That nightmare week when everything seems to go wrong. When your head is spinning, and everything feels like too much. We’ve all been there. For me, that happened last week, and I’d like to share how I could find calm within the chaos.
There were a lot of things that contributed to this overwhelming storm. I couldn’t process or deal with one problem before the next one popped up.
Most of these events weren’t necessarily bad things. But as a highly sensitive person, even good changes can feel like too much since they’re disruptions to my everyday routines.
I’d like to share what happened, as well as how I dealt with all of these changes. It’s a peek into how my life is going, but I also hope that it may help you if you’re struggling with the chaos of everyday life. Basically, I’m going to be doing some complaining, but I also want to offer ways to cope.
In general, these things are beneficial for highly sensitive people, who are more easily overwhelmed by sensory information or changes to their routines. However, anyone can get that frazzled, wound-up feeling. I think having strategies to reduce that feeling is always helpful.
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Living situation things
My boyfriend and I have talked about our desires to leave our current apartment when our lease is up. We want an upgrade with more space, but we were okay with waiting about six more months (or so we thought). There’s nothing wrong or bad with our apartment, but it’s definitely not the best.
With working from home, all of our space is mixed-use. The bedroom is also my office, the living room is also where we eat (on the couch, don’t have space for a dining table), and my boyfriend’s area for working and gaming. Of course, I am grateful for this apartment and our ability to afford it during a pandemic while others have been much less fortunate. But just in terms of our own lives, there is not a ton of separation or space.
A potential upgrade
With a townhouse like we’re looking at, we would have spaces for different activities. They’re almost double the square footage of our current apartment, plus we’d have another bedroom, bathroom, and a small backyard. I was looking online and found the perfect place that we both loved. It had everything that we’re looking for and was doable in terms of rent. Also, it was gorgeous and had tons of natural light.
This drove us to learn about breaking our lease (which would cost 4 months of rent all at once), which seemed crazy. But we had an honest conversation about it, and we were willing to do it because the place was worth it. We sent an inquiry about touring and waited a few days with no response. My boyfriend called the realtor and found out that it had been rented immediately after going on the market, almost two months ago. (Side note, I will probably not trust any listings on Zillow anymore.)
So we’re staying put for the time being. There was no net change with this one, but it was an emotional roller coaster as we prepared to spend a lot of money only to be disappointed.
It was also a learning experience for my boyfriend and me. We have a better idea of how we’re going to look for a new place closer to when our lease is actually ending. I know that it happened for a reason and that we’ll find the right place when the time comes.
Career fair things
I was asked to help with a virtual career fair that my company participated in at my alma mater. My group has a few open positions that we’re looking to hire, so I helped recruit for those. I would like to note that this is typically something that I would have avoided participating in, so the main point is that I’m proud of myself for doing it anyway.
Let’s just say that it was better than an in-person career fair, but I was still completely exhausted by the end of the day. I didn’t even talk to anyone qualified for the positions. Most of the students were looking for internships, and we’re hiring for a full-time job.
I talked to more strangers that day than I have in the past year.
As an introverted, anxious, and highly sensitive person, there were so many layers of stress. Seeing people waiting in the queue, searching through countless resumes to find anyone with relevant experience, initiating conversations repeatedly, the pressure of having to summarize the discussions and rate the candidates. More bad things than good, if we’re being honest.
Overall, it was an interesting time, but it was also incredibly draining.
New hire things
Let’s keep this short because no one wants to hear about work, and a lot of the time I don’t want to talk about it either, lol.
I work on a small team (6 people) that is basically going to double in size this year with all of the recent college grads that are being hired. There will be many new people in the department, and this is the most hiring that’s gone on since I started almost two years ago.
I’m currently the only woman on the team (and in the department, love being an engineer!) and one of two people under 35. This doesn’t bother me, and it’s what I’m used to and what I’ve come to be most comfortable with. It’s just the way it is.
Even though the new people won’t start for a few more months, I’m coming to the realization that the whole group dynamic will change. I won’t be ‘the new girl’, but actually one of the more experienced people, even if that’s only two years of experience.
I’m trying not to worry about this too much because I don’t know what it will really be like until it happens. I’m just mulling it over and acknowledging that this will be another change that I’ll have to adapt to.
Again, I’ll keep this short. The only thing more boring than doing your own taxes is listening to someone else talk about theirs. (Unless you’re into that sort of thing. In which case, thank you for understanding taxes, so people like me don’t have to!)
All I really needed to do was complete my taxes for last year, and my boyfriend needed to do his as well. We went over to my parents’ house, and my dad helped us with any questions.
My boyfriend completed his no problem, and then we got to mine. Basically, something wasn’t adding up, and it turned out to be caused by a bug in the TurboTax software. Luckily, my dad was able to figure it out (thanks, Dad!), and it wasn’t too much of a hassle.
This is probably the least chaotic thing on this list, which is saying something about my life lately. It was just another adult thing in an already overwhelming week.
I have two guinea pigs, Timmy and Tommy, and yes, I was really into Animal Crossing when I got them. They are my babies, and most of the time they’re well-behaved.
If you’re not familiar with guinea pigs, they are social animals and should generally have a friend in the cage. Girls tend to get along better and can be kept in pairs, trios, or larger groups. On the other hand, boys can be in pairs at most, and they’re more likely to have issues with fighting and aggression. In our case, Tommy is 100% the boss. Timmy respects that, but he has his own boundaries. (I could go on and on about guinea pig bonding and the best ways to keep the peace, but I’ll stop myself here, lol.)
Timmy and Tommy get along pretty well because they’re brothers, but they do have their moments. They always work it out in the end, but sometimes the process is messy. This is, of course, what happened this week.
I was tidying up their cage, like I do every evening, and they were up in the loft area that they can get to with a ramp. Timmy wanted to get down, but Tommy was blocking his access to the ramp. Suddenly, it was a tense situation, and they were both making their warning noises.
Rather than let Timmy pass, Tommy held his ground. Timmy really wanted to get down, so he took a chance and basically jumped over his brother. There was a big scuffle, and it was not fun to watch as they fought it out. They tend to be on edge for a while and want a lot of personal space while they cool off.
Afterward, I noticed Timmy was reluctant to put weight on one of his front paws. He kept holding it off the ground and licking at it. Probably the result of the acrobatics that he was really not made to do.
I was upset
Like I said, these little stinkers mean the world to me. Any time they fight, I probably end up more upset than they are. The fights always seem to happen at night, and I’m glued to their cage watching them until I go to bed.
This night, I was so worried that something serious had happened with Timmy’s little leg. He didn’t seem to be in a ton of pain, but guinea pigs are good at hiding it as prey animals.
My boyfriend, always the best at soothing my worries, put things in perspective. He didn’t think it looked too bad, and he pointed out how they had stopped going at each other after a while. Luckily, they don’t hold grudges for too long.
He helped me calm down that night. I’m also super grateful that Timmy’s foot injury wasn’t actually too bad. By the next morning, he was walking around fine as if it had never happened.
This added another layer of stress to my chaotic week. It caused me to stay up later than usual and not sleep very well. Being sleep-deprived generally makes all emotional reactions more unmanageable, at least for me. Most of the time, my boys are the highlight of my day, but that’s not always true!
Finding the Calm
The goal when you’re overwhelmed is to bring order back to your mind and life and process any changes that are happening. Remember, as a highly sensitive person, even happy or exciting changes can seem like they’re too much at times.
These coping strategies calmed me down and slowed all those racing thoughts. You may not be able to deal with everything in the moment, and that’s okay. It’s still valuable to work through things a few days or weeks later so that you’re not just pushing down emotions that you’re feeling but not acknowledging.
You might resonate with these tips, or maybe there’s something else that works better for you. This is just a list to help you get started if you need that, but feel free to just go with what feels right.
Talking it out
Even being as introverted as I am, talking it out can really make a difference!
Talking to another person and explaining what’s going on forces me to put my thoughts together. It’s more coherent than the worried loop that is often playing over and over in my head. It helps make the event or change real because you’re voicing it and sharing it with someone else.
Hopefully, the person you’re confiding in will be able to provide some perspective. Maybe you are taking something out of proportion and making it a bigger deal than it needs to be. Perhaps you’re not, but there might be a solution or mindset change that you hadn’t considered.
You can still do this even if you don’t have someone to necessarily talk to. Try just talking things over with yourself out loud. Maybe you live alone, but you can still speak to a pet, a plant or object, or even yourself in the mirror.
Slowing down your thoughts enough to speak about them is always beneficial for me. It also helps by forcing you to focus on one thing at a time instead of seeing the situations all muddled together.
Leaving work at work
This tip is obviously more applicable to stressful situations at your job. And with many people working from home, it has been increasingly difficult to let go of work thoughts when you’re done for the day.
There a lot of suggestions for how to distinguish and separate your work and personal lives when you’re working from home, and I encourage you to seek those out if you need tips.
For my situation, I work in a lab where I need to go into the office most days, even during the pandemic. That has its own pros and cons, and one positive is the ability to leave my work environment.
I’m definitely guilty of continuing to overthink my workday once I come home. I’ll often recap my whole day to my boyfriend, and it’s nice to share, but it usually causes me to think about the events more than I really need to. If something bugged me, it’ll bug me all over again, even when there’s nothing I can do about it.
One mindset change that I’m trying to implement is clearing my thoughts when I leave the office for the day. I’ll still share some things with my boyfriend, but I don’t want to continue to analyze every little detail for the rest of the night.
This should help me cut back on stressing about work things and give me more mental space to enjoy my night. I think it will be easier to unwind if I consciously decide to leave work at work.
Self-care and extra sleep
Self-care is SO IMPORTANT for getting those frazzled feelings under control. It helps to ground you and center you in the present moment. Caring for yourself will always be worth the time you take to do it. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just focus on the things you enjoy and what makes you feel good.
I did a lot of reading during my chaotic week as a way to wind down at night. I’m currently reading Gemina, the second book in a futuristic YA sci-fi trilogy. It’s not a great example of a calming book since it’s full of action and high-stakes situations. Still, it’s excellent at drawing me in, and I quickly forget about everything else going on.
Another part of my self-care was sleep. I tried to get to bed at a reasonable time every night because sleep deprivation makes everything worse. I’ve noticed that I have a lower tolerance for things going wrong, stronger emotional reactions, and trouble concentrating or being productive. There’s also plenty of research to back this up! The point is, prioritize a good night’s sleep as much as you can.
It can be hard to make time for self-care when things feel frantic and overwhelming. Maybe you don’t have more than a few spare minutes, but the intention still matters. It can be as simple as lighting a candle while you work or clean or taking an extra-luxurious shower with your favorite soap. My favorite candles are from Confetti Candle Co on Etsy. Their natural soy wax candles come in a wide variety of simple scents. I love the lavender vanilla scent for when I am relaxing before bed.
If a loved one was overwhelmed or had too much going on, you’d probably tell them to slow down and take it easy. So you should extend the same compassion to yourself! If you’re interested in diving deeper into self-care, check out my Practical Self-Care series. So far, I have shared my self-care journey and how to get started with self-care.
This one is similar to talking it out because you’re forced to slow your racing thoughts down to form coherent sentences. Maybe you already know if you process difficult situations better by writing or talking. If not, I encourage you to try both and see which one makes you feel better.
I’m sure you can guess what you’re supposed to do here. Get out a notebook or your phone or anything else you like to write on. And then write. Anything that comes to mind. Get it all out onto the paper or screen.
It may just flow, or it may feel like a struggle to come up with the right words. I’ve often found that I’ll write for a few minutes and then think that I’m done. But if I push myself to keep going, that’s usually when the insights or aha moments come in. When you dig a little deeper and get to the root of whatever you’re thinking about.
This writing can absolutely be 100% private. No one has to see or know what you wrote, and that freedom is often the beauty of it. I do a lot of journaling myself, and only occasionally will I share it (which is what you’re reading here!).
And we’re finally at the end of how I was able to find calm in the chaos. I’m taking time to recharge, so I’m ready to handle whatever comes next.
If you’re also having a crappy or overwhelming week, know that I’m rooting for you! And I hope that you’re able to find some calm.
What’s your favorite way to deal when everything is going wrong? Or, what’s something that did go right for you this week? Let me know by leaving a comment!
2020 Reading Wrap-up
How To Get Started With Self-Care
The Importance Of Taking A Break
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