10 Ways to Keep it Together When Your Head is Exploding

On top of everything else, I slept in this morning. It’s not something that happens very often – or ever – and shows the current state of my mind. My morning routine is so structured at this point that any deviation leaves me feeling adrift. In some sense, my mind becomes more like Shiva’s in moments like these. When things don’t happen in their usual order, I find myself confused, staring at a wall, not knowing what to do or what is expected of me. Little decisions, like what pants to put on, seem to have no logical answer. Hence why I probably changed mine at least four times this morning.

When it comes to dealing with stress, it’s not always better to be a dog.

Fortunately, being a human, I do have a number of coping mechanisms at my disposal that don’t involve hiding in a corner. Even when I am in a rush and everything seems to be collapsing on itself, there are things I can do to keep it together.

1. Take a minute to breathe. I know it seems like you don’t have five seconds to spare, let alone 12 times that, but you really do have more time than you think you do. By taking a few minutes to relax and think you are also enabling yourself to use the rest of the time you have more effectively. Thus avoiding pouring coffee in the sink instead of in your cup.

2. Go outside. Nature is always rejuvenating. Even if you aren’t lucky enough to have a forest less than two minutes away, it still helps to breathe in the fresh air and notice the world going on without you. A bit of perspective is a brilliant thing.

3. Sing. I’m no operatic diva but I always find singing a favourite song helps me feel a lot more at ease, even if only in my head. I fully plan on caroling my way around the agility course during our first run next month.

4. Stretch. Not only does this help ease the tension in your muscles and joints, but I find it helps both energize and relax my brain at the same time. It’s also hard to stress about the items on your to-do list when you are giggling while attempting the happy baby pose. Or maybe I am the only one who finds yoga funny. No wonder my instructor yelled at me so much.

5. Sip something. Could be your morning coffee, could be a cup of herbal tea or a sweet mug of cocoa. I’ve noticed that even a glass of ice water can have restorative effects. When in doubt, it never hurts to hydrate.

6. Vent on social media. There is a reason Facebook is so popular. Often dashing off an irritated status post or text message can help me regain my sense of self. Sympathy from others is a magnificent thing and something we all need when feeling low. It’s good to know that life can really suck for everyone, not just you.

 7. Choose the right clothes. Maybe you have a favourite scarf or a pair of lucky underwear. There might be a shirt you think makes your skin look fantastic or shoes that you love to show off. Whatever it is, this is the time to put it on. A pretty outfit isn’t going to solve your problems but it may put you in a more positive head space. It’s the little things that can lure you back from the ledge.

8.Eat the dang cookie. Yeah, yeah, people go on about “healthy ways” of stress relief and I do agree. A fast food binge is probably only going to make you feel worse. But there is comfort in familiarity and if eating something you love helps you relax, then it’s not going to kill you. Besides, food has no moral value. If you indulge in something full of empty calories, you are not a bad person. No more than eating salad makes you a good person. Trust me on this one.

9. Look to the future. Everything ends. It’s trite but I do find perspective in the knowledge that nothing, not even these overwhelmed feelings, will last forever. There will come a time I can play again. I just need to get through this first.

10. Snuggle something furry. Cat, dog, guinea pig, gerbil, whatever you have handy, though you may want to leave the raccoon in your compost bin alone. Everyone reading this knows the uplifting ability of our pets, why not take advantage? It’s one of the reasons we got them in the first place, right? Sure, your dog won’t be able to come up with the thousand dollars you need to fix your car, but he’ll make you care less about the ramen you’ll be forced to eat for the next ten years.

What do you do to avoid spontaneous combustion?

21 thoughts on “10 Ways to Keep it Together When Your Head is Exploding

  1. I am sorry your morning was so scattered. It sounds like you still have a “routine” though…just one designed to get you back into your regular routine 🙂 When I get stressed I tend to close my world in and think less about my needs so these are good reminders.


  2. The head exploding thing is something I am quite familiar with 🙂 Best thing I ever did was purchase a membership to the gym. Paying lots of money is a good motivator to get regular exercise and I find mind numbing exercise is a great way to relieve stress.
    But I have to agree. #10 is the very best way. There is nothing like hugging a dog to make the world a better place. I start every day by giving my dog a big hug. Then I let her go back to sleep, pat my husband on the head and go to the gym.



  3. One of the first places I ever worked had an informal “mental health day” that we could take when our head was exploding. We had three during the course of the year and no questions were ever asked. I always wondered why more places didn’t have these. No one abused the system and we always came back the next day focused and unstressed.


  4. Sorry you got up late. It’s no fun having your routine messed up. I feel out of sorts if I have to rush to get ready for work, I’d much rather prefer to relax with my coffee before facing the world.

    2, 5, 6, 8, & 10 are some of my favorite ways of dealing with stress. Sometimes, if I’m able, I also like to unplug from the internet for a bit and escape into a good novel.


  5. I HATE days like that. KI know the feeling you mean very well. Today I spent 12 minutes staring at the wall trying to determine if it was July or August… I am one of those weirdos that in moments of great stress has a total meltdown and reverts to a world where people spontaneously break into song. In fact, I can routinely be seen at my desk or in the kitchen, mumbling song lyrics under my breath as I try to get a grip on myself. 4 & 5 (liquid of choice? Tequila.) are also popular ;0)


  6. I once read that if you force your muscles into a smile, it actually lifts your mood. I’ve been known to put on a rictus grin waiting for it to make me feel better.

    It makes Honey hide under the bed. 🙂


  7. 1, 6 and 8. How can I be unhappy while tucking into double clotted cream on fresh baked raspberry and coconut cake? I also sing a lot (in Portugues). Unfortunately for my neighbours, dog and other half, it’s not just when I’m combusting.

    WHY are you needing such remedies? X


  8. Great advice! The combination of snuggling something furry and breathing has always helped me most. Just getting your mind to slow down a bit and realize this is not a “fight or flight” situation can make all the difference.


  9. Hi Kristine, my peeps like to go sit by themselves for awhile. On Fridays or Saturdays, they usually open a good bottle of wine and we get ice cream. We get regular hugs and kisses throughout the week so I guess that’s your #10. We used to have two cars, now we only have one because my dad says we cost too much. But they belong to a car share co-op and for $7.50 per hour, they can book and use a car. The hourly rate includes gas, insurance and no responsibility for repairs or maintenance. Oh yes, the annual membership fee is $65.


  10. Ugh – nothing worse than waking up late! I feel the same way, like I don’t know where to start! I hope your day got better from there (and I think happy baby pose is funny too . . .and I like to laugh in my yoga classes!!)


  11. I definitely agree that the best thing to do when stress starts taking over is step away from the situation for a second to clear your mind. I can get so befuddled with my work at Dish that staring more intensely at the computer screen only makes it harder to think. I’m a firm believer that laughter is the best medicine, so I always try to step away and put on a funny show to clear my mind. I have the Dish Remote Access app that allows me to tap into my home TV through the sling adapter, so it’s not hard to pop on my favorite Parks and Rec episode where ever anxiety decides to blindside me. Laughter is an instant relaxer and puts the stressful situation in perspective, making it way easier to tackle. Also, like you mentioned, going outside can do a world of wonders. There is something about the sound of leaves rustling in the breeze that is so soothing!


  12. You are wise beyond your years. It’s funny how waking up a bit late can really throw your whole rhythm off, isn’t it? I find putting on something that makes me feel good about myself will go a long way. 🙂


  13. Taking a deep breath is what I do when I feel like I’m about to explode at a certain point in time. It helps calm myself down and think clearly.


  14. I think I could combine 1, 2, 4 and 10 to great effect. 🙂

    While I’m a bit of an anxious wreck myself most of the time but I find I’m pretty good at managing crises both in my personal life and at work because I believe in the “stop. think. then speak.” crisis management model. From the looks of your list, it seems you’ve learned this as well.


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