What To Do When Your World Is On Fire

dieting and life are both like hell sometimes

Dieting? How about life???

Ever had one of those days, months or even years where nothing seems to go right? Sure, there are always challenges, and life is rarely quiet on all fronts, but how about those times where every area of your life seems to explode in your face?

We’re having one of those months. I wish I could say, “I’ve been frugal all my adult life and my life is perfect and wonderful, we’re debt free and have no problems at all!” But that’s not reality. I doubt it’s reality for most people.

My reality is:

  • Nasty divorce after 17 years of marriage and a lot of hard work to save it. I actually closed Frugal Moms down to focus on my marriage and family, and ended up broke, with no lawyer, no job, no support and without my kids for a few YEARS.
  • The broken hearts of my teenage children as we went through it
  • Losing my health insurance and told two days later I had a lump in my breast after my first mammogram
  • Going back to school and starting a new career at 37 after being a stay at home mom for almost my entire adult life
  • Two jobs while going through school
  • Dating again
  • Getting married again
  • Having two babies in my forties
  • Unpaid maternity leaves
  • Unpaid hospital bills
  • Family spread across the continent
  • Buying a 100 year old farmhouse “as is” from an owner with mental health issues
  • 125 mile daily commute while pregnant and while breastfeeding
  • Paying daycare and child support at the same time
  • Switching daycares after a tornado hit it and blew out all the windows in the infant room!
  • More medical bills
  • Legal bills
  • An autistic teenager
  • historic 100 year floods in our 100 year old basement
  • Layoffs
  • Unemployment
  • Job changes
  • Vehicle breakdowns during the coldest winter I can remember
  • More that I’ve probably blocked out due to stress (and yes, there was probably a lot of dieting hell in there too because I gained about 40 pounds)

All of those things happened in the past eight years. It has not been a smooth or easy ride. Yes, my world has been on fire multiple times and some days still is. This is why I am frugal, because I have no idea what the heck is coming next. I can’t even count how many times someone hit the “reboot” button on my life. But it’s happened enough that it doesn’t scare me like it used to, and I’ve noticed some patterns for dealing with it that I hope will help others.

So what do you do when you find your whole world on fire?

1. Count your blessings.

If you are going through major upheavals in your life, you aren’t alone. It may feel like it, but that’s because you’re feeling too stressed to feel blessed or connected with anyone or anything. The best thing you can do for your own peace of mind is to look around and see what DOES work in your life, and who IS still there. You might be surprised. Take an inventory of the assets, not the asses in your life (sorry, couldn’t help it!)

In addition to all of the above, these things also happened to me in the same time frame:

  • Made new friends and reconnected with some very old, dear ones
  • Fell in love again
  • The restoration of two of my older sons. They came to live with me at different times after being with their dad.
  • Got married again
  • Watched my oldest two sons graduate
  • Slowly paid off $25,000 in debt!
  • Had two beautiful, healthy babies
  • Found a less stressful job in a new industry
  • Bought an historic farmhouse on 5 acres
  • One of my sons became a Marine, and we traveled to his graduation in San Diego, where my husband and baby saw the ocean for the very first time
  • I took permaculture classes and received my Permaculture Design Certificate from my favorite permaculture teacher in the world
  • Graduated from a sustainable agriculture class
  • Restarted Frugal Moms after a 12 year absence

Life is messy and crazy and beautiful, all at the same time. When the messy and the crazy seem overwhelming, take a deep breath and focus on the beautiful parts. They are buried under there somewhere.

Counting blessings and dandelions on a beautiful day.

Counting blessings and dandelions on a beautiful day.

2. Create peace if you can’t find any

When the world is exploding and we’re overwhelmed, self care is often the thing we need most and the thing we do least. Your soul needs refreshment to handle the stresses of your life. And your mind needs peace before making big (and little) decisions. It doesn’t have to cost anything. So stop beating yourself up and give yourself a break.

Make peace with yourself and find some peace. Go for a walk, a jog, a swim, pull weeds, draw, paint, write, tinker, listen to music, make some music, do ANYTHING that brings your spirit into a place of peace. Get back to the essence of who you really are, away from the noisy, crazy distractions of life. Be good to yourself, because you’re stuck with yourself. Being hard on yourself doesn’t make anything better.

3. Get the big picture

Step back, out of the trenches and really look at the current crisis (or multiple ones).

  • Have you been through this before?
  • Do you know someone that has that can be of help?
  • How much of it is worth freaking out about?
  • What will you gain by panicking?
  • What can you do to keep yourself and those around you calm?
  • If you can’t keep calm and need to freak out, is there a healthy way that you can get this out?
  • Can you channel it into something good?
  • What skills can you fall back on to get you through this crisis?
  • How can  you keep things normal for yourself and your family?
  • And what really needs to change?

I find it’s really easy to freak out about stuff when I don’t know the answers  so I try to gather as much real information as I can, while avoiding speculation and opinions from friends, families and strangers. This seems to soothe my rather overactive imagination. (It’s also why I gave up coffee a few years ago!)

An example for us is layoffs. My husband got laid off last week. For the second time in eight months. The first time, it was much harder not to freak out, even though we managed pretty well. Neither of us had been through it before and the learning curve, as well as the emotional curve, was a lot steeper.

This time?

  • My husband applied for unemployment, picked up everything from his old job and interviewed for a new one all in the same day.
  • We already knew we could make it on 1 and 1/2 incomes, which is about what unemployment, after taxes, provides.
  • We looked at our financial picture to see which areas needed adjusting or cutting, because we know there will be some.
  • We’ve started prioritizing things that hadn’t gotten done because we’d been so busy with both of us working. (garden, spring cleaning which could yield items for ebay, home repair and maintenance that will save money, etc)

A lot has gotten done in a week and we are moving into the familiar coping rhythm we established last time. We’re more efficient this time. We know there are plenty of challenges ahead, but it’s a good time of year for him to be looking for a new job, he has plenty of time to find one, and he’s actively looking. We know we’ll be ok. But we also know we’ll have days when we’ll need to count blessings and find some peace because we won’t be feeling at peace at all.

4. Baby steps 

Take the information you have and create a plan. Then break it down into baby steps so you can focus on them one at a time. This helps with the freak out factor. Just work on getting through this minute, this hour, this day, this week. Take it one small step at a time and look at what you need to do next, then check it off your list as it gets done and just keep inching forward. If something is particularly hard, break it down into more steps- as many as you need! Set appointments with yourself to deal with the hard stuff if you need to. But make sure you keep them. It will steal your energy and your peace if you don’t.

5. Just keep swimming

The last step is to keep going. To keep taking steps in right direction. As Dory from Finding Nemo loves to sing, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!” Keep showing up, wherever that may be. At home, at your job, at the page (for those with writer’s block!) at whatever place it is you need to be. Jump in a real pool if you need the motivation. Because it does get better, sometimes very gradually, like climbing out of a dark, deep hole. And one day you’ll wake up and find yourself saying, “Wow, I’m not on fire any more! It feels great!”

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