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How can I pick myself up and keep going?
April 17, 2014 2:25 AM   Subscribe

I've had a difficult time over the last while and I feel like I've completely run out of steam. How can I keep going and accomplish all I need to? I feel all my motivation is gone and frankly I just want to hibernate but obviously I can't. Have you ideas about how to keep putting one foot in front of the other?

At the minute I am coping with a lot of grief about the breakup of my marriage (and massive guilt about my part in that), I'm living between two houses (family) and looking for a house, working full time and completing my studies. On top of that I just found out yesterday that I will lose my job in 5 months as my company is closing. I love my job and the people who work here, and it has felt like the only stable thing in my life over the last while, as well as a chance to escape to somewhere I can have a laugh, and I'm devastated about having to look for something else (which is unlikely to pay me what I'm on now - I'm struggling financially as it is and I will only be getting a very small pay off, like a few hundred.)

I feel like I don't have the energy to look for a job, a house, do research, perform well at work and generally get on with things. On top of that I have started smoking again (I know, I know) and I've put on quite a lot of weight. I can't seem to find the willpower to diet or quit smoking again. My sleep is also not great and I feel tired a lot. I realise this all sounds very whiny, so apologies, but I kind of feel at rock-bottom now.

If you have been in difficult situations before how have you managed to replenish your inner resources, keep motivated to accomplish necessary tasks and generally not give up?
posted by outoftime to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Should probably add that I am already seeing a counsellor.
posted by outoftime at 2:34 AM on April 17


That sounds really rough. I think it's helpful to focus on just one thing at a time- maybe for now concentrate on finding a place to live first (can you rent an apartment rather than buying a house?). Solving a problem will help alleviate some of the stress. Exercise is really really helpful at relieving stress and producing energy. You could start by committing to walk just a little bit every day. It's also helpful to 'schedule' time to worry about particular things (if you start thinking about finding a new job, tell yourself you don't have to worry about that until you find an apartment, or if you start thinking about your marriage, tell yourself you won't think about that until Saturday at 1pm or something). Good luck, and be gentle with yourself...
posted by three_red_balloons at 3:19 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


Life is kicking my ass right now, too. (I have cancer, for starters.) I am depressed as fuck, but I am getting by. All I can tell you is, keep moving. Stay as active as you can, trying to work toward something. Sometimes finding the something (and figuring out the steps to get there) is a huge struggle, but if you know where you want to get, just do everything you can to keep moving toward that. Even on the days when it all seems hopeless, do anything and everything you can to get a little closer to that goal.

Also give yourself permission to indulge, within limits. If you're smoking right now, and that's getting you through this, don't rip yourself up too much about your smoking. (But do try to cut back, with the idea that you will quit as soon as possible.) If you've gotten kind of fat and unhealthy, that's not good. Try to do things to be healthier, but at the same time, don't force yourself to go on a big diet if that's going to make you miserable. Pick your battles, and if stuff is making you feel better right now, make some allowances for that in your life. Just try to pick vices that are harmless (like porn!) or that have a productive side to them. Try to "waste time" doing something creative or mind expanding, instead of just dulling or fat-making.

At least the 5 month warning gives you time to look around. Working with people you like means that you have a lot of potential contacts for the future, and you've already proven to yourself you can have a job that makes you happy. That's a lot more than some folks can say. Talk to your co-workers about their plans. Maybe you guys can help each other get hired someplace else, or you can pool your talents and do... something.

Just bash on regardless, as the English say. What the hell else are we supposed to do?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:24 AM on April 17 [8 favorites]


Get outside of yourself. Watching videos of people doing things they think they can't do really inspires me. Or videos of things that I incorrectly assume are impossible, or just very very difficult. I love this video of mudskippers. Tiny little fish with brains the size of peas manage to carve out a territory, feed, raise young, construct a burrow and see of rivals, all while living in an area that completely changes twice a day. If a tiny little fish can do all of that, the I, with all of my human intelligence, should certainly be able to do that and more.

Break things down into smaller chunks. For example, don't go on a diet. Just make the right choices today. Tomorrow doesn't matter. Just for today, eat healthy food, or just less food, or only half of what you'd have eaten before. Don't plan to run a marathon, plan much smaller such as walking to the corner shop to buy a paper. Cut your expectations of yourself way down, because if you're only capable of X, expecting yourself to do X+Y+Z is just silly.

Write a gratitude list. Make a list of all of the good things that you have in your life right now. You have enough money for cigarettes. You have a place to stay. You have access to the internet. You have time to sit at a computer. You have a job, and several months notice that it's ending - imagine for a second how stuck you'd be if you found out tomorrow that you no longer had a job.

Write another list of things you can do to make this situation better, to give yourself some hope. Maybe you could network with friends and family and see if there are any openings available at other places of work.

Motivation follows action. Which is a silly thing on the face of it - how can you do something without the motivation to do it? Motivation isn't just "I want to do this", though. Fear can be a superb motivator. So can hunger, and the need for shelter. Also, simply getting out of the chair and moving around can sometimes lead to you doing a bit more of that. Getting even slightly out of your rut can give you some momentum. I'm sure there's some law of physics that explains it, but getting a stationary object moving is often the hardest bit. So start slowly and gently jiggle yourself along. Do 10% more today than you've done previous days. Sometimes, you have to become really badly off to realise just how lucky you are.

Take a god strong look at your sleep hygiene. Personally, I find that good night's sleep is essential for me to cope. Depending on how your sleep problems are presenting, you might look into sleep restriction.

What's your diet like? If you're eating junk food, consider the amount of effort and time it takes to prepare a ready meal compared to eating a banana. It's quicker, easier and better for you to eat the banana.

When you're at the bottom of a well, it's hard to see the massive amount of options that there are right outside of the well because your field of view is very narrowed. Those options are still there, whether you see them or not.

Bit of an outside view, but maybe if you can find the willpower to continue smoking, you can find the willpower to quit smoking. It takes willpower to open the packet, light the cigarette and put it in your mouth, so you obviously have some. Just redirect it into doing 10 pushups, or something, instead.
posted by Solomon at 3:39 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]


Can you give more insight into why you are having trouble sleeping? Do you fall asleep but wake up during the night - or lie in bed ruminating and worrying - or stay up playing video games?

Lots of good ideas so far, but they will all be SO much easier to carry out if you can fix your sleep.
posted by bunderful at 3:50 AM on April 17


Thanks for the replies so far. Sometimes I find it difficult to fall asleep as I can't switch by brain off and I get caught in a kind of worry-spiral where one problem seems to feed into the next. Other times I fall asleep instantly as I'm so tired but I wake up too early and spend an hour or two tossing and turning until it's time to get up again, when I fall back asleep. When I do sleep I often have very vivid dreams (about my husband, say) and I wake up very upset and feeling like I haven't had any rest. Whatever way it plays out I get up every morning feeling like I've been hit by a truck. I don't have a TV in either of the rooms I stay in, I don't drink coffee and rarely alcohol in the evenings, although I do have a bad habit of reading MeFi when I go to bed. Thanks again for the feedback.
posted by outoftime at 4:06 AM on April 17


Oh, outoftime, I'm so sorry. I've been through a similarly soul- and butt-kicking period where hibernation seemed like the best option.

Two things kept me moving forward. The first is not, I think from your phrasing, relevant to you, but perhaps you'll find something similar? I have a son and 50-50 joint custody with my ex. So moving through grief involved one day of wallowing and one day of pulling it together for him. In other words, there was an external factor that was super important to me and thus helped me maintain some semblance of coherence and control.

The second thing that helped me so much was exercise, but in a more organized way than three_red_balloons talks about. I articulated some goals (mostly through a website called Fitocracy) that included, for example, a mini-triathalon. And there were important dates to me on which I made sure to work towards (or accomplish) these goals. Getting outside into the sunshine (now that it's spring!!) really helps too. (And generally helps to regulate sleep patterns.)
posted by correcaminos at 4:42 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


I have a similar set of issues going on at the moment and have been finding myself stuck and feeling hopeless. This will be the second time this week I recommend a TED talk, but hey, they're helping me get some perspective and perhaps this one will help you too.

Don't be put off by the gaming talk or the parts about adding time to your life - they're interesting but possibly not the best parts of this particular talk for your purposes (or mine). The rest - her very incremental solution to feeling better - is fascinating. And the game she created called SuperBetter is available for iPhone and also by browser. Android app may be in the works.
posted by mireille at 4:45 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


I think there is some excellent advice here--genuine support and empathy. And there is no truer statement than Solomon's: Motivation follows action. Which is a silly thing on the face of it - how can you do something without the motivation to do it? Motivation isn't just "I want to do this", though. It is counter intuitive but it is absolutely correct--it is correct observationally, clinically and based on social research. Like it or not Nike is right--"Just do it".
posted by rmhsinc at 4:58 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


What's helped me in down times is noticing the life inside me and around me. Feeling the vibrant energy in every cell of my body, head to toe. Breathing. Feeling a sense of wonder about the stars and sun and trees and plants. How the wind feels on skin and through hair. Appreciating the rain and even the bitter cold.

Someone has said more beautifully and poetically than this, but there's something I remember about, basically, life turning to shit. Sometimes, life turns to shit! But, the poo makes the best fertilizer from which new life springs. So, allow the decay. Allow the hurt and the crumminess of things essentially dying, for new life will grow strong and beautiful given a little time, love, sunshine and rain, blah-de-dah. It's true, you'll get through this and be better than before.

This might sound Pollyannaish, I know. Because, you'd be lucky to like your next job nearly as much as the current. But, you can find a job you like. I use that for an example of something to appreciate having had. Maybe appreciate having had the good times of your marriage and prepare yourself not for "another one", but for a change. To live is to deal with a constant flow of changes. We miss the good times of the past, but no sense obsessing on them (doesn't sound like you are... But, the job thing~).

I also agree with great advice above. Exercise. Getting motivated by just doing, absolutely. But, don't forget to stop and smell the roses. You can MeMail me if you ever feel like it. Take care! And I do hope the best is ahead of you.
posted by little_dog_laughing at 5:09 AM on April 17


If you have been in difficult situations before how have you managed to replenish your inner resources, keep motivated to accomplish necessary tasks and generally not give up?

When I was a student at Georgia Tech in the early 1980s there was a place called Peter's Park in the center of campus - across from the old football stadium - that I used to pass on my way to chemistry lab. (It's a parking garage now, but back then it was an actual park with tennis and basketbal courts and trees and green grass.) Some idiot spray painted "Never, never, never quit" on one the concrete walls and seeing that that reminder every day helped me get through freshmen chemistry.

I have at times of intense personal challenge at my lowest point put up a hand-written note on my wall with those same words, and for me, it has always helped.

In short: find whatever has helped you in the past and go to that well again and again. You can surprise yourself.
posted by three blind mice at 5:13 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


I'd like to add to what Ursula Hitler has said. The combination of what you are going through is heavy and overwhelming but you have to persevere. Don't think of everything all at once. Pick one thing a week to work on. Got your Linkedin profile updated? Do that. Coming close to the end of the school year? Work on your finals. The not sleeping and not eating right thing is probably something you've got to do for yourself. I have had great luck with magnesium for sleep and a general sense of well being - which you're probably not getting enough of due to your diet. I hate to say it but just go for a walk to clear your thoughts and get out. I really wish you the best.
posted by lasamana at 5:17 AM on April 17


What always helps me is taking a clinical approach to my problems by categorizing everything into "Stuff I can change" and "Stuff I can't change". Then I put aside the "Stuff I can't change" and mentally focus on things I can change. The other stuff just becomes noise at some point.
posted by deathpanels at 5:29 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Good advice above, I don't have much to add, except this:

Things are seldom as bad (or as good) as they seem... But while immersed in a situation we tend to exaggerate the size of the problem...so, keep perspective.

And.... The problems you describe above will NOT last forever, each and every one of them will eventually be resolved... Don't lose track of that fact.
posted by HuronBob at 5:40 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


No wonder you're overwhelmed; you're under huge stress in every part of your life.
Home: focus on finding a home, as this is a solvable problem, and will have huge impact on your happiness and ability to cope. Meanwhile, see if you can find a place to call 'home' even a bed & breakfast where you stay once a week or so just for comfort, privacy and self-care.
School: Take an incomplete or 2 if needed, use whatever resources are available to get support.
Work: Find out what you'll get for severance and unemployment. It might be pretty decent, and you'll be able to put a lot of effort into school before looking for another job.

Energy, sleep, motivation, etc.: Figure out where in your schedule you can put a daily 20 minute or longer walk outdoors. Sunshine, nature and fresh air are therapeutic in many ways. And exercise is so well documented to help with sleep, depression, and stress.

Whatever mistakes you've made, try to understand why drove you to them, and forgive yourself.
posted by theora55 at 6:07 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


I have had a couple of really intense difficult years with family and health and work issues. Basically, if it could go wrong, it did. What is now working:

1. Get a physical check up to rule out anything physical like thyroid or diabetes. Figure out what healthy food works, what doesn't. I switched mostly to tea, and eat a big breakfast now over an hour or two in the morning for instance. Smoothies are great for getting more fruit/veggies with minimal effort.

2. Hang up hopeful pretty things around you. I have poems in my bathroom, little cards people have sent me with sweet messages on my desk, a big ball of knitting to play with near my bed, etc. Flowers if they give you a boost. You need micro-pleasures to counter all the grey in your life right now. Lovely soap, fresh fruit - look for small boosts.

3. Figure out what works to get you to sleep. We got the toddler to sleep in her own bed this month, and I can reliably fall asleep to Night Vale podcasts now - the weird dreams are worth it. Sleep is not a waste because sleeping 10 hours and having 14 good hours is so much better than dragging yourself around for 18 hours on six hours of sleep. If napping works, do that.

4. Grieve. Grieve for what you've lost - marriage, work, all your plans. For being very sad. Watch really sad movies and really funny movies. Feel stuff. Acknowledge that you have had an invisible to the world outside but to you, shatteringly hard loss. This is emotional pneumonia, long and slow to heal from.

5. Experiment with what works. I like to declutter and write letters and knit. I know people who like to dance and try new food and read mystery novels. Try a bunch of things and find out what is legal/safe and makes you feel better. Then slowly add more and more of that to your daily life.

6. Get rid of everything else that isn't necessary. Don't do stuff that you "should" do. Fill in that extra time with things that will help you feel better. This was super hard for me because I feel responsible for so many things, and ashamed for being irresponsible, but I was 'lucky' to be physically ill as well as exhausted and ended up in hospital. If I had cut down earlier, I would have been much better off.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:13 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]


I believe everyone should have something beautiful in their life. It might be as simple as a daily walk in the woods, just something that is peaceful and that no one can take away from you. Having this has been very helpful to me in hard times.
posted by thelonius at 6:13 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


I find it difficult to fall asleep as I can't switch by brain off and I get caught in a kind of worry-spiral where one problem seems to feed into the next. Other times I fall asleep instantly as I'm so tired but I wake up too early and spend an hour or two tossing and turning until it's time to get up again, when I fall back asleep.

When these things happen to me, it is always because I've been avoiding exercise. If people ask my for advice, the first thing I tell them is to make sure they are going to bed early enough to get enough sleep, which you seem to be doing—awesome! Great job! The next step is to get some exercise so that your body is sufficiently tired that you can sleep well. It doesn't take that much. See if you can do a half hour walk 3-4 times a week.

Whether or not you pick this particular plan, I agree with the advice above to pick just one thing and work on it.

Remember, this too will pass. Your life will look very different in a month or two. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.
posted by BrashTech at 6:46 AM on April 17


Great suggestions - I would only add, from my year in the wilderness (unemployment with everything in my life at risk) that these steps helped considerably:
- yes! to exercise, but even better with a dog, in a beautiful place as thelonius recommends. You can volunteer to walk shelter dogs if you don't have your own (and shouldn't get one till your situation stabilizes).
- I kept a very regular daily schedule, even if it was composed of ephemeral items, like my walks or listening to a particular NPR program while I cleaned house. Of course, job-hunting was a top priority, but scheduled in (never give up, even when opportunities seem drained out).
- One thing on my schedule was to keep a paper-pencil journal of what was going through my mind as I worked out the self-examination knots. I've never been able to keep a journal faithfully before or after, but this one includes lots of various 'progress' lists.
- avoid toxic people or depressing tv/movies/books. Cultivate and cherish every little kindness, and pass it on.
- watch what you eat and drink, or ingest. You need to keep your mind clear, and your equilibrium finely balanced, not just to make the exercise sessions more productive.
posted by mmiddle at 6:54 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


I'm so sorry. I am at the tail-end of a divorce right now and I know how overwhelming it is.

I found myself spiraling like you describe and listing all of my problems one after another, running the list again and again in my head and not being able to sleep. Then being exhausted the next day with absolutely no energy to start solving anything.

What has been working for me is picking one thing at a time to focus on. The first was trying to keep my apartment clean, which has always been a challenge when I'm depressed. Once I got everything in order after my ex moved out, I tried to spend a few minutes every day keeping things neat. Having fresh flowers and nice-smelling candles around helped things seem fancy.

Then I spent some time cleaning out my closet and getting rid of clothes that weren't flattering. It's a lot easier for me to feel good about myself when I look put-together.

Now I'm working on exercising, which has helped tremendously. It's especially useful for the sleepless stress spirals, because I get into bed physically tired instead of just mentally tired.

Next on my list is finding a better job for myself, but I know how much more focused and confident I will be if I do things one at a time.

If there is any way that you can break up your issues into small chunks and prioritize, it will be so much easier to put your full energy into the problem at hand. It's also an amazing snowball effect. Once you knock down one, the list gets shorter, you get more confident, and the next problem seems so much more manageable.

Also, be easy on yourself and let yourself have a little bit of a pity party every once in a while. It's sooooooo easy to focus your energy on beating yourself up. Be kind to yourself. I promise that it gets better.
posted by elvissa at 7:59 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


My heart goes out to you. These are, in fact, HARD TIMES.

I suggest you find an apartment, on a six or 12 month lease. You have economic instability coming up (unless you are wealthy) -- don't rush to get locked into a mortgage and house upkeep. But! Look for an apartment that has one outstanding feature that you love, like a private backyard, or a window seat nook for curling up and reading, or lots of light and a ledge for growing potted herbs. Something beautiful. That apartment is your next launching pad. It is for you.

In terms of the job, ask your employer if there's anything they can do to help you land on your feet. Do they have colleagues in similar businesses to whom they could mention your availability? Ask for a hard copy of a letter of reference extolling your virtues, and ask them to serve as a reference by phone when the time comes. You can take a look at the hard copy reference whenever you need a lift.

For that matter, ask your friends for "letters of reference" - not for a new job, but to give you a boost. "Folks - I'm feeling down right now and I could use a lift. Would you write a letter of recommendation about me? I'm trying to remember that I'm useful in the world."

Your late night mind? Get up when you can't sleep and write a to-do list to your morning self -- Morning Self is so much more capable of handling what needs to be done than Middle Of The Night Self. Morning Self will take care of it. Go back to sleep.
posted by vitabellosi at 8:47 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Whatever way it plays out I get up every morning feeling like I've been hit by a truck.

You have been hit by a truck. Several trucks. What can you do to make things easier for yourself right now in the short term? Can you rent a furnished apartment for six months, for example? Rent a room in a house with other nice humans? That would give you your own space to decompress after work and to study at least.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:39 AM on April 17


What kind of support network do you have? Now is the time to lean on them. You will be amazed at how many people want to help if you just ask.

viggorlijah: little cards people have sent me with sweet messages on my desk

I have a bunch of these on my refrigerator and they lift my spirits every time I look at them. If you have friends in other states/countries, ask them to send you a postcard. It's simple for them to do and it will make a big difference. Ask your local friends for help with simple things - go shopping with you, cook a healthy meal together. But seriously, ask. Don't try to pretend everything is okay if it's not.
posted by desjardins at 9:49 AM on April 17


You're grieving, and that's an important time to be as gentle with yourself as you can be. You're overwhelmed for a reason, this is a lot to be dealing with.

On the hierarchy of needs, personally I'd say that shelter is highest, then health. So I'd say look first at what you can do to stabilize your housing situation, and once that's resolved, think about your job hunt. Do you have anyone who might be able to screen potential housing options for you?

While health is important, cut yourself a break on stressing about smoking and diet for the moment, and focus on adding in some light exercise. Walking works for me, ideally outdoors and at a brisk enough pace that I have to focus on how I'm moving and what my surroundings are, more so what's going on in my head. But anything that requires enough mental effort to shunt some anxiety aside and enough physical effort to tire you should work.

Can you take a break from school? It sounds like you might very well be in a "something's got to give" situation, and school is an investment, rather than a survival need. I assume you have an academic advisor, or access to an advising office -- have you talked to them? If it's completely impractical take a break from school, they should be able to help you clarify where you should focus your attention, in terms of prerequisites and where classes come up in the scheduling cycle, so that you can minimize any risk to your studies.

Best wishes to you.
posted by EvaDestruction at 10:17 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Man. I've got pretty much that feeling of screw-you-life-put-everything-on-hold going on, too.

On the can't-sleep front, you might want to try taking melatonin to improve the quality of your rest. It's OTC and not habit forming.
posted by mikurski at 1:08 PM on April 17


Extremely vivid dreams are the norm when you finally sleep after chronic sleep deprivation. I suggest you search AskMe for some of the previous sleep issue questions and work on getting more/better sleep. It is possible you are smoking in part to suppress nightmares. It is also possible you are smoking to self-medicate for depression. So working on some of these other issues might help you stop smoking, if that is a goal.

I have had quite a lot of stressors in life.

1) Set some big picture goals. Figure out what you need to do about those things. Find a metric by which you can measure progress. I find that if my big picture goals are on track and moving forward, it is much easier to cope with the inevitable day-to-day ups and downs.

2) Similar to above: "Count your blessings." Make a list of assets or positives for your life. I know this can be hard when you are so stressed, but there is usually some kind of support/lucky break/etc even under rough circumstances. Realizing there are some good things going on can be a real sanity saver.

3) Journal. Write about all this. It can help you sort out your feelings.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 4:30 PM on April 17


Seconding melatonin for sleep.

Also: I used to lie awake for hours ruminating about why my boss looked at me funny or that guy in 3rd grade who poured Dr. Pepper in my hair or my relationship with my mom or whether I'll get fall onto the subway tracks tomorrow and if I remembered to send that very important email for work.

Now I put a podcast or a sitcom on my iphone (screen turned away from me, nothing too interesting) at low volume. I listen to the voices and they distract my brain from its random worries, and I drift off.

I have also tried with some success:
* mental exercises that are boring but require focus. Like times tables, starting with say 17 which I don't have memorized
* Reading something pleasant and not too exciting until I cannot hold my eyes open.
* 1/2 a benadryl or the blue pills that are basically benadryl but marketed as sleep aids
posted by bunderful at 5:18 PM on April 17


Focus on something besides your current life or you. Read up on something completely new like a new magazine that you never would have picked up before. Also look up ways to do regular things differently-different grocery store, different cafe, a walk or bus to where you used to drive. Maybe you can go back to your childhood and look up some pics-maybe you want to pick up from there and lead a different life now. This has helped me.
posted by jbean at 6:05 PM on April 17


This might be kind of an out-there idea, but if you're having trouble winding down at night and falling asleep, you might enjoy watching some ASMR videos on YouTube. Even if you don't get the "tingle" sensation that some people do, the audio visual combinations in many of them can be profoundly relaxing and maybe even comforting. There's a TON of different types of them, so I recommend you watch a variety (tapping/scratching sounds, whispering, personal attention, hand movements, crinkly sounds, haircut roleplay, etc) before you totally give up on it. The ASMR subreddit is a good place to start looking.
posted by gumtree at 9:44 PM on April 17


I find it difficult to fall asleep as I can't switch by brain off and I get caught in a kind of worry-spiral where one problem seems to feed into the next.

The best solution I have found for this for myself is to go to sleep listening to an audiobook or podcast, just loud enough that I don't have to strain to hear it. Some narrator voices are better than others for the purpose, but I find that just having a voice to listen to and a narrative thread for my brain to follow instead of its own spiraling paths allows me to drift off so much faster.

Smartphones or tablets are great for this because you can use apps with bookmark and sleep timer functionality. I've been pretty amazed that even when I'm really engaged with a given book, I can almost always be asleep before my 30 minute timer runs out if it's playing quietly and I'm in bed in the dark. And even on those rare nights when it isn't enough and I lay there listening to my book for a few hours in the dark, I still feel more rested and generally better in the morning than I would have if that same time had been spent in worry loops.
posted by polymath at 1:35 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]


Late to the game but thought maybe its worth it.

Renewing your energy is really a trial and error process. I read a lot of questions here, and on the net. Asked a lot of questions here. And still, there was not one single thing that helped all the time. Still not out of the storm but I am a bit wiser in what works for me now, and I have realized that sleep-eat-exercise (however it works for me at a given time, not how others define it) is really key in not falling sick from all the stress.

Becoming aware of what drains energy and what lifts you up will help. Minimize the former and take time out for the latter. Check out the book called Coping With Anxiety by Edmund Burne and Lorna Garano. There is a chapter in it called Nourish Yourself. Its a no-brainer but it was really like a novel concept for me when I had pushed myself beyond my physical limits and got sick last week. (I havent read the rest of it, and the chapter is a good read for such times irrespective of anxiety issues. Also, its a tiny book).

Most people, as long as their intellectual capacity is not impaired by stress, will have a prioritized to-do list. And then there is the mental list of "things I *should* do", you know, like quit smoking, sleep well, eat well. Other examples include-
I can't seem to find the willpower to... (it isnt about willpower)
I realise this all sounds very whiny... (anyone who has hit a real rock-bottom will tell you that your reaction is appropriate, and not even close to whiny)
... so apologies, but I kind of feel at rock-bottom now. (dont be apologetic about life. stand proud and tall)
Drop the judgement for yourself.

Making lists is good but its not a linear process. You'll have to give yourself permission to feel and do what you can irrespective of whether the outside world understands what you are going through or not.

If you have family or friends (even one is fine) who will listen unconditionally and non-judgementally then it will help too. Garner all your resources. This is the time to make use of them.

I would strongly advise against quitting school (and I am not in your shoes so there's that...). Don't add education to your list of losses. That one will stay for life even if people do not. And while you are in school, check out the free student counseling services. More so if you dont have family/friends who can be patient and there for you. I would also check with them on any and every other thing you can possibly get help with. You'll have to actively find help.

If you have been in difficult situations before how have you managed to replenish your inner resources, keep motivated to accomplish necessary tasks and generally not give up

The only thing I can say about right now is that last one. I have come close to giving up. I have hit bottom of the bottom, mentally. I have had times where there is no joy in being alive and the alternative does not seem worse. However, I did not give up. Why? Because I am curious about where I will be one year from now. Because the one and only thing I am determined to do, is to not let other people (who have disappointed in whatever ways) beat you to that position.

As for the rest of things- you accomplish what you need to, what is right in front of you. You take one step at a time. And that means, having a monthly plan (esp in your case with the five months to go) and then focusing on daily activities. What did I do today to achieve what I want in 3 months? And then you break the day down to hours. You keep your long-term goal in mind AND you take it one hour at a time. If that is too much, you take it 20min at a time.

This may sound cheesy but one of the most powerful statements that struck me like lightening and stayed with me throughout from day one was in an answer to one of my questions on AskMe, and I say the same to you-

"You can do this. Do it".
posted by xm at 7:59 PM on May 31


Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who answered. I've marked some as best answers but they were all really helpful to me. I appreciated everyone's support when I was feeling so low, it made me feel like I wasn't alone.

As an update, I found another part-time job on a temporary contract. Things will be tighter financially, and the job and people are just ok, but it will give me a bit of breathing space when my main job ends soon. I also bought a (tiny!) house and hopefully will be moving in about a month once it's decorated. I don't have long left to do my thesis but my supervisor was understanding and if I need an extension they are happy to grant it so that at least takes the pressure off in my mind. The advice to prioritise things and sort them one at a time was very helpful, and maybe because of that I'm not feeling as stressed, so my sleep has settled down a lot. I still have bad dreams but I'm getting used to them in a weird way so I don't feel quite as upset upon waking. And I've decided that once I'm in the new house it will be a new start, and an opportunity to start a new eating and exercise routine, and set myself a goal for quitting smoking. The sadness over my marriage is like a constant background hum, but I'm starting to slowly get to a point where I can take some pleasure from the good memories which feels like a small step forward.

So thanks to everyone who said just to keep on keeping on. You guys are the best.
posted by outoftime at 1:46 AM on August 12 [4 favorites]


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