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mental health

Overwhelmed and eliminating it, day 2: Getting organized

someecards.com - I had every intention of cleaning the basement, but I got so pissed off with my lack of organization, I just went back upstairs & madeSo now you’ve written down your goals and placed them somewhere conspicuous. That’s a great first step because now you know what you’re focusing on and what actions you need to take to achieve those goals. But now comes the next step: getting organized.

Organization is a great way to help contain the feeling of being overwhelmed. I know for me, when I’m in a clean, organized, and functional environment, it’s much easier to start (and finish) tasks. I can think more rationally (and confidently!) about what I need to do instead of getting frustrated and feeling hopeless that nothing will get accomplished. That is productive only for my progress on Candy Crush. Knowing that, I decided to do something about it.

But how did I do it? Well, that’s what I’m here to tell you. Here’s a few of my favorite organizational techniques:

1. Clean and decluttering my environment. One of my anxiety triggers is a messy, cluttered desk (and house. I hate living in a cluttered house. My family doesn’t seem to mind it as much). If I look at my desk and there’s too much crap on and around it, I get so overwhelmed at the site that I walk away.  I simply cannot function in that kind of environment and goals won’t be reached if I walk away. So, the first step to getting organized was to clean my desk. I dusted, threw out anything that I didn’t need or got in the way, sorted my office supplies and files, and moved the child’s stuff into its own corner of the office. Then I harassed my husband to finally clean up his stuff, too. Because we share an office and stepping over his crap to get to my desk thwarted all my attempts to create a clean environment.  And finally, I reorganized and cleaned the bookshelf in our office so I could easily find fiction, nonfiction, reference, and children’s books (yes, I am a nerd. I embrace that). Walking into that kind of functional space makes it a much more inviting environment to work.

2. Keep one central calendar. Although we have a calendar in our kitchen, that’s more for family informational purposes (and so my husband knows where to look to find out such crucial information). I put appointments, school closings, birthdays, parties, and family events on that calendar; that’s it. But on my desk sits the master calendar that not only contains all of the same information as the family calendar but all of my deadlines for Bloggers Helping Bloggers, guest post and freelancing posts due dates, library book due dates, paydays, Zumba stuff, and pretty much everything else you can think of to put on a calendar. Having it all in one place not only keeps me organized but if I’m overwhelmed with the amount of obligations, I can look at the calendar and know when to say “no”.  Being able to say “no” definitely helps keep the overwhelmedness to a minimum (this is actually going to be its own post).

3. Storage containers. Storage containers have been a lifesaver for me. They help keep my desk, pantry, child’s toys, pet stuff, and fabric organized instead of in a jumbled mess. They make it so if I need an item, I know exactly where to go. There’s no wasting time looking for keys or my Beaker Tervis cup or the dogs favorite toys or corn starch or anything I could need. And not only are they functional, they’re kind of pretty (well, the ones I can afford are kind of pretty. The ones I want are very pretty). They’re an easy, cheap, and productive way to make a room nicer (a clean room is a nicer room) and with the amount of sizes, shapes, colors, and prices, there’s a way to fit all my needs and budget circumstances. Also included in this category are notebooks. I love notebooks. I have them for a variety of projects and ideas, and they’re all properly labeled. Granted they’re filled with notes and post-its, but at least I know where to find them all!

Getting organized is so essential not only to mental health but to working towards your goals. When you’re organized you can actually see what’s in front of you instead of digging through a mess.  If you’re anything like me, once you’re done digging through the mess, you’re too exhausted to do anything else. And that leads to frustration and anger and feeling overwhelmed that there’s just too much to do and the important goals will never get attended to. It’s a vicious cycle. So why not just take a few hours and get organized. Because once you are organized, it’s much easier to stay that way.

Readers, what’s your favorite organizational tip? Leave it in the comments and let’s all get organized together!


Overwhelmed and eliminating it, day 1: Setting goals


A few days ago, starting this series seemed like a good idea. After all, it’s been something I’ve wanted to do, I

know it’ll help some readers, and maybe it’ll be something I can turn into a short eBook, helping solve a little bit of my income problem. But when I sat down to start it, guess what happened? Yup. I got overwhelmed.

How’s that for a kick in the face?

I got overwhelmed mainly for two reasons: one, I had no clue what should be the correct order of tasks and two, thinking of how I am going to get it all done. In fact, these thoughts almost prompted me to shutter the series with a heartfelt apology before I even started. But then I stepped back, took a deep breath, allowed the anxiety to have it’s moment, and moved on.

If you’re facing a mountain of debt, you’ve probably experienced similar thoughts, particularly once you’ve listed all of your debt. You look at the total and think “holy shit! There is no way I am ever going to pay all of this off before I die. It’s impossible and I should just quit now. And where do I even start?!” Then you might yell, decide it’s not worth the effort, and curl into a ball and cry (or was that just me?).

But just like me quitting the series before it starts, crying, yelling, and ignoring the problem isn’t going to make it go away. I’d still want to write a series and you’ll still want to pay off your debt (or whatever huge hurdle you’re facing). So how do we get over feeling overwhelmed at the massiveness of the challenge we’re facing?

Well, to start, we need to set goals. It is virtually impossible to do anything without knowing what you want to accomplish. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take out a piece of paper and pen, or whatever goal tracking app you like to use, and write down both short and long term goals. For instance, if you’re overwhelmed at how much debt to pay off, your goals can look like this:

Long term

  1. Be debt free
  2. Maximize my savings and retirement fund
  3. Travel
  4. Pay cash for my dream car

Short term

  1. Eliminate 2 debts within 6 months
  2. Start an emergency fund
  3. Open a retirement account

Seems pretty simple, right? It is. Because they’re your goals and they can be anything you want them to be. Just make sure you write them down and put them somewhere conspicuous (I hang mine on the bulletin board above my desk).

You are also going to want to list all the action steps you need to take to accomplish the goals. Those action steps are what you are going to focus on to get over feeling overwhelmed. Having a plan of attack, with specific, achievable, easy to complete tasks is actually very calming. You’ll know exactly what you need to do without having to think too much about it and, while the list might be long, you really just need accomplish one task at a time. Don’t look at every single one every day. Look at the one you can do right now and then do it. Maybe it’s making the initial deposit in a savings account. Maybe it’s paying an extra $10 to your student loan. Maybe it’s creating a Pinterest board of all the things you’d like to do once you have the money. Just do something small, something simple to get you started. You’ll find that doing one small thing and checking it off your list will make the entirety of what you have to do seem much less overwhelming. And it’ll also be much easier to do the next item. A momentum snowball, if you will.

The thing about goals is that they set the foundation for everything else you are going to do. Goals give you focus and direction and make a daunting situation seem that much less so. You will know what you are aiming for and you’ll have a sense of purpose as to why you’re doing it.


So let’s get started. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about something, what are some goals you can set to help manage that feeling? Leave them in the comments below if you want, share them on Facebook, or write them down for your own private use. Just get them out there!


Overwhelmed and eliminating it: The series

OverwhelmedFor a long time, I’ve wanted to do a month long series on DMS. I love the ones that Money Saving Mom, and several other bloggers, do. They’re informative, helpful, encourage action, and are engaging. But I didn’t want to do something like housecleaning or how to declutter or organizing your finances or renovating your grocery shopping habits. Those have already been done by Money Saving Mom and a number of other bloggers; I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. And those series are also really, really good. Probably better than what I could come up with (if you’re interested in those, I’ll be happy to point you in their direction).

So I decided to focus on something else. It’s more…feelings oriented but it’s a feeling that, if we’re not careful, can have a series impact on our finances. What am I talking about? I’m talking about feeling overwhelmed.

I once wrote a post about how I get overwhelmed and intimidated by other bloggers, specifically the fact that most of them seem more ambitious, dedicated, and creative than I. Many bloggers seem to have a number of successful ventures running at one time but meanwhile, I can’t even finish half a thought without getting sidetracked. While this has improved slightly since I wrote that last post, I still find myself getting overwhelmed with just how much there is to do.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has a problem with this. So I figured we could work through it together.

The series will focus 21 tasks I’ve established to manage feeling overwhelmed with work, life, blogging (or whatever hobbies you have), and everything else that happens on a basis. Starting Friday 5/3 (spending freeze recap will be tomorrow), and throughout the month of May, we’ll discuss a problem that causes anxiety and feeling overwhelmed and actions we can take to fix the problem (and we’ll also talk about how it can affect your finances. This is a personal finance site after all!). We’ll further the discussion on Facebook so make sure to like Daily Money Shot and participate in those discussions. I’d love your input!

Here’s the master list of tasks we’ll discuss (note—while the list is not in order, the tasks will be written in such a way that you can build on each new task with the previous one):

  1. Get organized
  2. Tackle one task at a time
  3. Make a list and prioritize that list
  4. Take a break
  5. Do a social media detox
  6. Create a schedule
  7. Accept your weaknesses
  8. Play to your strengths
  9. Don’t compare your situation to others
  10. Ask for help
  11. Limit your obligations
  12. Take a day off
  13. Make time for yourself
  14. Minimize and/or simplify
  15. Automate your finances
  16. Keep one master calendar
  17. Eliminate things you don’t like
  18. Create a meal plan
  19. Do what works for you
  20. Set goals. Write them down.
  21. Realize that it’s okay not to be perfect

A quick reminder: I am not a mental health professional. This series is based entirely on my experience living with anxiety and a paralyzing sense of feeling overwhelmed. If you are experiencing severe anxiety, depression, or any other type of mental dis-ease (got this from Joe Pantoliano’s book Asylum. A great read, by the way), please seek professional help.

So, who’s ready to conquer the beast of overwhelmedness (is that a word? No? It is now).


Inexpensive techniques for lifting a bad mood

Ever feel really crappy to the point of not wanting to get off your couch, not wanting to talk to anyone, not wanting to shower or even wear clean clothes? Me, too. And it sucks. A lot. Especially when it's hard to explain why you feel so awful when, on the surface, it doesn't look like there's anything to feel bad about. But it happens and we have to live with it.

Moods like that are hard to break. Believe me, I've tried. And over the last year, I have worked hard developing techniques and ideas to prevent that from happening again. Since we have a one-income budget and money doesn't flow as freely as it once did, I've devised some free and inexpensive ways to snap my bad mood when they happen:

Browse Pinterest. I realize this can have the reverse effect, particularly if you spend time browsing all the perfect homes and crafts and fashions. So don't do that. Instead, browse the animals section for a dose of fuzzy cuteness (this is my personal favorite section) or the humor section for a good laugh or inspirational, uplifting quotes. Create a board of all of your favorite feel good pins so the next time you're feeling bad, you have them all in one place. Or make a collage of your favorites, print a copy and hang it around your house or desk at work or wherever you need it.

Exercise. When my depression was diagnosed, my therapist mandated that I exercise in conjunction with my therapy and meds. And I can tell you, when I exercise regularly, I feel so much better. If going to a gym is too expensive, look for free classes in your community or find cheap, one time fee drop in classes. Or get outside and walk in the park or your neighborhood. Or rent an exercise DVD from the library or use Pinterest or YouTube to find routines you can do at home. Even 15 minutes is enough to make a difference.

Create. There is just something therapeutic about creating something. Not only does it take your mind off of what's bothering you but it boosts your ego a bit when you've finished the project. You can sit back and say “hey, I made that” and honestly. it feels great to say that. Instant mood lifter. It doesn't matter if it's something as simple as coloring a rainbow or paint by numbers or as sophisticated as cooking a gourmet meal or composing a song. When you're feeling down, tune into your creativity and indulge it. It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive either. A pen and the back of an envelope are enough.

Rest. Sometimes the stress of daily life gets to be too overwhelming. There are chores and errands and work and family obligations and bills and so many other stressors that after awhile, it takes its toll on a person. With all the demands on our time, and the desire to do it all perfectly (is that just me?), it's no wonder we're all so anxious and depressed. If you're feeling like this, give yourself permission to rest. Take a day off. Let the laundry go another day. Eat cereal for dinner. Go to bed early. Say no to plans. Nothing cures a bad mood faster than a good day's (and night's) rest. And, as an added bonus, it's free!

Make a gratitude list. There is no better way to feel shitty about yourself and your life than to compare it to those whose lives you perceive as perfect. Yes, there are people who are richer and in better shape and have a nicer house and more money. But so what? That doesn't devalue your life, home, health or anything else. When you're feeling down, make a list of 10 things you are grateful for; it doesn't need to be a list of material things. Anything you are grateful for will do. When you're done, take a few moments to reflect on what you wrote down. It'll encourage you to feel better (even when you don't want to).

As someone who has to work hard at being happy and feeling good, I employ these techniques often (but within reason). They really do work, and the effects last longer than a day at the spa or shopping. Because while those provide momentary relief, when they're done, that's it. There's no more. And then there's the whole dealing with the amount of money spent which causes more stress and depression and kind of defeats the purpose.

Readers, what are some inexpensive activities you engage in to help lift your mood?


When driven meets depression

A few days ago, someone described me using a word I never expected. He said I am driven.

I guess, on the surface, it looks that way. After all, in the year since I've left full-time, traditional employment, I've started a mentoring program (which, after my daughter, is the best thing I've ever created), started a blogger consulting business, finished NaNoWriMo and am currently editing the manuscript, have 2 other ideas I'm working on, and a few other personal things that I'm not ready to discuss (I know. It's surprising that I am not willing to share something. Maybe someday). And I somehow manage to work on all of this every week.

(And I've stopped napping every day, too. Okay, fine. I've stopped napping most days. That's a big accomplishment.)

While this may seem like the week of a driven, motivated person, it's really not. Because there, lurking beneath the surface, is my old nemesis. Depression. And her asshole sidekick, anxiety. When the two of them get together, they make it so that no matter how much I do or don't do, it just doesn't seem like enough. Or that I am doing something wrong. Or that I am not working hard enough and I should be doing more. Or that even my successes are somehow failures.

It's pretty shitty to live in my head. It's not fun to think that no matter how much you do or how hard you work, there should be more. I constantly doubt everything I do and every decision I make because that's what depression does. It gets a stranglehold on your self-esteem and self-worth and tells you you're not good enough and never will be. Depression is a big fat liar but it's really persuasive. You can help but buy what it's selling.

It's even more frustrating this time around because last year, I emerged victorious from a pretty severe bout of depression. (Actually, that bout was pretty damn close to a breakdown, but we can talk about that another time).

But that's not the worst part. No, for someone like me, who has tons of ideas and wants to work hard at refining them and making them the best I possibly can, the roadblocks that depression throws in the way are the worst part. When I am in the thick of an episode–like now–it takes everything I have to just barely function, never mind function at the capacity I know I can. And when I do have to fire with all cylinders, I am so exhausted for the next few days that even cooking dinner or doing anything that's not sitting on the couch takes every bit of energy I have. As a result, I spend days or weeks just doing the minimum I need to and falling behind, which costs me money and, even worse, opportunity.

Now that I think about it, maybe that's actually the worst part. Losing opportunity means that I am not advancing my ideas or selling my products and services or doing everything in my power to put DMS and Bloggers Helping Bloggers at the top of their game. None of my projects are where I want them to be and having to compromise my standards because of something I can't control just ramps up the anxiety and all it winds up creating is a shitstorm of frustration, lack of motivation, and a complete withdrawal from everything I enjoy and care about, although somehow I am able to pull it together for my daughter. I genuinely don't know how. Maybe it's the meds.

I hate depression. I hate that no matter how hard I try, I can't get rid of it. It's always there, like a really creepy stalker waiting to pounce as soon as I stop checking for it around the corner. While I am better armed to deal with its attacks now, and have figured out a way to at least control my money when it hits, it still hurts just as much.

The good news is that I know it'll eventually dissipate. The severity of this latest round will lessen and I will get back to my version of normal. I'll get back on track with all my projects and work at the capacity I know I can. I appreciate all of you hanging in there with me, letting me rant about my mental health issues, and the incredible support you give me daily. It's what prevented me from quitting blogging and it's what's giving me the encouragement to continue.

Well, that, and I really want to see my book in a bookstore.