A Plan For When You Feel ‘Off’


I had been in and out of town for weeks which had invited a certain chaos into our domestic realm. My book revision deadline took it’s place behind a vacuum* repair gone wrong, a busted well pump with the repair guy ignoring my calls and the early return from summer camp by the one kid who’d had plans for the summer. Having all three back at home was psychic relief, but now I had a full house. This was not shaping up to be the quiet summer I had counted on to get my book out the door. While directing traffic around my busy home, my cold computer lay motionless on the empty writing chair.

Brene Brown has cautioned that unexpressed creativity turns malignant. By day three of little to no writing, I became the flame-haired poster child for this dire warning.

My pronouncements at dinner that night didn’t garner any sympathy.

“I am getting no work done. If you come into my room to talk to me, please close the door when you leave. And if you need me for something, let me know in advance. Don’t just barge in and announce I need to drop everything.”

“You sound like you are blaming us,” my daughter said.

“Way to kill the vibe, mom,” said my son of his welcome home dinner.  

My plea to convince my family not to make things worse by adding to the interruptions hadn’t gone well. I was like a cornered cheetah swiping a clawed paw at everyone.

On day four, it became clear that no Uber would be pulling up to whisk me off to a quiet writing space where no one would ask me to spark up some chicken tenders and fries for ‘the homies’ skating out in front of our house or come join a Zoom call I didn’t have on my schedule. I decided to take charge of the situation and do the things I knew would help me out of this harmful mindset. On the off chance you find yourself under a pile of children and broken home appliances or other frustrations, I share them with you below.

  1. Return to the Breath

As the bridge between body, mind and consciousness, a simple deep breath can center and restore calm almost immediately. Here are a few forms to experiment with that I learned in Ayurveda:

  • Alternate nostril breathing brings balance to the right and left hemispheres of the brain, thus equalizing both positive and negative forces and restoring integral health to the system.
  • Inhale for four, exhale for eight, breathing only through the nose. This stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which relieves stress and brings clarity and focus.
  • For irritation, Sitali breath creates a sense of calm in acutely stressful situations – roll your tongue and inhale through the rolled tongue, exhaling through the nose. If you cannot roll your tongue, suck the air in through gently closed teeth with the tongue behind your teeth. This cooling breath is great for summer heat or feeling overwhelmed. (I once did this before a super stressful meeting at my son’s school. It slowed my heartbeat down so I could think.)
  • If you prefer an app, try the Insight Timer. Taylor Somerville is Elizabeth Gilbert’s preferred guide for breath work. This app has all sorts of options for meditation, sound healing, you name it.

2.   Journaling

Like nothing else, free writing first thing in the morning unloads the noise from the subconscious and helps focus your thoughts. Oftentimes, I drill down to what I am really grappling with on page three. (That’s the last page if you do Morning Pages from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.) I am the most at peace when I practice this daily or at least several times per week. It’s like a mental shower. (Or bath, as the case may be. What? You don’t write in your tub?)

3. Caring for My Body

Hydration and food choices go off the rails when I travel (and sometimes just because) which always affects how I feel. Well-hydrated means drinking half your body weight in ounces of water per day. In New Mexico, I was intent on maximizing my green chile stuffed sopaipilla intake which has all the ingredients to make me feel horrendous. But it’s a now or never situation, so when I visit, it happens. One night I finished a chile-less dinner then met a friend out to recoup the green chile, intent on fully OD’ing before I left town. There might be a State minimum before you are allowed to leave so this could actually be the law. In any event, I will acknowledge myself for always exercising no matter where I find myself.

4. Mindful Self-Talk

That quiet critical voice really needs a full-time babysitter. It’s so insidious that it creeps back into your head the minute your conscious mind lowers its guard. Not feeling my best after all that rich food had me silently criticizing myself which bummed me out. Then I started making decisions in compliance with that mean little voice. On vacation with my family, I hesitated to go tubing with everyone because the entire boat was filled with magazine-quality physical specimens, minus one: me. I swatted that mean voice away, hopped on the tube in a bikini and hung on tight. I haven’t laughed so hard in years. When I got off, I vowed to shut that mean girl up if it’s the last thing I do.

5. What You Focus On, You Get More Of.

This oldie but goodie comes from parenting expert Dr. Becky Bailey. My husband and I have joked about how the best parents are the ones with no kids, i.e. Dr. Bailey, however we totally subscribed to her parenting advice and hold on to this gem to this day. When I had focused on all the distractions preventing me from doing my work, it just made me feel worse. When I decided instead to focus on the healthy family I love, the delight of a tireless bunch of skateboarders all over my home, and the chance to do better for myself and everyone I care about, I felt better.

6. Getting Out In Nature

A walk in the morning sun, out among the trees, to listen to the birds and absorb the aliveness of nature always clears my head. And when I breath in the healing light of the universe to scrub out any negative energy, it makes all the difference.


So, I will squirrel myself away this weekend and crank through my work.

When you focus on all that you have instead of what you don’t, you get the sense that it’s all going to be okay.



Writing Prompt: What techniques do you use to overcome frustration?

*In case you are intrigued, I own an amazing vacuum that is recommended for allergies and post-construction fine dust: the Rainbow. It cost a king’s ransom but it works on drapes, pillows, furniture, you name it. Our dealer has been great, showing up to the house for repairs and providing demos for its many functions. All was well until she lost our vacuum during a move and then tried to “give” me some other crappy brand that looked identical to a Rainbow. I ended up threatening legal action if she didn’t bring me back a new Rainbow. That’s the second time I have threatened to sue someone this summer. Who says I don’t use my law degree? So, we now have a new Rainbow. And a new dealer. Let me know if you need one.

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