I’ve been in limbo lately. Segueing between productivity and sloth, between rage and joy, between calm and anxiety. It hasn’t made a great deal of sense. I don’t know whether it’s just really ridiculous PMS, if it’s the ordinary stresses of life overwhelming me for once or something deeper, but I’ve not been at my best these last two weeks (months? I honestly don’t remember). According to that NHS test thing I’m showing 18 of the 21 signs of anxiety, and even though it’s probably the wrong thing to do, I’m just ignoring that information for now. If I still feel like this two weeks down the line, I think it will be time to talk to a doctor and at least find out if there’s a concrete reason for why I’m struggling.
Whenever things get really overwhelming, usually ending up with me screaming, shouting, crying or generally taking it out on someone else or myself, I do try to get a little perspective. By that I don’t mean the whole “oh kids are starving somewhere and you’re upset because the broccoli has gone mushy”, but by figuring out why I’m really freaking out.
I sit down and write a big mess of scribbles and scrawls as I pour everything that’s stressing me out onto a page. This easily fills a side of A4, but I eventually run out of steam and immediately start feeling better for just having got everything out. At this point I’ll probably breathe deeply for the first time in about a week, and take a moment to just calm down a bit.
I then start to go through the big mess of emotions I’ve vomited onto the paper, and pick out the actual problems, writing them down in a separate list, leaving a big space underneath. This can take a while, and can easily be just as emotional as the initial outpouring. Once I’ve got my list, I reexamine what I’ve written. How many of these problems are actually the same thing dressed up in different ways? For example, I might write HATE WORK, COMPLETELY SKINT, FEELING STIFLED CREATIVELY, which all boil down to dissatisfaction with work. They’re all the same problem, and there’s one way I could fix all of them at once: get a new job. That’s the next step.
Once I’ve consolidated my list and can make a bit more sense of it and have grouped things a bit, I start figuring out which ones I can solve and how, and which ones I can’t. So although I definitely need a new job I can’t just get one with a snap of my fingers. In the mean time that will help with how my current job is affecting me. I can look at my finances and see if I can eliminate any unnecessary spending, perhaps alleviating the COMPLETELY SKINT bullet point. For FEELING STIFLED CREATIVELY, I can spend more time on my blog or other project, prioritising the things that make me feel fulfilled.
For the things I realise I can’t do anything about, which there usually aren’t many of, I try to look at them from a different perspective. This is the point at which it can help to drag someone else in; sometimes you need someone who isn’t as emotionally involved to help you look at a thing in a different way. These are the hardest ones to handle, as you really can’t change them. However, once you’ve got the things you can control in hand, the bigger problems become a lot more manageable.
In in the interests of transparency I should tell you that I don’t always manage to calm down long enough to realise that maybe I should do this, but I find that engaging in an exercise similar to this regularly helps keep me a little calmer for a while as I understand why I’m so stressed out.
That’s all for now, but if you’re anything like me and frequently find yourself feeling overwhelmed I’d recommend trying an exercise similar to this. I find that, done regularly, I feel more in control of my life and emotions and can be more myself, rather than the sobbing mess I’ve been of late.