How to Calm the Chaos: Inner & Outer

This weekend started on Wednesday morning and will end late Saturday night for me. It is one of those long weekends that you hoped would be relaxing yet somehow felt busier than being home (but without the familiarity & comfort of home). The funny thing about it was that I enjoyed most of it. I would’ve liked more rest, more quiet, a bigger bed, and less activity, but I know I got what I needed. I had the opportunity to try new things, meet new people, unexpectedly see long lost friends, reconnect with family and appreciate what I have and need, like relationships & quiet time.

So how are your weekends? your vacations from work & chores? For most people, they don’t know how to rest, relax, let go and enjoy. I have family and friends who would rather push themselves into exhaustion than sit still and even worse, sit silently alone. It makes me wonder and want to us, is it louder or scarier inside than out? I know it can be for many us. At various points in our life, the inner chatter is so critical and confusing that keeping busy feels like the only solution. When we get to this point, it’s hard to make any changes without support, whether that be from a loving friend, partner, or professional. The important thing is to reach out and remember that you’re never alone and that living in constant chaos outside to avoid the chaos inside is no way to live – in fact you usually can’t do it very long without getting sick in some way. I know that tasks, goals, productivity is important but when the cost begins to outweigh the benefit, trouble is afoot.
I had someone ask me lately to help with a tendency to overcommit – a problem over half the population has while the other half can’t seem to commit to anything. I consider over-committing or over-scheduling a product of the above at times. Over-doers are usually either trying to fill an inner void yet avoid the inner critic while others are trying to “be all they can be” because they truly want to help or create. There is probably an overlap though in these departments though. It seems that even when we truly want to participate there is usually a piece of a “should” or “ought to” attached to it that is actually rooted in an even deeper judgment of self about what our critic and others will say or believe if we DON’T participate or have to “turn it over” to another person. Where is the compassion for self and the awareness that sh*t happens; meaning, sometimes things come up last minute and truly keep us from doing what we had planned or wanted to do OR sometimes in the 11th hour we are hit by the spiritual 2×4 and realize we can do another thing or we will fall over or bite someone’s head off with our words.
The remedy to this tendency or at least potential softener is the practice of transition periods. How often do you truly schedule in adequate transition time and space as you go from one place or activity to another? I saw counselors for years who scheduled clients back to back seemingly all day. When I became a counselor I realized I was doing the same thing, which gave me maybe 5-10 minutes tops, to breath, remember myself, stretch, grab the next file, brief it, then jump in again. After the 4th client I was about to have a panic attack or melt into my chair as if I was watching a movie. Since then, I’ve made it a point to never schedule more than 3 without a 15+ minute break following and to take mini “awareness breaks” between all sessions where I breathe, body scan, and determine what I need and how I can give it to myself before the next session in some form or fashion – even if it’s just writing myself a note of encouragement or doing one yoga pose. All my activities and adventures outside of work are considered “penciled in” unless they are super super important…but even some of those have been abandoned in the end if I was too cooked to do another something. My determining factor usually has to do with how present and alert am I right now. Can I feel the energy and breath in my body? Is my mind feeling alert and open? If I cannot answer these questions and give myself thorough details as if I were an observing witness and an experiencer of them, then I probably need a break. Sometimes, a slow short walk with deep breathing will do it, other times, it’s a 30 minutes nap, a few yoga poses, free-flow writing, or even having a relaxing cup of tea or more elicit beverage quietly on the back deck.
What items on your schedule can you begin to pencil in? Remember to evaluate how each event supports you or stresses you. Don’t take out the ones that support you, even if they feel like the ones that are somehow “optional” – like a walk over another 30 minutes of work. Build in some transition time between each event then double the amount of time you think you need. We usually short ourselves on the good things and overdo the unhealthy ones. After a week, see how you feel then decide how you want to go forward.

For confidential support, call 205-908-1247 or email me

May you know peace, happiness, health, and freedom from suffering.

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