Five Ways to Keep Your Head When You’re Stretched Too Thin

Without going into all the details, I need to tell you guys that I am stretched awfully thin these days. The kind of stretched thin where even making a to-do list is overwhelming, where the laundry piles up for what feels like years, and the idea of new things on the calendar — even invites to do something fun — feels exhausting.

That said, I scrapped my half-assed drafted post for today and decided to do what I do best: write it out.

I need the guidance I’m giving today.

It’s easy to spiral into an anxious mess when your life is overscheduled or emotionally messy. It’s easy to give up, do the bare minimum, and wait it out. I have done this. I did this Sunday night.

But schlepping through the tough stuff is what life is about. When I follow the rules outlined below, life is better. My problems don’t go away, but they don’t feel so big.

Note to those of you who are worried: Life is busy and stressful, but everyone and everything is just fine.

1. Stick to your schedule.

When I am overwhelmed, the first things to go out the window are often the things I need the most. I’ll rush off to work without my allergy medicine, or my coffee, or a lunch. Or maybe all three if I’m really on a roll.

That means I’ll have a sore throat, a raging caffeine-withdrawal headache, and I’ll spend $10-15 on a salad in the cafeteria.

If I take less than ten minutes in the evening to pack a lunch and set the coffee to brew, I save myself a world of hurt the next day. I don’t do this evening prep all the time, but try to prioritize it when I know I could use the help come morning.

2. Exercise.

Exercise is easy to blow off for another hour of sleep. And sometimes this is what my body needs. But, mostly, blowing off exercise is just lazy. I never, ever regret a workout, but I almost always regret skipping one. Just like Elle Woods taught us, exercise gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy.

I’ve Pinned a bunch of 30 minute or less workouts here, if you need to power through exercise. This one is my favorite. It’s hard and really quick.

3. Indulge mindfully.

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A mindful indulgence on vacation.

I am guilty of emotional overeating. Big time. I also know that, for me, eating some sugar easily snowballs into more and more sugar. Example: I got a DQ Blizzard Sunday afternoon, and then felt the need to eat chocolate-covered cherries that evening. Two desserts in one day does not a mindful indulgence make.

BUT, having a glass of wine after a stressful day? Mindful indulgence. Going to my favorite donut shop and buying one, perfect, amazing donut? Mindful indulgence.

I know that this one looks different to everyone. Those are examples that work for me. If I overindulge, I feel terrible for literally days. Small treats work better for me.

 

4. Keep social dates.

When I have spent the whole day go, go, go-ing, the only thing I am interested in doing is reading in bed or watching too many episodes of Law and Order: SVU. I have skipped parties, group dinners, and more to do these solitary activities.

But meeting a girlfriend for a happy hour or an exercise class? Going to that house party (even if I just stop by for an hour)? Usually a good idea. Connecting with my people helps life slow down for just a bit, which makes all the hard stuff feel easier.

Which brings me to…

5. Talk it out.

TALK ABOUT IT. I have amazing family and friends who are always down to lend an ear when I need it. Venting feels good, and it is so necessary sometimes. Go on a walk with your buddy, talk loudly and with your hands. You’ll feel better.

And here’s the big secret: sometimes listing all my problems out loud makes me realize that it’s not so bad.

My problems are small, and my life is full.

Deep breath. Back to work.

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What are your strategies when you’re feeling overwhelmed? I could use all the tips I can get!

What I Gained by Losing 30 Pounds

At the end of last year, I was so unhappy with my body. I was holding onto pizza and wine weight from grad school and college, and many of my clothes were tight and uncomfortable. I was exercising somewhat regularly, but I didn’t feel good in my skin. This unhappiness bled across my life: I was anxious often; I was lethargic. I knew something needed to change, but I didn’t know how.

9 months later, I’ve made it. I’m 30 pounds lighter. I am stronger and healthier than I have ever been. I have new clothes and a new outlook on life. I know that sounds unbelievably cheesy, but it’s true.

photo by the lovely Lindsey Foat
photos by the lovely Lindsey Foat, @lindseyfoat 

I lost 15-20 pounds pretty easily between January and March (thank you Whole 30), and another 10-15 have come off very gradually since then.

I’ll go into detail in a different post about the HOW of losing this weight, but a quick answer: Whole 30 and Gretchen Rubin’s book about habit formation. (All that getting up early has really paid off.)


I was hesitant to write this post. My brain is screaming at me: Weight doesn’t matter.

And I’m right — weight doesn’t matter. But health does. And the process of losing this weight has made me a healthier person.

I’m not going to lie and say the weight loss hasn’t been awesome. IT HAS BEEN. Needing to buy new, smaller jeans because the pair that used to cut into my waist are baggy? That feels amazing.

But I didn’t JUST lose weight. I gained muscle and strength, a better understanding of nutrition, a devotion to balanced living, and an actual desire to exercise regularly.

And I still eat pizza and drink wine. Just less often.


I know a post like this is often accompanied by before and after pictures. And this post won’t. Not because I don’t have before and after pictures, and not because I don’t see the value in documenting that visual change.

But that is not the focus for me. I’m more interested in the invisible progress, like a faster mile time and the steady energy I get from healthier eating.

Hiking Quandary Peak earlier this month was the most affirming part of this whole process. It was still hard, obviously, but I could do things I couldn’t before. When I slipped during the descent, I caught myself with my ab muscles. I felt them engage, and I was able to catch myself in a squat, instead of letting my ass hit the gravel.

This level of control has never been true for me before, and I am so proud of myself.

read more at The Fruitful Blog

30 pounds is a weird amount. It’s enough that I have needed to replace many of my clothes. It’s enough that my face looks different in photos. It’s enough that those closest to me — my BFFs, my sister, my boyfriend — have noticed the changes in my body.

But it’s not enough that I look drastically different.

Many people — even people that I see daily — haven’t noticed. If it comes up, they’re astounded. They say that they can’t believe I had 30 pounds to lose. This feels … weird.

In one way, I suppose it’s a compliment. And I’m sure that’s how these people mean it. They’re saying that I didn’t look fat before, so how could I possibly have lost that much weight?

It doesn’t always feel like a compliment.

It feels undermining — like my change was entirely cosmetic, and, therefore, vain. That since I didn’t “need” to lose weight, I shouldn’t have bothered. Or I should at least shut up about it.

It feels like I shouldn’t be proud of my hard work. That I should hide it.

But I am proud. Very proud. Sticking to a diet and exercise regimen is hard, man.

Making jokes at my own expense is part of my sense of humor. Teasing myself helps me take life less seriously.

But I cannot be self-deprecating about this. This lifestyle change has been too hard and too important to undermine in that way. So honesty is what work for me.

And, honestly, I’m working hard, but I am far from perfect.

I still throw sensible eating to the wind from time to time, and I sleep through my workout upon occasion. But, as my lifestyle guru Gretchen Rubin says, “what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” Learning this lesson has helped me immensely.

My life has changed. Because now the healthy, nutritious, active choice is the every day, not the once in a while.

The best part of losing weight hasn’t been losing the weight. The best part is the new life I’ve created in the process.

Exercise is now a priority, not a line item on my time budget that’s constantly getting rescheduled. Junk foods like highly processed crackers and candy are now the treats they are meant to be instead of daily snacks. My brain is less sluggish in the afternoon; my fingers are quicker across the keyboard.

My life is better — and not because I am skinnier. It’s because I’m stronger.

3 Secrets to Getting Up Early (even on the weekend)

On weekday mornings, my alarm goes off at 4:45.

I know.

I guess I should be more specific: Grant’s alarm goes off at 4:45. He has to be at work by 6 a.m., so the early alarm is a must.

When his work schedule changed, and he started getting up this early, I decided to embrace the change with him. Falling back asleep for an hour or two is rarely restful for me, especially since G is getting ready for his day in a bathroom that is five feet from our bed.

Before this change, I got out of bed at 5:30 a few mornings a week to work out, so 4:45 didn’t seem too bad.

And I was right — for the most part. Some mornings, 4:45 feels like 6. Early, but not terrible. Some mornings, 4:45 feels terrible. It just does. But I push through because the added hours in the day are worth it to me.

The secrets to getting up this early are simple, I promise. By keeping these habits, it seems almost easy to wake up way before dawn.


SECRETS TO GETTING UP AT 4:45 A.M.

  1. Just put your feet on the floor.

This tip is the easiest and the hardest all at once. But just do it. Don’t hit snooze, don’t roll over for a quick snuggle. Just get up.

My feet hit the floor within literally five seconds of the alarm ringing. I may walk to the bathroom and then the kitchen with my eyes closed, but I am doing it.

The secret to getting up early? Planning. Read more at The Fruitful Blog.

  1. Plan, plan, and plan some more.Have a plan for your morning before your feet hit the floor. When you know what you’re supposed to be doing once you get out of bed, you can do it without thinking and while you’re waking up. My morning schedule changes from day-to-day, but the basic structure is the same. Every weekday morning, I want to get ready, pack lunches, water my plants, write, exercise, and leave for work on time.

    Getting up at 4:45 means I have three and half hours between the time my feet hit the floor and when I need to leave for work. That’s so much time. Planning out how I’ll spend this time means that I can make the most of it, instead of accidentally looking at Snapchat (👻: @cait326) for an hour.

I love being productive in the morning because it means that I can truly clock out at 5 P.M. Not only am I leaving my day job, I’m leaving behind many of my daily responsibilities. I can go home, cook dinner, relax with a book (or Bachelor in Paradise), and not stress out about fitting a workout in. Because it’s already done.

3 Secrets to Getting Up Really Early (even on the weekends)

On a weekend morning, my schedule is more relaxed, and my wakeup time is a little later, but I still plan in out. I get up relatively early, too, like 6 or 7. I do sometimes sleep in, but it throws off my body clock and makes it harder to get up at 4:45 that coming Monday.

On Sunday, I woke up at 7 and did laundry, cleaning, writing, and exercise, all before noon.

Getting these chores done in the morning means that I have time in the afternoon to relax (maybe even take a 30-minute nap) or hang with my family. Frontloading chores lets me have long, unstructured afternoon hours, which feels like a vacation.

  1. Go to bed, dummy!

This one is the most important — find a bedtime that works for you and stick to it. The “dummy” in the tip above is me. At least twice a month, I find myself scrolling, scrolling, scrolling on my phone way past my bedtime. There is no reason to do this — I’m not learning anything and I’m certainly not really enjoying myself. It’s just mindless distraction that ensures that I’ll be tired tomorrow.

I turn the lights out around 9:30 every night. Hopefully, I read for like 45 minutes first. It’s true what they say about books before bed — even the most intense and stressful thriller of a novel winds me down for sleep better than iPhone time.

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Sometimes, this early bedtime doesn’t happen. Sometimes, there’s a great T.V. show on (um, Bachelor in Paradise), and I don’t go to bed until 10. Sometimes, I’m out with friends on a weeknight, and I don’t make it to bed until even later. I brush it off and get back to my schedule the next day.


While these are my habits, I am sure as hell not perfect. The Wednesday morning after my monthly book club (and the wine and cheese that goes with our discussion), I will often go back to sleep after G leaves for work. And that’s okay.

What’s not okay is allowing one day of sleeping in to backslide into a whole week of it. Because that leads to lunches purchased in the cafeteria, skipped workouts, and no time to write.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of giving up on a habit because you screwed up once, but — MAJOR KEY ALERT 🔑 — if you *start from scratch each day* that trap can be dodged. Yesterday sucked? Fine. Today will be better.

I know the saying is “the road to hell is littered with good intentions,” and I do think that’s true, to a point. A plan with no follow through is worthless. But a positive habit that you keep 85% of the time is worth a lot. Even if you do hit that snooze button from time to time.

What time do you get up? How many cups of coffee do you drink? How many times do you press snooze? 

If you’re a night owl, teach me your ways.