Putting the brakes on panic mode

For the past four months or so, I’ve been working two jobs. Both jobs are part-time, so on paper at least, it’s totally doable. But apparently when you add two part-time jobs that don’t behave like part-time jobs should to an already pretty full life, it’s bound to cause some problems.

With one job in ministry and the other in social media, I found myself constantly working. And if I wasn’t working on one of those “real” jobs, I was working on this blog or freelance work. Even at home during my “off” hours, my head seemed permanently buried in my laptop, even though my heart knew that wasn’t right. My neck ached from the tension of it all.

Nearly as soon as I started, I realized I’d taken on too much. But by then I didn’t know how to untangle the mess my days had become. Everything on my plate was good, so how could I possibly give up any of it? Still, I could hear the sound of my voice when I snapped, “Just a MINUTE! I’m WORKING!” once again.

Something had to give.

And something did. I can’t tell you all the details just yet, but soon I’ll explain exactly what I’m doing these days. (Seriously. I know that’s vague and annoying and WHY CAN’T I JUST SAY WHAT I MEAN ALREADY, but I promise I’ll give you the full low down next week.)

Now, thankfully, I’m moving into a new season – one I’m hoping will have more peace than panic, more calm than chaos. Not a whole lot more, of course. I wouldn’t want to get bored. But a few afternoons with breathing room and some more weekends with free time sound lovely.

As it turns out, though, shifting out of panic mode isn’t as simple as it sounds. Spending months in a permanent state of fight or flight, putting out fires while dropping balls and juggling plates really takes a toll on a person – and adjusting to this full but less stressful life is taking longer than I expected.

As I’ve struggled to adjust to a different pace, I’ve found a few steps helpful in putting the brakes on panic mode.

Ripple

1. Breathe. I know, I know – DUH. But maybe, if you’re like me and coming down off a crazy season, that isn’t so obvious.

I have two beautiful Lisa Leonard bracelets that keep me going when I’m having a rough day. Over the past four months I’ve had one or the other on my wrist pretty much at all times. On the days I’ve needed to be brave or strong, I wore the silver bracelet that says, “Dream God-sized dreams.” And on the days I needed to be calm, I wore the bracelet that says, “Be still and know.”

These days I’m still dreaming God-sized dreams, but I’m wearing the Be still and know bracelet. Because right now I need to recalibrate more than just my schedule, my diet, my laundry. I need to recalibrate my heart – and that will only happen if I take time to breathe, to listen, to unplug.

So if you’re winding down after a chaotic time, remember first to just breathe.

2. Evaluate your time and energy. As I shared a few weeks ago, I didn’t go into this change blindly. The decisions I made didn’t come easily or without sadness, and I didn’t want them to be in vain. In other words, I didn’t want to make a bunch of changes and come out the other side just as stressed, just as exhausted, just as panicked. So I took a long, hard look at where my time was going.

On one hand, it confirmed that I couldn’t possibly do everything I needed to – not unless Daylight Savings meant we got an actual extra hour each day! But auditing my time also helped me realize that part of my struggle wasn’t simply having too many things to do; it was when I was doing them.

Now that my days are structured differently than they were before, I’m really thinking hard about when I plan to do certain tasks. For example? No more trying to write at night after Annalyn is in bed. My body is still wide awake (hellooooo, Night Owl!), but my brain is shot. So evening hours are best spent answering emails, folding laundry (ugh.) or browsing Pinterest while I watch my shows.

Adirondack chairs

3. Take some time off. I didn’t schedule a vacation in between jobs (although I did just get back from a conference, so I guess I did), but I have taken time to relax as I transition.

That’s not to say I’ve been lounging around all week; I haven’t. I’ve done enough laundry that for about 3.2 minutes this morning, the hamper was actually empty. But I’ve also finished watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries (Have you watched this? YOU MUST. It is SO GOOD.) and caught up on the episodes of Happy Endings I haven’t had time for in the past few weeks. I’m looking forward to diving into some new projects I’ve made room for – but not until next week.

4. Lower the bar. One night I was lamenting to a friend on Skype about how I have too much to do and not enough time and blah-blah-blah. She said she understood, that she was in the same boat. I asked her if she was always dropping balls. She said yes. Then I asked, “Don’t you feel like you’re always letting people down? Don’t you feel like a failure?”

That’s when she shocked me out of my whine fest. She said, “Nope. I just set the bar REAL low. So anything I accomplish is a big deal!”

Huh. Just like that, she defined “giving up on perfect and getting on with life.” Dang it, I hate when friends school me on my own blog’s purpose and tagline!

Seriously, though, she has a great point. Think twice about those goals you set for your new season in life. Choose wisely what projects and priorities you put on your freshly cleaned plate. Delegate. Say no. Lower the bar.

Now, I’m going to read a chapter in the book I just picked up at the library. And after Annalyn is in bed tonight, I’m going to sweep and mop my kitchen floor for the first time in WHY ARE YOU ASKING. Then I’m going to pin a few recipes to try out and go to bed early so I can get up in the morning and read my Bible.

THAT is how I’m putting the brakes on my panic mode.

How about you? Have you ever had to adjust from a crazy busy season to a more calm one? What steps helped you?

Comments

  1. Looking forward to hearing what’s next for you!

  2. Always starts with morning time and re-adjusting my mind, heart, schedule, plans. Writing it out on paper helps keep me focused. Taking things off my plate. On-going for me! :) Great post, Mary!

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect says:

      Thank you, Sandy!! And YES, writing it all down on paper makes a HUGE difference in my life, too!

  3. I found myself in panic mode recently, too. Just writing about it really helped me see the situation with fresh eyes, and realize that it was OKAY to give myself a break – if that meant grabbing dinner from a sandwich shop one night, or just ignoring the dishes pililng up, or just going to bed already!!! when I knew I was exhausted but felt like I had too much to do to allow myself to rest. Rest is an essential part of life. I know this! I just need a little reminding now and again.

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect says:

      Good for you, Sarah – realizing what was going on AND treating yourself kindly. We all need rest to be refreshed!

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