of an effective screening tool. There really isn’t an “early detection” campaign for, say, ovarian cancer because early detection sounds more like, “well, I’m bloated and a little crampy and tired.”

So, while I’m a procrastinator of the highest order about things like mammograms — in spite of my telling you guys to get them! — I’m being brave. I’ll get my pap smear to check for cervical cancer this week and I’m going on Tuesday for my mammogram. If I get the “fibrous tissue” report (again), I’ll insist on an ultrasound.

Even though I don’t really want to know. You know?

Self Care Day on the 6th: January 2014

Do you have things on your perpetual “nice to do” list that never actually get done? They may be phone calls you’d like to make — at some point — or craft projects you’ve been wanting to try — someday — or appointments you’ve been meaning to make — eventually — and they get moved from one list to the next without actually getting accomplished?

Well, one of my “nice to do” items has been to make a book out of some of the wads of paper that come packed around fragile things I’ve ordered from the interwebs. It’s usually wonderfully-crinkly, brown, butcher paper that’s been torn off of a roll. It begs me to make something of it rather than wadding it up further and tossing it into the recycling bin.

So, for the past year or so, I’ve been saving these sheets of paper — by either flattening them or rolling them around a paper tube — in the precontemplative hope that they would eventually get transformed.

After my previous adventures in book making, I’d convinced myself that this venture would be a Big Project. And, as with most Big Projects, it kept getting put off until I had the time/energy/space/staff to do it.

And then it occurred to me as I was flattening another six yards of brown paper last night that, hey, Gina! this is mangled wrapping paper that you get by the boxfuls and that you’ve been hoarding for a year, not precious silken threads, hand-dyed by mountain dwellers. And, oh, by the way, you’d have already turned those precious threads into a shawl.

I realized that I had a point. This book thing didn’t have to be perfect and I didn’t even have to follow some design of how books are s’posed to be made.

Folios? Pshaw! Covers? Heee! End papers? Whatever! Purpose? Shrug.

So I grabbed some paper and started folding until it was kind of the size I wanted. I kept folding until it was sort of even. Then I stapled it. Then I folded it some more so that the wonky staples were covered up. Then I stapled it again. Then I took a fork — yes! a fork! — and used it to rip the folded edges so that I could turn all of the pages.

I was pretty darned pleased with myself and passed it around the family for some atta girls and gold stars.

To a person, they said, “What’s it for?”

Harumph.

So I took a nearby Sharpie and did this to it:

It's for whatever it's for! Vol 1

I’ll admit that I sure was proud of myself.

Writing this on the cover didn’t stop the family asking what it was for and what the next chapter would be and what the book would be about, but it reassured me that I didn’t have to know any of that in order to love this crispy, crunchy, deckely creation. I doodled on the cover on and off all evening, and just before bed I wrote this (on the back) because I realized that I was already afraid to tarnish it with the wrong purpose.

Hey, Gina! Quick, write in it before it becomes too precious! (And you can always make another one!)

That didn’t seem to do the trick.

Seriously. I was still a little afraid to use it this morning. So, I made another one.

What better way to lower the perceived value of some precious, rarified (even if made out of stained, wadded up, torn, recycled, brown paper) object than to make it redundant?

I thought maybe you’d like to know how I made this precious thing in case you’re all about brown paper and little books and the like. So I took some pictures of my second go so that you could follow along from home.

First you’ll need some highly-technical tools and well-honed skills. You’re going to need to fold, staple, and fork deckel. You may not be familiar with the last skill because I just made it up. But, I promise, you’re great at it!

Collect your paper, your fork (yes!), and your stapler.

It’s best if the paper has been wadded up and shoved into a box and shipped across country, but sometimes you can’t be picky like that.

Paper, Stapler, Fork

Now, take a look at the paper and decide what size book you think you might want. Or just start folding it. You can fan-fold it. You can fold it long-wise and then into quarters. You can get all precise with it. You like folding thirds? Have at it. It really doesn’t matter. If you don’t like it, unfold it and try it again. The extra creases add value.

What mattered to me is that there was a fold that went all around the other folds to form a spine. So I made mine do that.

Like this:

Folded Paper

See those little uneven edges poking out the side there? Yep. They stick out the side there. And — shhhhh, don’t tell! — there’s a page inside that doesn’t even reach the edge! I know! It’s awesome!

Now, here’s where your technical stapling skills are challenged. Decide which edge you want to be your spine. Now eyeball where the folds end up and staple along one edge so that you catch them all. (If you miss, do something fancy like folding the front page back over the whole shebang and staple the edge again further in.)

If it’s kind of thick, you may have to use your fork to squish down the sharp ends on the back. You can put tape over them if you want. This tape thing is optional.

Stapling Paper

Now comes the fork deckeling. This is why it doesn’t matter how you fold the paper. You’re going to separate all of the layers using your fork. (If you want to use scissors or a screwdriver or a paper cutter or some other such tool, feel free, but you’re on your own.)

You may want to make sure all of your edges are extra creased. You can even use your fork edge to flatten them if you’d like.

Then find an opening at the edge of the paper that’s not the spine, insert a tine from your fork and use it to rip the edge letter-opener style.  There are YouTube videos demonstrating letter openers. I don’t think they show how to use a fork in this way, but they do show how to use a pen. So, you may have to use your imagination to transfer the letter-opening-with-a-pen skill to this tool and purpose.

Fork Deckeling

Depending on how you folded your paper and how thick your book is, this may take some time. It’s okay to get a snack or take a break if you need one.

You might be tempted to rip more than one  fold at a time if there are several sheets nested together. I didn’t risk attempting this advanced skill. Let me know how it goes if you get brave like that.

Don’t forget to fork deckel the top and bottom edges if you have folds there, too.

More Fork Deckeling

Eventually, you’ll rip apart all of the folds along the edges and all of your pages will be free!

Then you can go wild and decorate it with colored markers or pens or stickers or ribbons or macaroni or glitter or any or all of these items.

Markers

Or you can leave it blank and just add stuff as you’re inspired.

But be forewarned: if you wait too long, you might decide it’s too precious to use and then you’ll have to make another one.

It's for whatever it's for in two volumes

So, what’s been on your “nice to do” list for way too long? Is perfect the enemy of the good here? If so, maybe giving yourself permission to just do it in some form — not the Big Project form, but a good enough version — will get you past that precontemplation and on to having that self-satisfied feeling that we all enjoy.

Who says you need a reason to make a paper wad into a book? Who says you need a reason to try a new recipe or call up a friend or send that email?

Oh, and if that “nice to do” thing is something you’re never actually going to do, it’s really okay to stop pretending you will.

Who says you need a reason to skip it altogether?

Self Care Day on the 6th: December 2013

December 6

Whew! Guilt is like a virulent cold. It’s around all year, but it seems to become twice as contagious during the holidays. We have massive lists of shoulds and oughts and musts but seem to get stuck in place, staring at the list with one eye, and looking for an escape hatch with the other.

Well, consider this your permission slip to examine those obligations for their true value, keep what still seems important, and toss the rest.

Seriously. Stop wasting your precious life eating your own soul with guilt over stuff you don’t really want to do or procrastinating the stuff you actually do want to do.

I just spent a little time with a favorite cousin who is a fantastic writer. He’s also great at other things and has a cadre of interests (and the books to match) to fill three lifetimes. During our visit he said just about the saddest thing I’ve heard in years. He has a couple of writing projects that he wants to work on, but life has been lifey recently and he hasn’t been able to devote much time to them. It’s completely understandable. Truly.

Here’s where it got sad, though.

He feels so guilty about neglecting his writing that he won’t allow himself to enjoy other stuff in the meantime.

Oh, heavens.

If you are going around feeling guilty about not writing and you are still not writing, stop wasting your precious life. Either sit down and write or find something else to do.

Seriously. Take a step back and reevaluate where writing fits into your priorities.

Ned Andrew is a writer and is usually fantastic at motivating himself to work on stuff well ahead of time. There are days, though, when he’s just not in the mood. Luckily, he has me to intone my mantra of, “If you really aren’t feeling it, take a walk, read a book, or whip up a meal and come back to it when you’re ready.”

I know this flies in the face of the advice writers usually get about sitting down and making a business-looking habit of churning out a certain number of pages or words before allowing themselves a break. It’s good advice for the most part, but if you find yourself staring at a blinking cursor for hours without a single inspiration, and your whole being is screaming, “I want to go for a walk!!”, this isn’t a recipe for great writing. It’s a recipe for misery.

Please, dear, go for the walk.

Okay, now that you’ve gotten some fresh air, let’s take a moment to size up some of the other “obligations” that we carry around.

If you are sitting around feeling guilty about not sending Christmas cards* and you are still not addressing those envelopes, stop wasting your precious life. Either sit down with a stack of cards and stamps or find something else to do.

If you are walking around feeling guilty about not calling your mother and you still haven’t picked up the phone, stop wasting your precious life. Either dial her up or find something else to do.

If you are beating yourself up with guilt over avoiding the gym and you still haven’t managed to darken the door, stop wasting your precious life. Either lace up your shoes or find something else to do.

Sort your list into three categories:

Now  —  Later —  Never

Now: Some of the things on our guilt list are tasks we actually do want and/or need to do right now. For those items there are all sorts of little tricks to get us out of the precontemplation stage and into action. That’s where the daily habit of sitting down and churning out 3 pages helps writers. If you are determined to get those cards out, make it a game with the whole family putting them together assembly-line style. Pour yourself a cup of coffee**, get in a comfy chair, and dial Mom up. Put on your running shoes.

Later: Let’s face it. There are things on your list that aren’t urgent and which you really aren’t in the mood for right now. It’s okay to take a break or reschedule those tasks. Taking a walk or a month-long cruise might be just the distraction you need to return to your work refreshed and raring to go.

Never: So how many of your self-imposed “obligations” are promises that you will never actually honor but are nursing a massive guilt cold over? Enough of that. If you’re not going to do it, own that. Return the book advance. Ditch the cards. Send Mom flowers. Buy bigger pants. Once you stop perseverating over this pile of never-to-happens, maybe you can redirect that energy into something truly worth your  attention.

And what if you are feeling guilty because you aren’t actually going to sort your list into three categories and make decisions about which ones to address and which ones to procrastinate and which ones to forget about?

All together now:

Stop wasting your precious life. Do it or find something else to do.

 

* or Hanukkah cards, Kwanzaa cards, birthday cards, birth announcements, wedding invitations, thank you notes…

**or your beverage of choice

Self Care Day on the 6th: October 2013

Self Care Day October 6

I’m trying to get my head around this blog post.

As y’all know I do a monthly “feature” called “Self Care Day on the 6th” that was inspired a couple of years ago by a frustration that Sarah summed up beautifully this time last year. I typically remind folks to do their self checks and have mammograms as well as to do other self care not related to cancer prevention/detection.

Last month I talked about ultrasounds for dense breasts and the fact that I had 6 friends in active treatment (and one in hospice).

Then my sweet mother-in-law was diagnosed — she found a lump and went in immediately to have it checked out — and it’s breast cancer awareness month and I don’t know what to say other than this stuff sucks and I want her and everyone else to just be okay.

So, there.

Please be okay.

And do your self exams.

And take some time to rest in a way that is restorative to you.

And be kind to one another.

Self Care Day on the 6th: September 2013

Sept 6

When I launched SCDot6 two years ago, it was inspired by my frustration over the “awareness” games on social media that did little to actually help folks and whole lot to frustrate the folks who were actually dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

People I know and love are actually getting these diagnoses and undergoing surgeries and radiation and chemotherapy. Some of them are having great success at regaining their health. Others have lost their lives. One is in hospice as I type this.

In just the past month two of my dear friends have had bilateral mastectomies. A third has one scheduled soon. A fourth had a less invasive surgery, but doesn’t get to skip any of the “fun” post-op cancer treatment. All within a month, folks.

This is not a game. Cancer officially sucks.

That said, there are things we can do to take really good care of ourselves.

There are some breast-cancer specific items that we can put on our To Do lists. Self exams are important — I do mine on the 6th of the month, thus the monthly SCDot6 — as are mammograms. But that’s just a start.

I’ve recently learned that for those of us with dense, fibrous breast tissue a follow up ultrasound to a mammogram may be the only way a tumor will be spotted. Two of the women who were recently diagnosed had invasive tumors (with lymph node involvement) that did not show up on the mammogram and that couldn’t be seen that way even after the docs spotted them with ultrasound and put a marker on them. The only reason the tumors were spotted was because they insisted on an ultrasound after they received “clean” mammograms.

The rest of our bodies, minds, souls deserve some self care, too.

What are you doing to take really good care of yourselves? If you’re dealing with a diagnosis that has rocked your world — either personally or as a caregiver — are you going out of your way to refill your cup? Are you reaching out to folks who can help sustain you through whatever comes next?

Seriously. Self care is the furthest thing from “selfish”.

Do it.

Self Care Day on the 6th: November 2012

November 6

It’s November 6th! And you know what that means, right?

Well, if you live in the US, it’s Election Day. Which means it’s time to vote if you haven’t already participated in early voting. I’ll spare you the rest of the monologue since — unless you’ve been on a long safari — you’re full up with this election. I certainly am, and I actually love this whole process of researching candidates, making my choices, going to the polls, and voting.

So, let’s assume you’ve voted or have that worked into your schedule for the day (or happen to live in Tanzania and aren’t scheduled to vote until 2015) and move on to the self care portion of the program.

Cool? Great!

Even if you aren’t running for elected office, the beginning of November can be a wee bit anxiety inducing. Lots of folks see this as the start of The Holiday Season. You know, once the Halloween candy has been collected from all of the neighbors and the stores are unabashedly stocking the shelves with every possible flashing red, green, and gold item the marketing folks can dream up, we start to tense up a little (or a lot) knowing that the calendar is officially going off the rails any minute now.

Gifting — listing, financing, buying, wrapping, sending, unwrapping, thanking, storing — is just one of the activities that deserves recognition as a varsity sport.

Then there are the parties and the concerts and the rellies and the Nutcracker and the cooking and baking and cleaning out the guest room for Aunt Molly and the non-stop merry-go-round travel among commitments far and wide and someone forgot the apples for the Waldorf Salad, so the whole thing is ruined.

Well, whoa. Who says?

While I’m as sentimental as just about anyone I know, I finally pushed pause on this whirling dervish of holiday hell and rethought the whole thing several years ago. Just like any other “project” in my life I took a long look at it and asked some of those really powerful questions that Helen Sanderson and her crew taught me to ask. Fair warning: These queries are magical.

What’s working?

What’s not working?

What do we love and want to keep?

What do we dread and want to toss?

Knowing what we know now, what will we do next?

So how do you work this magic? It really is up to you.

Maybe you like sticky notes. I know I do! So, when I did this, I went through each question, putting one item on each sticky note so that I could look at it in isolation and really think about how that aspect of the season impacted my joy — positively and negatively.

You may want to do this exercise alone or you may want to involve some (cooperative) folks from your planning committee — er — family in this conversation. Or you may want to do it by yourself first and then invite comments.

Got your stickies? (Or your notebook or your pictures from last year or a word processor document open or a template from Helen or your steering committee and graphic facilitator?)

Good. Now, go through each question one at a time.

What’s working? Make a list of all (or a sticky for each) of the things, people, foods, traditions, and Traditions that really make this season meaningful for you.

What’s not working? Make a list of all (or a sticky for each) of the things, people, foods, traditions, and Traditions that really make this season dreadful for you.

Then refine them with the next couple of questions. What do we love and want to keep? What do we dread and want to toss? What might we combine or change or rethink or move around?

Be fearless! Really think about what it is you want out of your — YOUR — holidays.

One of the things I changed was gift giving. There came a point when it just wasn’t fun anymore. I was spending weeks hunting down and buying stuff off of lists that my family exchanged in September and shipping it all over the country or schlepping it there along with the apples for the Waldorf Salad, only to have all of that stuff get lost in the piles of wrapping paper and gift overwhelm.

Now, we tend to give everyone (except the wee kids) on our holiday gift list exactly the same thing. It’s different each year, but it’s the same gift for everyone — teachers, Mom & Dad, cousins, friends, siblings, co-workers. One year, we made popcorn kits that included paper bags, kernels, seasonings, recipes, a movie and a lovely glass bowl. Another year everyone got a hand-made scarf. In slim years, we’ve given out ornaments or baked goods. We save the specially-picked-out-just-for-you gifts for birthdays or sussies*.

I’ll admit that this practice may horrify you — and I’m cool with that — but it makes me a very happy camper during the season of lights.

I have friends who have stopped visiting far-flung relatives and stay at home, volunteer at a shelter, cover the office for their co-workers, and save their travel for when the traffic is a lighter. Some folks give a donation to a charity they love and forgo the gift exchange. One large family goes to a state park and rent cabins so that no one has to clean their house and host 30 cousins for a week.  Still another has their big gather-the-clan celebration at Thanksgiving and does their Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations with their immediate families in their own homes.

No offense intended to the memory of Oscar Tschirky — aka “Oscar of the Waldorf” — but I am pretty sure we could even find a way to be joyful without a bowl of chopped apples, celery, and walnuts doused in mayonnaise.

So, what will you do to take care of your self during the holidays? What are you keeping? What are you tossing? What are you reinventing? I’d love to hear all about your favorite traditions and Traditions — old and new!

 

*a word my dear friend, Tracey, taught me for gifts sent just because

Brown Paper Packages Tied up with Strings

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...