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Making Life Manageable Again

Sometimes, things happen that are beyond our control to make it feel like life isn't manageable anymore. It could be a problem facing you that feels like there is no solution, or a to-do list that is miles long. You might get into a confrontation with someone, or have unexpected road blocks come up in front of you.

In situations like this, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. You feel like no matter what you do, it isn't enough to make a dent in all the things you have to do. The stress becomes too much, and eventually you have a breakdown.

In times like this, you may want to seek assistance from friends, family, a therapist or life coach. Having outside help can give you a different perspective on things, or suggestions on what to do differently.

A few years ago, I was in a life coaching program, and the first thing my coach said to do was to reduce my to-do list. Go down to just 3 things a day you want to accomplish. Get them out of the way first thing in the morning, and then celebrate your wins.

While it might not seem realistic to lower you to-do list that much, remember that it isn't forever. It's just until you can get back on your feet.

When you are feeling burned out and exhausted, you can only "push through" for so long before it has disastrous consequences in your life, your relationships and your mental health. You aren't a machine, and you can't keep going forever.

This last year, my own life has gotten unmanageable. Moving to another country put me so far outside my comfort zone that I was completely failing at everything I tried to do. With my children in different countries, I felt like I had failed as a mom, and there was nothing I could do to fix it.

As a solutions-oriented person, this was difficult for me to accept. Not all problems have solutions, or can be fixed. Sometimes, you just have to learn to accept things as they are, and try to find a way forward.

It's difficult to watch your dreams die, and to know that you had a hand in making that happen. I know now that my life is never going to be the way it was before, no matter how much I wish for that. I had to let go of all of my expectations, and focus smaller. Focus on myself.

In life, the only thing we can ever really change is ourselves. Once you realize this, it can be lonely and frightening. Realizing that the people you care about can't fix your problems for you, or always be supportive of you can leave you feeling isolated.

One Day at a Time

Recently, I was at an organization aimed at helping homeless people into long-term housing. Although they weren't able to help me with my own housing situation, the case worker told me to just take things one day at a time.

Narrowing my focus, and just paying attention to what is going on today, has helped me gain some perspective on life. I don't have to know all the answers right now. But, that doesn't mean I have to be paralyzed by fear and stop doing anything.

According to Mind Owl:

Adopting the mindset of “Taking It One Day At A Time” can help reduce stress, anxiety, and overwhelm. It allows you to focus on what you can control in the present moment, rather than getting caught up in worrying about the future.

When you are already feeling overwhelmed, adding more to your list is just going to make you feel even more so. A three-page to-do list doesn't do anyone any good. It just makes you feel stressed about all the things you are letting slip through the cracks.

So, taking things one day at a time allows you to shift your focus to the present moment. Become more mindful. Release some of the weight of the pressure that is crushing you.

Lately, I haven't just reduced my list to 3 things. I have reduced it down to just one thing. Every day, after I do yoga and my writing, I just think about one thing I want to accomplish for the day.

It could be an important appointment, a call I have to make, or a trip to the store. By organizing my time this way, it allows me to destress, make time for self-care, and prioritize rest.

Exhaustion is more than "just" feeling tired

When you have gone through a lot and feel exhausted, it isn't just a physical sense of tiredness that goes away if you take a nap. It's more than that, and it can take quite a while to recover and get your energy back.

According to Better Up,

Mental exhaustion is a feeling of extreme tiredness, characterized by other feelings including apathy, cynicism, and irritability. You may be mentally exhausted if you’ve recently undergone long-term stress, find it hard to focus on tasks, or lack interest in activities you usually enjoy.
Mental exhaustion often happens as a result of overuse, like physical overuse injuries. For example, think of repetitive stress injuries, like carpal tunnel or tennis elbow. Mental and emotional exhaustion just comes from overstressing your mind, rather than overstressing a muscle group.

Coping with chronic stress over time can make you feel like you have nothing left inside to give. Things you used to be able to do quite easily now feel like a struggle. You want to do the dishes, but even just looking at them feels like too much. It's like your body has become a lead weight, and you struggle just to walk from bed to the bathroom to take a morning shower.

Better Up also suggests that you see a professional if your mental exhaustion has gotten to the point you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Panic attacks

  • Depression

  • Thoughts and plans of harming yourself or others

  • Uncontrollable crying

  • Several absences from work

  • Being in danger of losing your job

  • Inability to take care of your children or loved ones

  • Lack of attention to personal hygiene

In my situation this last year, I have experienced all of these, including losing several jobs, and my family completely losing patience with me. At a certain point, exhaustion can lead to extreme mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. It is always better to work with a professional if this is the case for you.

Seeking Help for Your Mental Health

It can feel scary to talk to a professional about your mental health, especially if this is your first time. However, having a professional in your corner can make a big difference! They can provide a compassionate, listening ear, so that you aren't wearing out your family and friends with talking about your feelings. They can help you learn new coping skills. They can also provide medications, if needed.

In addition to working with a therapist, psychiatrist or life coach, you may also benefit from attending group therapy or a 12 step program. Talking to others in similar situations allows you to realize that you aren't alone, other people suffer too. Talking to others and finding a support system can help to relieve isolation.

For many of us, professional help is necessary to get back on track after going through a mental breakdown. Hope, help and healing are possible.

If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis or thinking about suicide, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 by dialing 988.

In addition to having a counselor talk you through the immediate crisis, you can receive additional referrals to either inpatient or outpatient care.

Opening up about how you are feeling is an important first step towards making progress in your life. Talking to someone can make you feel like you aren't alone, and can help you learn the skills to take back control of your life when you feel like you can't do it anymore.

If you are struggling with your mental health and don't know where to turn, here are some tips on finding a therapist.

Putting your life back together when it has fallen apart isn't easy, but it is possible. In part, you need to find a new perspective, so that you can find new goals and dreams for yourself. You may also need time to grieve the past you have left behind. Then, you can begin to learn new skills to make life easier in the future.

Let me know in the comments if you have questions, or additional topics you would like me to write about in the future!

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