At some time in your life, it will happen. You’ve been thinking things are going well. You’re settled in your marriage. Your work life is humming. Everyone in your family is happy and healthy. But then your husband tells you that things don’t feel right. Work becomes a constant source of stress. Your mum gets sick. Or maybe you’ve been on top of the wave of all those things you have to do, and suddenly you get dumped. Everything in your life just feels like it’s going wrong.
Even though you’d rather cuddle up in bed and not deal with it, you have to keep going. There is no other choice. People need you. You need you.
So where do you start?
1. Get yourself groomed.
As tempting as it is to take to the couch in your pajamas, that’s not going to help. So get in the shower, get dressed, brush your teeth and do your hair. You might feel bad now, but trust me, when that doorbell rings and you have to answer the door to a Girl Guide selling cookies, or to a friendly neighbour checking in to see if you’ve been eaten by the cat, you’ll be glad you did (Either that or you’ll have to hide, which makes you feel both furtive and a little silly). Being groomed also means you can leave the house if you have to. And don’t forget the makeup. In this instance, it fits in the category of fake it till you make it: research shows that wearing makeup makes people perceive you as more likable, trustworthy and competent.
2. Get (and keep) one room clean and tidy.
Chances are that if things have been going wrong, you haven’t kept up with the house. When things are super messy, that outer chaos adds to your inner chaos. While it is unrealistic at this point to think you can suddenly get everything clean and tidy, you can get started with one room – even if you have to pick the smallest room in the house (at some times in my life this has been the toilet). You need to then commit to keeping that room tidy so you have one place you can walk into that makes you feel at peace. You can also start implementing the one minute rule, which will slowly restore order without you feeling like you’re expending a lot of effort.
Now that you have yourself and one room tidy and presentable, it’s time to move on to Number 3.
3. Put on a load of washing.
Once that load has finished, get it dry. Don’t worry if you don’t iron it. Don’t worry if you don’t put it away. But with clean clothes for you and your family you’re avoiding the stress of having to go out in public with dirty and / or stained clothing that seems to proclaim to everyone and then some that you’re not coping with life. It’s another example of fake it until you make it.
4. Check your food supplies.
You’re looking for meals that take only 15-20 minutes to cook, or emergency meals that require little more than heating up. If you’ve been doing meal planning, then you’ll already have these sorted, you may just have to juggle things around a little. If you don’t have anything on hand, get to the supermarket (aren’t you glad you made yourself presentable now?) and purchase the healthiest, quickest to cook food that you can. For example, you can buy several cooked chickens and prepared salads that will take the pressure off you for several days without you having to resort to unhealthy and expensive takeaways.
Congratulate yourself for having made it so far! You’ve now done the basics that will keep things ticking over while you get your head in the right space.
5. Do a brain dump of your to-dos.
Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea, and now write down everything you need to do. Once you have written the list, down look at it carefully and rank the items in order of what will have the most impact on the week ahead to the least. For example, you may have some important emails sitting in your inbox that need replying to that will significantly impact your day tomorrow. You may also need to check the gutters on your house. Both are important. One is urgent. That one goes at the top of the list. Once you have ranked the items, decide how many you can cope with for the rest of the day. Remember less is more here- better to say two and do ten than the other way around. Now do them and do them in order.
Applying a version of the Pareto principle also works here. If you haven’t heard of that before, it’s the idea that 20% of your efforts gets you 80% of your results. Ask yourself, given that you can’t actually get everything done, if you were only to do three of the things on your list, which three would have the biggest impact? Once you’ve worked those out, then get to it and do them. The other things may not be as important as you think.
6. Control something you can.
Our stress comes when we feel out of control. The steps that you’ve taken so far have all been about taking back control in ways within the world that is your home. Now you need to take it to the next level- make a small demand of someone else outside of the house. I’m not advocating being rude, but as an example, if say a colleague wants to meet with you, email back and say “I am only available at 4.30pm on Thursday.” Try this. It will seriously make you feel better.
7. Take some time to think about all the times you’ve struggled before but have pulled through.
Chances are that in your life to date you’ve actually had to deal with worse than this. Of course this doesn’t mean your feelings aren’t valid. But your perspective on what’s going on can be as strong as the circumstances (Read my article on setting your intentions to see how you can use this for your benefit). By thinking about these things you can see that you are capable of dealing with whatever you have going on at the moment. You’ve done it before- you can do it again.
8. Finish the day.
If you still have energy left, go read my post on daily routines and do the tasks for the evening. It will take you 40 minutes but by doing so you’ll be set for tomorrow.
Congratulations! You made it. You got through the day and made it better than it was when it started. I know I didn’t say anything about the scenarios mentioned at the beginning of this post, and that’s not a mistake. None of those issues will change because of anything you do here. But you will feel better equipped to deal with them. You need to take care of yourself, to feel calmer and more in control, before you start dealing with the big stuff.
Things will get better – they always do. Until then, just keep swimming.
What practical things have helped you cope in times of crisis?
Need some help?
Download my free checklist to help you get through today. You'll also be subscribed to my weekly updates.