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How to Manage Overwhelming Days

Managing life, business, and schizophrenia all at once can be incredibly overwhelming. Worse yet, setting mental illness and managing life aside, and you still can be overwhelmed with merely having what’s on your task list with business. Today was one of those days. My first reaction was to start cancelling non-critical meetings, stay late at the office, and try to brute force as much work completion as I could, all while being crushed by the feeling of being overwhelmed. In moments like this, it can be easy to forget how to manage overwhelming days.

Fortunately, my regular mindfulness practice eventually kicked in, and I had a revelation on how I approach my challenge. I knew from past experiences and behaviors that working harder and longer is not the solution to a heavy workload. Heavy workloads can come and go, but some of them can last for months. When I work harder and longer for months at a time, my health upkeep may as well get flushed down the toilet.

“Counterintuitive” alert: Reduce your heavy workload, don’t increase it

So my solution has evolved from working harder and longer into a controversial alternative (controversial to me, at least). I decided that instead of my brute force tactic, I take another route. I decided to pick one to two critical things (today I picked two) that I could complete in a reasonable amount of time. Then, for the rest of the day, spend my time exclusively on self-care.

The logic behind this is simple. I have a heavy workload now, and there is no indication of it relenting for the next few months. With this sudden recognition, I need to prepare my mind and body for hard work and challenges ahead. To maintain a constant flow of high productivity, I need to take care of the top three things that will enable that: proper diet, exercise, and time to unwind.

So, today, when I completed my two critical tasks, I completely dropped the subject of work from my mind. I made myself a healthy dinner and did some at-home lifting (did you know that weight lifting has amazing effects on schizophrenic men?) and stretches. To unwind, and I did a couple of drawing and writing prompts. My high stress levels plummeted. I was able to think about the tasks ahead with a clear mind, and I’m moving into the rest of the week with confidence and less panic.

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Photo Credit: Miguel Bruna

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Life is an ongoing series of lessons. Because I live with schizophrenia, my hope is that the lessons I learn and the solutions that come from those lessons will help you and anyone else dealing with schizophrenia or mental illness/mental health issues.

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