On the first morning back to school after spring break, I woke up with a horrible headache and the suspected onset of a cold. Add in my daughter’s anti-enthusiasm about school and a cat who demanded more attention than normal, and my morning was off to a rough start. At 7:16, I sighed and took a sip of my already-cold coffee.
“I’m just done,” I muttered, as I walked from the kitchen.
I’m not positive, but I think it’s probably not a good sign when you’re mentally done for the day before you’ve even brushed your teeth.
But there I was, in the throes of morning, without the option of quitting. Done though I may have been, my day was not; I had to keep on keeping on, as my sister always said. I fumbled through getting my daughter’s lunch made, tripped over the cat on the way to my room to get dressed, ran into laundry hanging from my bathroom doorframe to dry (knocking it all onto the floor), and used what felt like awkward gorilla hands to attempt a French braid for my girl. My headache? It had escalated to the point of making me sick to my stomach. My mind? It had one thing on repeat: “This day. I just cannot do this day.”
Maybe you’ve been there. I think (hope) we all have. Sometimes those mornings just happen – crashing into our well-laid plans like an out-of-control freight train of chaos. Our beds seem like the best place to dive to safety, but that’s not an option. The only option we have, really, is to play rogue hero cowgirl, leaping onto the train from below, holding on for dear life, and making our way to the engineer’s car where we can grab hold of control. Only then can the train come to a halt or at slow down and head in a more positive direction.
We can’t control the train without getting on, and we can’t fix the day by avoiding it. It may literally be a train wreck before it’s ever left the station, but since it’s still moving, we have to climb aboard.
But what do we do? For me, the morning started off badly both internally and externally. Even once the external stress began to ease as I pulled from the car line, the persistent chant continued in my head like the rhythm of a train on the tracks: “This day. I can’t. I can’t do this day. I can’t today. I can’t do this day.”
I’ve been there before, so before I ever left the school parking lot, I had enacted Operation: Salvage The Day. There are a few things I always do – things I always count on to change the direction of one of those days.
First: Worship music in my headphones, loud enough that I can’t hear exactly how loudly I’m singing along. Right where I am, I begin a personal worship experience – hands raised (unless I’m still driving) and in full worship-service posture. Yes, it leads to strange looks at traffic lights. Yes, my cat is understandably annoyed. But before long, I begin to feel a little better.
The thing is, it’s not the music as much as the attitude. I am rarely in a more desperately humble state of mind than when I feel out of control, and coming into the presence of the One who is in control is liberating. It’s no longer up to me to “do” my day. It’s no longer up to me to fix things or pull things back under control. My eyes have lifted from myself to where they should have been already: on God. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re in perspective.
Second: Truth, loud and clear. This goes hand-in-hand with worship, but it’s separate. The main problem with my out-of-control days isn’t the circumstances, necessarily, but my response to them. My brain becomes a tangle of nonsense. While I recognize the lies and toxic thoughts, I’m unable to disentangle myself. It’s a big mess, and it’s pulling me in.
But truth has a way of untangling it all and releasing me, just like Jesus said it would. As I hear my own voice reciting Scripture and life-changing truth, my internal compass reorients. As worship music and truth-filled podcasts flow through my headphones and into my ears, my brain begins to settle down. Instead of latching on to the tangled thoughts and letting them take me wherever they want, my brain has something healthy to hold onto. Feeding my mind truth about God and who He says I am nourishes my spirit and leads my day in a healthy direction.
Third: Allowing myself to breathe. I don’t mean simple inhaling and exhaling, though that’s good, too, in times of panic. Allowing myself to breathe means giving myself a few minutes to gather my thoughts. To reboot. To start fresh. When I force myself to keep moving…keep moving…keep moving, I only make things worse for myself. I must allow space for grace – for stepping outside for some fresh air or a couple of quiet minutes on the couch with my cat or for reading a few pages of a good book. Yes, it takes away some of my time when I am already running behind, but when I step back into my schedule I’m more present and ready to take it on.
These are simple tools, really, but they work for me. And one thing I’m realizing more and more as I get older is that what seems obvious or common sense to one person might be completely revolutionary for someone else. And if these seem mind-blowingly simple to you, believe me – they’ve been tested a lot. Do they shift everything about my day? No. Not even close. But they do shift ME, and that’s really the only part of any day that I have control over. Recognizing when I’m done – out of control – and taking the steps to seize what is rightfully mine? It’s day-salvaging and life-changing.
What about you? What have you tried that works well for you when your day is out of control and your mind is tangled? Respond either on Facebook or in the comments – we’re in this together, and we can help each other out.
If you’d like more information on becoming free from tangled thoughts that hold you back, check out my podcast – disEntangled – on iTunes and other podcast platforms!
Becoming disEntangled with you,