How To Go From Craziness to Calm: Getting My Priorities Straight

Getting My Priorities Straight: How To Go From Craziness to PeacefulWhat’s more important: spending focused, fun time with your kids or doing their laundry?  Being there for your partner or cleaning the house?  Taking care of yourself or running one more errand?

When you lay it all out in black and white, the answers seem obvious.  But how do you live your life each day?

For the past few months (well, to be perfectly honest, most of my life), I’ve been leaning (more than I’d like to admit) toward the second part of each question.  Instead of beating myself up about it like I used to, which never did any good anyway, I’m applying my ongoing mindfulness practice to it.

When my kids want me to spend time with them and I respond with, “as soon as I finish the dishes/laundry/email/whatever,” I notice it with curiosity.  There I go again.  Then I ask myself, “What’s the worst that could happen if I stop what I’m doing and hang out with my kids?”  Answer: nothing.  So I spend time with my kids.  And I watch my children’s eyes light up.  And that’s the best reward I could imagine.

Work First.  Fun Last.

I grew up in a house where all the chores had to be done and the house had to be spotless before we could play.  Or else.  And that’s how I’ve lived my life for decades since I left home.

For the many years I’ve been with my husband, I’ve erroneously interpreted things he has said and done as something my father would have said to me.  I’ve told myself that my husband will be mad at me if I don’t get all my chores done before doing anything I enjoy.

Funny thing is, when I actually spoke to my husband about this, his true feelings couldn’t have been further from the truth.  Once he saw where I was coming from, he would say things like, “The world isn’t going to end if you don’t clean the house today.  Let’s go for a walk.”

My mindful self laughs whenever my monkey mind starts to take over again.  Like when I cancel a massage appointment (again) because my monkey mind can’t seem to find the time for it.

Listen To the Whispers

Over the past few months, the pressure I’ve put on myself to “get it all done” has been too much and my body has been letting me know.  I’ve had to make choices about what will and won’t get done, gently acknowledging that the world won’t end, and no one will really care if many of my “to do’s” don’t get done when I expected.

Since entering the next female rite of passage called perimenopause about a year and a half ago, my body has been sending me messages that it’s changing and I can’t keep demanding the same crazy pace from myself.  Whenever I push myself too hard, I’m slapped down with a massive feeling of fatigue that I’ve never before experienced.

I keep trying to power through it, but I know I’m only doing myself more harm.  I’ve been using work and wine to muffle the voice of my True Self that’s telling me to slow down and take better care of myself.  From prior experience, I know that if I don’t listen to my body’s whispers, the whispers will get much louder until they have to whack me over the head with something serious.  I’d rather avoid that.

Trying To Slow Down

One of the things I’ve not done for a while is write.  I love to write and find it healing, but I chose not to make time for it because it didn’t seem “productive enough.”  With my mind going a million miles a minute, sitting down to focus on something creative from my soul seemed almost impossible.  I found myself coming up with a slew of excuses, the biggest one being that I was too tired.

I took a week off of work to try to slow down.  I planned to write each day.  Unfortunately, I spent most of that time doing chores and other work around the house along with checking email at work – just in case.

Near the end of that week, on my way back from taking out the trash, I stopped to untangle the hammock hanging under the trees in front of our house.  As I started to walk away from the hammock, my True Self whispered to me, “You know, you didn’t put this hammock out here just so you could untangle it every now and then.  Lie down and relax for a minute.”  And I did.  It was wonderful.

The past two weeks were busy again.  I felt like I could barely keep my head above water.  To take advantage of the three and a half hours of commute time I have each day, I listen to books and podcasts.  Over these two weeks I listened to Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourselfby Dr. Lissa Rankin and Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers by Dr. David Perlmutter.

Mind Over Medicine is about how powerfully we can heal ourselves of both minor and chronic, life-threatening diseases.  Grain Brain shows how our carbohydrate-dense diets are eroding our brains and killing us.  Both have helped me to see how I can make lifestyle changes to improve my health, energy and happiness.

Getting Back On Track

Today my husband gave me the gift of a quiet day at home alone.  He said he would do it under one condition – that I “get some work done.”  When he said that, my heart sank.  My mind immediately defined “work” as one of the many home improvement projects that we’re in the midst of.  Fortunately, he quickly clarified that “work” meant writing.  I almost started to cry with joy.

He’s an abstract painter who has been putting projects ahead of his painting so he’s quite familiar with what I’ve been feeling.  He knows how much I love to write.  He knows that I have to see writing as an important job in order for me to prioritize it.  So he helped me to do that today.  He’s amazing.

Putting together the pieces of what I’ve learned or been reminded of over the past few weeks, I have a new plan for how to approach my day – a new plan to restore my energy and vitality and to approach each day more in line with how I feel physically, mentally and emotionally.

My underlying theme is acceptance of how things are without trying to force things to be otherwise.  My body and mind are changing.  I can’t force them to be what they’ve been.  It’s time to learn a new way of being.

Here’s my plan:

  • Consciously notice the innumerable things I’m grateful for throughout my day.
  • Write every day – before opening email.
  • Significantly reduce the wheat and sugar in my diet.
  • Increase my daily intake of veggies and good fats.
  • Continue my daily yoga and meditation practice.
  • Get a monthly massage.
  • Walk most days.
  • Focus more on the important people in my life and less on the chores and “to do’s.”

I’ve been thinking more about what I want my life to have meant to others when I’m gone.  I think about the role model I’m being for my children.  I think about how I can best offer my gifts to the world.

When I look at the big picture through these lenses, whether or not I get to “inbox zero,” have the dishes and laundry done or the house completely clean start to have much less significance.

Listening to my True Self and prioritizing from my values and heart are what really matters.


image credit

Chill iPhone - Coffee Shop (Daily Quote) I just found my new favorite mindfulness app:  Chill.  It's just what I need in the middle of a hectic day to remind me that all is well in this moment and to simply breathe.  You can set it to give you up to five reminders a day to be mindful like:

message"Come back to your body.  It exists right here in this moment.  Let it be your anchor."

"Take a moment to think of someone you love.  Feel that love inside you.  Sit silently with that feeling for a moment."

"Feel the silence inside you.  Feel how expansive that silence is.  You're as vast as the sky."

"You are right here, right now.  Don't let your thoughts tell you otherwise.  Breathe in this moment."

quoteChill also provides beautiful daily quotes from Buddha, Lao Tzu and other Zen masters on a backdrop of a peaceful image.  With a touch of a button you can also share these quotes via text, email and all the social sites.   The app's curator is a Buddhist ordained in the tradition of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. The quotes are based in Buddhist ideas of mindfulness but come from many traditions. They speak about the challenges we all face, and how to mindfully center ourselves in the midst of modern life.Chill

It's free or $1.99 if you want to get rid of the little ads at the bottom.  It works on iOS and Apple Watch.  You can find out more or download the app HERE.

Have you been trying to start or maintain a meditation practice but life keeps getting in the way?  I'm there with you - and I found a solution: Daily Meditation Videos delivered to your inbox every morning.  They've been gently nudging me each day to take just a few minutes in the middle of my day to stop and breathe.  The creator has done the hard part of culling great guided meditation videos from YouTube and delivering them to you in a simple, beautifully designed email.  All you have to do is click, listen, relax and breathe.

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17 Responses to How To Go From Craziness to Calm: Getting My Priorities Straight

    Kathy @ SMART Living
    Commented:  05/27/2014 at 9:47 am

    Hi Paige! So glad to see you made the choice to write today. Not only was it good for your soul, it was a great reminder to many of the rest of us as well. It is, as you say, so very easy to get caught up in busy-ness and forget what is so important for our happiness. I’m finding it helpful to focus on what I consider to be essential in my life and I think you are saying something similar. Good luck on your plan and I look forward to seeing more posts in the future because of it! ~Kathy
    Kathy @ SMART Living recently posted..Essentialism—A Better Way To Describe Minimalism?My Profile

    Chris Burton
    Commented:  05/28/2014 at 6:28 am

    Hi Paige, what a lovely post. Thank you. I’ve walked away with a new sense of enthusiasm and appreciation!

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  2. John
    Commented:  05/29/2014 at 10:28 am


    Thank you for the reminder to slow down and take care of the things that are truly important in our lives. I think you will relate to advice a friend recently told me: “Take care of your body, it is the only place you have to live here on earth.”

    Keep on writing and posting! You have the gift.


      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  05/31/2014 at 1:09 pm

      Thank you John! I love your quote! Yes, our body is the only one we get so we better take good care of it. Without our health (my first value), it’s hard to focus on much else.

      Have an awesome day!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..The Life OrganizerMy Profile

    Commented:  06/02/2014 at 7:50 am

    Ohhhh I hear you on listening to the whispers girl! That is something I’ve been working on myself and thankfully seeing great results. Listening to whispers is waaaay better than waiting for the ole brick to the head action-lol! Thanks for this great article.
    Melissa recently posted..Emotions Of The HeartMy Profile

    Suzie Cheel
    Commented:  06/02/2014 at 5:11 pm

    Love that you are slowing down to move forward. I love your list for me i would add breathe and drinl water
    Suzie Cheel recently posted..Do You Unleash Your Creativity On Your Business?My Profile

      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  06/02/2014 at 6:27 pm

      I completely agree with you Suzie! I didn’t include those two on this list because I’ve already ingrained them into my day. I’ve noticed that as I focus on my gluten-free, low carb way of eating, I’m naturally drinking even more water – almost a gallon a day! A little deep breathing throughout the day is a must for keeping stress at bay. Hugs to you!!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..Finding Balance Amidst the ChaosMy Profile

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  4. sherill
    Commented:  07/10/2014 at 8:05 pm

    Hi, what a great post. I like what you said that ” Listening to my True Self and prioritizing from my values and heart are what really matters”. I’ll keep this in mind, I guess it’s time to change my perspective and start listening to my own true self. Thanks for sharing .

      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  07/12/2014 at 8:39 am

      Listening to your heart, your True Self, your intuition is something that we’re programmed to avoid but it’s the key to living a happy, authentic life. It’s not our job to make everyone around us happy. That’s actually impossible. It’s every individual’s job to make themselves happy. Then we all have the joy and happiness to spread around us.

      Thanks so much for your comment Sherill!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..My Life Sucks – Now What Do I Do?My Profile

    KW Stout
    Commented:  12/04/2014 at 6:10 pm

    Ahh inbox zero, that mythological creature we find ourselves eternally chasing. Haha! You bring up some great points that I can relate to. Sometimes I get so caught up with things in my business life and I give them too much value. When that happens I have to step back and prioritize things. Great post!
    KW Stout recently posted..How to Create a Life VisionMy Profile

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