Monday, July 20, 2020

Routine Maintenance: 4 Ways I've Reduced My Daily Anxiety By Limiting My Choices

For some of you, life is a choose-your-own-adventure candy store: the more options, the better.

But for a lot of us - and especially those of us with anxiety or other mental health struggles - too many choices are not only overwhelming, they make us absolutely miserable.

I was reminded of this when a photographer I follow on Instagram talked about how he "cheats indecision" by wearing a simple green shirt every day. One less choice each day = less stress. (Here's his video, if you want to check it out.)

I hadn't thought about it in those terms, but I've found this approach helps IMMENSELY when you're overwhelmed or just short on mental energy. You know, like during a global pandemic. In fact, for the last year or more I've been consciously limiting my choices in most areas of my daily life, so I can save my energy for more important things. As I result I have less internal paralysis (we've all hit that wall where we can't make even the simplest decisions, right?) and more focus and time to give the rest of my day.

Want some examples? Suuuure you do. So here come 4 everyday decisions I've found to be the most draining, and how I've learned to side-step them to save my spoons.

First, let's start with the Big One, and my first successful experiment in limiting choices:

- What I Eat

Discovering the Low FODMAP diet was my first step down this path, since it automatically took a bunch of options off the table. For over a year I ate the exact same thing for breakfast: a microwave egg bowl from Aldi. Was it boring? Yes. Did it kill my soul some mornings to eat the same thing AGAIN? So much yes. But it also gave me something wonderful I'd never had before as an adult: a no-brainer way to start my day with adequate food that wouldn't hurt me later. No more staring wide-eyed into the fridge, no more asking myself, "What do I feel like eating?", no more starving myself until my blood sugar tanked because I "just can't deal with this right now" and then later inhaling a pack of stale crackers because it's too late to make "real" food. Suddenly I didn't have to think, I didn't have to decide, and I had something I didn't hate to get me through 'til lunch.



Today I still eat the same breakfast every day, though it's healthier and tastier since I've leveled up to making it myself: two scrambled eggs, fresh cut tomatoes, and a piece of toast. That's not to say I don't make exceptions, because an inflexible routine is just as stressful as NO routine. I still have microwave bowls for low-energy days, or occasionally I'll heat up leftovers. If I stand in front of the fridge for more than 5 seconds trying to decide, though, that's my cue to fall back on The Routine.

Lunch is my weak spot; I'm still figuring out how to best automate that. On bad days I still skip it because I can't decide, and then my blood sugar tanks and I lose the whole rest of the afternoon. Arg. But most days I either heat up leftovers from previous dinners, or John will make us a sandwich.

When it comes to dinner, I'm not being over-dramatic when I say this magnetic menu board I bought last January has changed my life.





John and I used to waste HOURS every week on the "I don't know, what do you want to eat?" merry-go-round. Now every Sunday John decides what we'll eat (he asks for my input, but I'm not much help) and then I write it all out on the menu board in fun colors. (I had to buy more chalk markers, btw, and I highly recommend this rainbow pack, it's incredible.)


Shout-out to John who not only makes all these dinners, but has modified them all to be milk, onion, & garlic-free for me. 

I realize most of you probably don't have an in-home saint to make meals for you, but a menu board like this can still save you making those daily decisions. Fill out the week's menu on your day off, when you have the extra energy. It also helps to keep a master list of all the meals you can either make yourself or order from local restaurants, so you're not stuck struggling to remember all your options.


- What I Wear

Most of us don't want to wear the same color shirt everyday like Doug, but you can still limit your wardrobe choices to make getting dressed easier. On average I fall into an 80/20 split: 80% of the time I dress in the same basic outfit, but if I wake up with extra energy, then I break out the colorful dresses and skirts you sometimes see in my IG Story.

My go-to outfit for the 80% days is black yoga pants, a black geek tee, and Chucks in a matching accent color:


The yoga pants are from Walmart; once I discovered how comfy they were I bought 5 pairs. I still have to choose which geek tee I wear each day, but that usually doesn't trip me up for very long. (Though I'll admit, there are days when even that is a struggle.)

You can do something similar by wearing the same type of clothes each day, like jeans and a button-up, a skirt and a tank top, etc. Buy your favorite staples and accessories in multiple colors if you can, including your shoes. Pay attention to what you actually wear - as opposed to what you THINK you might wear, eventually -  and try to just buy that stuff. I also highly recommend CowCow dresses: they come in hundreds of fun patterns, cost about $25 each, and are a comfy stretch material that's equally perfect for work or lounging at home.


- What I Do Each Day

Anyone who has to fight with their brain already knows this, but routine is our friend. Routine is amazing for our mental and emotional health. It gives us stability and takes away the anxiety and stress of constant decision-making.

I've worked for myself for over 12 years, and routine is not just the way, it is the ONLY way. Because my days have so many elements to them, the best method I've found to keep them all in order is a physical daily list.

It's not pretty, but it gets the job done.

Each morning as I eat breakfast, I look over my laminated list. The things I have to do everyday are already printed, so I only have to jot down a few specifics on the side. (I also list things for John.) Then that list goes with me everywhere I work, from the desk to the treadmill desk, so that each time I find myself mindlessly scrolling I can look down at the list beside me and get back on track.

My list is double-sided; the back is a separate list for Sundays, when I work on Cake Wrecks. You might want to have a few different lists, too, but try not to weigh yourself down with TOO much detail. You only need enough of a guideline to lead you to your next task.

In fact, just so you don't get the wrong impression that I have all my stuff together: Once again, at best this falls into that 80/20 split again. There are days when I don't make a list, and other days when I never look at the list I did make. I try to make room mentally for the times when I need a break, when my mental circuits are fried. Because I don't take regular days off, my "days off" are sort of scattered around on an "as-needed" basis. I'll admit that's kind of a terrible plan, but I'm still a work in progress. I just haven't leveled up all the way yet. Remember, if you're doing anything better today than you did a year ago, that's a win. Give yourself permission and time to grow!


- What I Look At Online

The other week I found myself staring at a post from a Universal Facebook group I'm in, a group that's been in constant controversy over the not-so-new mask policy, and that delights in screaming the same things at each other in at least 3 new posts a day. And yet, there I was, about to click into the comments to see all the screaming. Controversy and conflict are so addictive, aren't they? Even when you already know where you stand on an issue, you can't help but be tempted to grab some popcorn and drag over a virtual chair to watch from the sidelines.

As I wrestled with the temptation to browse those top comments, I realized that here was one more decision, one more choice, that I shouldn't be inflicting on myself. I immediately muted the group for another month.

I've said this before and I'll say it again: you have to fight for your social media feeds, my friends. You can't be passive when it comes to what you feed your brain. Think of your social media feed like a garden: it's up to you to regularly prune out the life-choking weeds and nurture the flowers.

Beyond unfollowing the accounts that cause you stress or drag you down hate-filled rabbit holes, it's also important that you curate and limit the good stuff. Those of us who struggle with decisions often find ourselves trapped in the The Neverending Scrolling. (Aah a aahhh ah ahhhh ah ah) So save Future You the decision of when to stop by limiting how many accounts and people you follow! Go through your "follow" lists every few months - any time you have the extra time and energy - and only keep the accounts that bring your life joy or value. Still have too many? Then prioritize, and only keep your favorites. Feel guilty unfollowing your Aunt Edna or that friend who sells soap - or even me? Then use the "mute" or "hide" function to keep us from cluttering your feed.

I admit online stuff is another weak spot for me, so I'd welcome your input on how you protect your mental health without quitting social media. Do you limit your time online, or use it as a reward at the end of the day? Do you avoid Twitter and only go on TikTok? :D (For real though, TikTok is the one place that's consistently been making me laugh lately. I think Instagram & FB need more dancing, ha.)

And while you're at it, tell me your own life tips for managing daily decisions. What works for you? What doesn't? Do you limit your choices in other areas than these 4? How? Where? Does it help? Tell meeeeeeee.

And hey, I'm rooting for you today. Rest up, take your time, call a friend. Your next right thing will still be there when you're ready, I promise. ::hugs::

*****


P.S. Here's a look at a few of those CowCow dresses I mentioned. I own the unicorn one, and it gets more compliments than anything else I own.


Also I do realize the irony in presenting you with hundreds of dress options after a post about reducing your choices, but all I can say is... at least they're fun choices? :D (I have so many of these on my wish list. I think I want the dinos next.)

57 comments:

  1. I do the clothes one. I have 4 dresses and 4 sweaters I can wear in rotation for my 4 day work week. I save the dressing up for my time off. I also have had the exact same breakfast for over a decade. Lunch is always the hard one. Every time it messes me up, what and when to eat, how I feel after. It's the worst and can ruin a day that was set to be fine!

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  2. Want help on the t-shirt decision? The one on the top of the stack. My go to choice of top to wear to work is...the next one in line. I have to have a semi-professional wardrobe and that helps me so much. I have A LOT of clothes but if I'm stuck I literally just grab the next thing in line. Same with my t-shirts on the weekends. When I put them away the clean ones go on the bottom so I don't wear the same five over and over (because I would), then I grab the one on the top and away we go!

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    1. This is a great suggestion!

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    2. That is brilliantly simple! Love it!

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    3. I do pretty much the same thing for breakfast every morning too! I plan my dinners and since that's hard, I make double batches so we have leftovers the next night, and then Fridays are always oven-baked fish and chips (British), so I only have to plan 3 other dinners. But lunches are hard. We often end up just grazing on deli meat, crackers and fruit. I went off sandwiches when bread became a problem, and the gluten free stuff just doesn't cut it for me. I'm hoping others will have better lunch suggestions...

      Oh, and I wear jeans and a rotation of tee shirts every. day. Unless it's super hot and then I have a couple of shorts to choose from.

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    4. Yup, that's what I do! If I'm wanting a particular shirt I can pull that out, but otherwise I just wear whatever's next in line!

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  3. Yes! Routines and lack of choices make habits easy!
    I changed up my eating habits about 18 months ago and one thing that made it much easier was to make my decisions un-complicated for certain meals. For instance, almost every morning for breakfast I eat two eggs scrambled with sauteed spinach, served with salsa on top. It's easy, it's filling, and I get a good serving of vegetables first thing in the morning.
    For lunch, when I'm eating by myself (not cooking for my husband, too), I keep Aidells meatballs on hand. I can microwave 4-6 depending on how hungry I am. Sometimes I also have some cubed sweet potato that I cook in the air fryer or roast in the oven. I do a bunch at once and then I just heat up what I need. I also have a vegetable. I have found that I am much more likely to eat vegetables if they are easy to prepare. So I keep veggies on hand that are easy to just steam in the microwave - snap peas, pre-trimmed green beans, broccoli florets, etc. I microwave for 1 1/2 minutes and enjoy with the meatballs. Easy and delicious, I get my veggies and protein, and carbs if I want it. Minimizing the decisions helps me to alleviate the "what do I want?" questions, although if I really do want something else, I'm free to get it!

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  4. YES - I'm all about unfollowing or snoozing the accounts that stress me out, make me mad, are just plain stupid. Even though I'm retired, I do a lot of volunteer work. Weekday breakfast is a fruit smoothie, unbuttered whole grain toast (loving the Ezekiel raisin bread) and coffee. Weekends I make something special omelets, pancakes, scrambled eggs - I have a varied go-to list. It's almost always enough that lunch isn't necessary, although I keep fruit and crackers on hand for snacks. Weekday lunch is either leftovers, salad, or hummus on toast. I list out the week's dinners on Sunday, just not on a board. We've been doing weekly grocery pickup, so doing that helps me craft the shopping list for the week. I have enough stuff in the pantry or freezer so that if the store is out of something I want, it's not a crisis.

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  5. The mask debate has been really hard on me mentally. My husband got Covid and while he wasn't hospitalized, he was very sick and will likely struggle with symptoms for another month at least. I feel very strongly about masks and it's been a drain on the little emotional capacity I have left to even deal with the mask debate. So I gave up Facebook. I'm done for a couple of weeks. I need time to recharge and get back to center. I still have Marco Polo and Messenger for my friend groups (That I met through FOE!) and Instagram for the pretty pictures. I feel like I can still have social media, I just have to pick and choose what I utilize when. I will go back to Facebook when I'm ready, but I will probably be thinning out my feed even more than I already had.

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  6. I’ve been a mom/housewife for almost 20 years and planning meals has been one of my least favorite parts. But over a month ago, I joined my husband on the Keto diet. I’ve been making keto friendly casseroles for us and a quiche for myself and that takes care of lunch and dinner. I make my oldest something she can eat on after work all week and my youngest decided to try vegetarianism and is planning and cooking her own food. I can’t believe how much easier it has been to let that struggle go.
    I also have a daily cleaning list. I know exactly which room to focus on each day of the week. It helps me not get overwhelmed by the whole house.

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  7. I very tightly control my Facebook feed for my sanity. I've 30-day muted cousins with too much life drama (or just TOO MUCH everything- 80 shared posts in one day is NOT ok, even if every one of them is stuff I support), 30-day muted a friend over and over when she drowned me in Baby Yoda and teaching memes for months, and quit Twitter years ago. I have a few follows on Tumblr, a few on Instagram, and a very small follow list on Facebook so I end up seeing mostly FOE posts and the people who post stuff I care about, in moderation.

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  8. I employ the limited choice strategy when trying to decide where to go grab a bite with a friend when both of us are indecisive. One of us will offer up a few acceptable options, then the other will choose. Works really well!

    Thank you for all your posts! I don't always comment, but I greatly appreciate them!

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  9. Food blog that may help people with weekly planning, if only because everyone responds with their menus: https://thisweekfordinner.com (i.e. https://thisweekfordinner.com/week-684-weekly-menu/)

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  10. I have a pretty standard set of ingredients that turn into meals. I've found out through experimentation I do need to have a certain amount of variety (or my body refuses to eat it, to the point of gagging and/or just letting the blood sugar crash even though my logical brain is pleading for energy). But to keep the choices manageable, I think of them in categories: proteins, side vegetable, etc. It's a lot easier to pick one from column A and one from column B than start from scratch.

    I keep my lists on 3"x3" post it notes. This way I don't get overwhelmed - I CAN'T put too many items on it and hope to be able to read it!

    As for social media: I've always kept a tight rein on it, and right now it's even tighter. I've had to mute multiple real life friends because their output went from updates and fun stuff to - well, let's just say mentally draining stuff. I know this is not a popular opinion in many circles (most of which I've dropped from my feeds), but my primary responsibility is to maintain my sanity. Nothing else happens if I don't have that. And over the years, I become more and more ruthless about protecting it. No, my head's not in the sand - I carefully curate my information sources (going to the source wherever possible), and especially HOW they're presenting the information. For me, nothing out-shouts the shouting like actual data.

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  11. I joke that I have about 8 bytes of clothes RAM, and some of that is reserved for making sure things aren't on inside-out or backwards! So I'm a big fan of the "whatever's next" system too. For meals, even if I don't have one default meal, I have a structure I stick to. So for lunch, it's a wrap/sandwich with protein and veggies + fruit + dessert.

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  12. I've got a 52 page notepad where each page has space for the week's menu on one column and a grocery list on the other, with perforations in between. A magnet sticks it to the fridge door. Every week weI fill out the menu, then I know what to put on the grocery list. Anything we notice missing midweek can go on the list too. Then tear off the list side and take it to the store...

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  13. It might sound silly, but when I'm really unable to make a lunch decision, I just eat my routine breakfast again (egg sandwich on toast). And yes, it took me well into adulthood to realize that there's not actually a law against eating breakfast food later in the day...

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  14. Thank you for linking those chalk markers! We have a similar menu board but our markers ran out a while ago and I couldn't bring myself to researching the various options. I instantly purchased the ones you linked. :)

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  15. We have a magnetic menu board and I created little magnets of our most common suppers, making it extra easy to pick a weekly menu!!

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    1. Ohhh, that is so smart! I may steal this idea. :D

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  16. I keep a fairly strict weekly schedule; every day is not the same but every Monday is, every Tuesday etc., I also eat the same thing for breakfast every work day and the same lunch at work everyday. I am getting sick/bored of my work lunch so I'm not sure how I will handle it if I get to the point where I can't stand it anymore. I am not very active on social media, but one choice I made is to not have any social media on my phone, I only use it on my computer. Of course that doesn't work for anyone who mostly only uses their phone. I also have a limited number of facebook friends, just enough that I can quickly scroll through new posts maybe 5 min twice a day. I did add more friends when stay at home started, and I worried I would be overwhelmed, but I didn't add too many so it has been ok.

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  17. The Cow Cow dresses are cute, but do they have pockets? ;)

    Also, how short are they on you? They show a lot of leg on the model...

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    1. I'm guessing they're not too short on Jen, but I got a laugh picturing them on my 5'10" self. It'd be a lot of leg!

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    2. Maybe wear over leggings? That would be cute...

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    3. Sady they do NOT have pockets, it's their one major flaw. And I am quite short, about 5'2, so they fall just below my knees.

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  18. During shelter at home, I was so overwhelmed by the choices of things to watch that I just wouldn't watch anything, and then feel like I was wasting time. Then I found the Decades Collection on Disney+, and started going through chronologically. It cut my options of thousands to "I can watch the next interesting things in chronological order, or nothing". Infinite options down to two. It was a step in saving my sanity, for sure. Haven't found a good way to do that on Netflix, but I welcome suggestions.

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  19. I'm all for curating social media more. I'm terrible at it but am trying. I loathe f*a*e*b*o* but feel compelled to stay on it to keep touch with far/old friends. So have muted so so many. And I delete the apps from my phone. I need to do that with Tw*tt*r, too. Because of my work I feel like I have to have it so I get instant news but 97% of the time it's just doomscrolling mindlessness that makes my blood pressure go up. Food thing: I've started making "bit of this bit of that" lunches. Three baby carrots, radishes, dollop of hummus, left over chicken, salami, cheese? I grab three bites of whatever strikes my fancy and put it on a plate and just nibble at it rather than concocting a "meal" by normal standards. It's my favorite lunch. I don't know *what* I'm 'in the mood' for so just grab bits and bobs of stuff and what I don't decide to eat I just put back in the fridge.

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  20. Don't forget the concept of a work uniform - 6 pairs of the same pants, 6 similar/identical tops, a couple of similar/identical blazers, worn every day, all the time. It takes the debate about of getting dressed, made acquiring new clothes a snap, and surprisingly, most people didn't notice. A capsule wardrobe fits the same need, and is one of my favorite 'life hacks' - owning a small number of very nice things you love is always better than being overwhelmed by stuff that doesn't thrill you.

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  21. All my pants work with 90% of my tops. My earrings match my tops as do my socks and shoes. And I love LISTS.

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  22. Reading today's post, I'm kinda amused and impressed with how much I already did a lot of these things, even pre-pandemic! Breakfast has been some kind of eggs (usually scrambled) with cheese and a bowl of fruit limited rotating dinner menu, limited wardrobe with a variety of hair accessories... and I limit social media. I'm not a fan of facebook, so I only scroll through once few months. I do like instagram... but only positive stuff and outside of social media I play merge dragons a lot, I find it oddly soothing.

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  23. For the Facebook social media anxiety I suggest unfollowing EVERYTHING. All liked pages, groups, and friends. Effectively removing your entire feed. This stops the constant scrolling and forces you to choose who/what you look at at any given session. Since doing this over a year ago I find myself on less and not coming across all the negative that invades social media these days. I have a core set of friends I follow daily and several groups I'm active in. Everything else I look at on occasion as it suits my fancy.

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  24. If you are looking for a soothing no stress thing to do online, go to YouTube's "Baumgartner Restoration". He does high end art restoration and he is the most amazing and calm place to hang right now. His fans are all lunatics (in a nice way) so even reading the comments on his videos is a happy place.

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    1. Oh yes, we love Baumgartner's videos! Although his latest 5-parter literally put me to sleep, lol. I still have to go back and watch the last 2.

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  25. I have only five or six websites I look at regularly. It's been the same ones for years. You can guess what two of them are ;^}. That way I'm not overwhelmed by all the stuff out there on the internet. ~LST

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  26. I want one of those dresses but in amazon Mexico they cost like 85 dlls lol XD not today, not today...

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  27. Thank you for this. I used to eat the same healthy breakfast every day but just gave up on it a couple of years ago. Lately I've been doing the same thing of staring into the fridge, and then not eating until it's too late. Today I started with my old faithful breakfast and I remembered how good it always felt. Thank you so much for the reminder.

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  28. I've found that creating a routine that includes at least an hour of totally unplugged, no gadget, no chores, just quiet time has really helped me. Sometimes I read, sometimes I just sit and hold a mug of coffee or tea and let the warmth of it soothe me. It's best if it's outside and I can soak in the sound of trees and birds (and traffic and power tools and such - I live in a big city), but when the allergies or weather don't allow that I sit by a window instead. There's something about having that space to be still that helps me recenter myself.

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  29. My grandfather had a closet full of green shirts and pants, so he also wore the same thing everyday.

    But that's because he was color blind.

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  30. I just can't eat the same thing for breakfast too many times in a row or I wind up despising the food. So I'll rotate by week. This week I can either have scrambled eggs and fruit or cereal. Last week I had breakfast tacos or waffles. I have a choice every day, but it's a limited one, and I don't eat anything long enough that I wind up despising it.

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  31. I have to say, since I began working at home in early March, not having to think about what to wear Every day is a huge load off my mind. I didn’t put on pants with a button until the end of June when we celebrated my nieces HS graduation. (I told her I must love her a lot to put on pants with a button 😆)
    My daughter is 20, she eats Cheerios every morning. Just one less thing for her to worry about in a world that has lots of worries for her.

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  32. I have been watching my nutrition, and will "meal prep" my weekly lunches every weekend. I take one day to cook my 5 weekday lunches (but know people that do all 7) and put them in containers for the week. Most weeks it looks like a grain (faro or quinoa), frozen vegetables, and a protein (usually 93/7 ground beef/turkey/chicken.) I can add sauces or other condiments to switch it up daily if I want to. There are times that I change it up and make a big pot of a bean-less sweet potato chili, or chicken and salsa dish, but I have the same thing for a week, and can switch it up the next week. Good luck!

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  33. I definitely do the clothes one. I wear essentially the same thing every day, it just changes with the weather/seasons. Some variation of long sleeved t-shirt/t-shirt/tank top (80% of the time Geeky), with jeans/capris/shorts. The best was actually when I was in school (grades 7-12). I was in a private school and had to wear a uniform. My biggest decisions were "long-sleeved shirt or short-sleeved shirt", "sweater or vest", "tights or knee-highs", and most of those were weather-season dependant as well.
    I'm lucky in that my parents do the cooking for supper, I'm responsible for my own breakfast & lunch. I eat the exact same breakfast every day, have for years. A bowl of cereal. The type of cereal occasionally changes, but since I am now GF, I have limited options.
    A big one I actually find for me, and my family, is trying to decide what to watch on TV. we are a huge TV family, and sometimes it's tough

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  34. Could have sworn my comment went through, but oh well.
    But I wanted to say that pre-planning our meals for the week has been immensely helpful for our budget, our sanity and our marriage - early on we had some stuff and I suggested things on the fly and it often wasn't great plus I felt rushed and hangry and nobody was happy. So now we sit down every Sunday morning, decide on 5 meals for the week (we eat out or get takeout on Fri & Sat) and I make my grocery list accordingly. Lunches are still somewhat on the fly but we always have dinner covered and it helps a LOT.

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  35. You're absolutely right about how conflict and engaging in conflict can be addictive. Years ago, the esteemed Bill Moyers had a show called Faith and Reason and I loved it. One of his guests was Pema Chodron who is an American woman who was Christian based, living a normal upwardly mobile life, when her husband left her. Then her second husband left her. She evolved and ultimately became a Buddhist nun and author.

    When I watched the episode, I was in the midst of a personal conflict--new husband, his unpleasant ex-wife and a lot of angst and heartache over children and child support. She was creating a situation that required us to seek legal counsel and it was consuming much of my energy. One thing struck me as I watched this episode--I mean--thunderbolt struck-- was Pema's recounting of her own personal struggle and how she got sucked into the cycle of negative feelings and looked forward to rehashing her anger. She spoke about how sweet the bitterness of that anger and outrage tasted to her and how she became an addict to it. The habit of feeding on that anger and recycling the reasons for it left her unable to move forward-to see the light at the end of the tunnel and what awaited her when she left that anger behind. I resonated with her comments--I felt such self-righteous anger over my personal situation, I realized I was actually enjoying it. YIKES. That's a hard reality to accept. I had to really assess my own responsiblity in the situation (I realized how much I wanted my husband to fight the battle MY way--when in fact, it was his fight, not mine and he had to deal with it in his own way in order to be able to live with the outcomes--whatever they were going to be.) I had to step WAAAAAAAY back (internally) and stop letting that sweetness of bitter anger eat me alive.

    Mind you, these events happened to her long before the 24 hour news cycle and the 24 hour internet feed and endless commentary and one-up-man-ships and faceless justifiable outrages that all of us have probably stumbled into or across. I've caught myself in the subsequent years heeding Pema's advice and observations whenever I find my indiginities and outrages become a little too tempting. I think whatever brain synapses get fired when we get fired up must have a little dopamine affect and we want MOOORREE of it. (Even if we're watching from the sidelines with a bucket of popcorn.) Sadly, our current environment only feeds that many-headed Hydra.

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    1. There's definitely a reason they call it "outrage porn" - and you're so right, the online world today is allll about feeding that addiction in all of us. I'm glad you mentioned this, because it's something we need to talk about more. Everyone assumes we don't WANT to be angry, we just *have* to be, but that's not true. We enjoy it too much, feed our addiction too much, and we can see the results everywhere around us.

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    2. I love your take on this, as well as your explanation of that cycle. I have had some stress since returning back to work in person (since June) and I found myself focusing on social media, and that negative cycle you described. I agree that it's hard to tear yourself away from that sweet bitterness, almost righteousness thrill, of anger in a world of chaos. I've been cutting things out of my feeds, cutting down on what I see, but also trying to give some grace to people who are struggling. That being said, I have also cut out individuals who persist in this negative cycle. The first time was really, really hard, but it's gotten much easier and made it easier for me to refuse to engage in the negativity. BTW, I still care passionately about social justice and my ally responsibilities as a fellow human, I just carefully choose how I connect my passions without it being in reaction to what someone says or does on social media.

      And in terms of planning, I make a set plan for lunches during the week, because I was being paralyzed by indecision about what to pack when leaving for work. I have everything prepped on Sundays, and I stick to that menu for the entire week. It has helped so much and made my new normal routine doable.

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  36. When the world was normal I would cook 3 or 4 big casserole meals saturday/sunday/monday and we would eat them through the week, with my husband making maybe 1 meal (or we'd get pizza) on Fridays. It worked for us, and it was a perfect system. I didn't have to think about it all week, the family was fed, and if I got home late from work... who cares. Now in quarantine I'm making dinner every night (we eat leftovers for lunch) and the mental toll it is taking on me is really starting to bring me down. I've been doing it because the family likes the variety and I'm home. And I didn't really think about how making that decision (what are we going to eat, what do we have in the fridge, who is going to complain) is dragging on me until I was reading your article. I might need to switch to a menu board to at least help make those decisions on one day and then just follow what's been decided. I was thinking of doing a meal subscription service, but a menu board would be SO much cheaper to try first. Thanks Jen!

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  37. My SO and I kind of use something for meal choices...he found a post on reddit I think about something called 5-2-1.

    It's a method of deciding what to eat (but can be used for pretty much anything I would think, like what movie to watch...).

    One person picks 5 places to eat. The second person narrows it down to 2, and then the original person gets to make the final pick.

    We use it ALL the time, and it has all but eliminated that dreaded "What do you want to eat? I don't know/care, what sounds good to you? Oh I could do whatever".

    I love that magnetic menu board though, I may have to look in to one of those for when we get better about meal planning.

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  38. I would get caught up reading my newsfeed on Facebook too much and it was really beginning to stress me out. Background info...I live in Canada now, but 95% of my friends and family live in the US & so all of that mess tends to invade my newsfeed. I literally ended up moving my FB icon on my iPhone and iPad to the last page (it used to be on the first page & easily accessible as soon as I opened my phone or iPad). This made it less of an automatic thing. I had to make an effort (not a big one, but one nonetheless) to look at it. I noticed that I wouldn't open it up nearly as often by hiding it this way. Oh, and YES to the muting for 30 days option. I love all of my friends, but some of them...well...I just can only take so much negativity. My go to is the FOE group because it's a safe space, FO SHO! When I get too nerved up, I pop on there & it always seems to help lower my blood pressure. :)

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  39. Try meal prepping for lunch. Make up a different salad each week but choose one which will keep for quite a few days (pasta salad, for example). Then have other fresh ingredients ready to go - sliced lettuce, grated carrot, tomato, boiled eggs, cooked meat. At lunch time, take what you want from the pre-prepared options, add a dressing and you're good to go. Budget Bytes is a good source of easy recipes that you can prepare ahead.

    A similar idea is a fried rice or stir fry option. Have cooked rice on hand and a variety of ingredients and sauces. At lunch time, heat up a pan, throw everything in and cook for a few minutes.

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  40. I use the AnyList app and it has reduced so much stress for me. It’s costs money but is worth it, especially since my husband doesn’t mind doing the shopping if ai make the lists. You can easily import recipes from a website and pick which day you want to make it. Thsnks for sharing your tips!!

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  41. Thank you! I heard from a psychologist on the radio early the pandemic about how making constant choices is exhausting so having no plan for a day makes anxiety worse and I have taken it to heart! I still work a regular schedule but I tell my patients this almost every day- so many people (especially high schoolers and college students) who are used to having structure and plans are really suffering right now.
    My (somewhat uneducated) advice to all those suffering from anxiety:
    Have a daily list- maybe it just has 2 things on it but have it be something needed and achievable
    Add in things like a general schedule when you have the energy (i.e. I will be out of bed by 10 AM, I will eat a meal by 2 PM and another meal around 8 pm)
    Have some long term goals/projects so if you are ever searching for something to do you can have something to fall back on. For example, we are working our way through all the MCU movies so if we ever can't decide what to watch we just pick up one of those. For a personal goal I am very slowly working on a quilt...
    Anyway, thank you again for bringing up this idea of "decision fatigue"- it is so real!

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  42. I had to remove FB all together at least for now and I limit my news intake. Once a day after work but not too close to bed. Otherwise I cant get anything done or I cant sleep. TikTok has been a relief their algorithm has helped keep my feed happy and light for the most part. I follow mostly brands on insta so thats been pretty easy too. FB was the one that would give me anxiety and suck the most time so it had to go. Im going on a month and I miss it, but my mental health is SO much better.

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  43. I don't suffer from anxiety but I absolutely love cooking and one thing that keeps my meals organized is an app called Paprika. It is a paid app (about $4, but it's a one-time payment)but you download recipes on it and it helps you plan your meals and even put the ingredients in a grocery shopping list. It has helped me continue to cook meals I love and get new ones in my repertoire.

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  44. The more I read from you and some other friends with anxiety, the more I think I might actually be on the low end of diagnosable; I've just somehow managed to surround myself with so many useful coping mechanisms from such an early age that it never fully manifested itself? I don't know. But the decision paralysis and associated routines to avoid it? Definitely a thing for me. If I weren't trying to also feed someone else who appreciates more variety, I would probably eat the same half-dozen things all the time. I read books based on the order they appear on my list so I don't have to decide what's next. I dress in a self-imposed uniform. And so many more routines that enable me to effectively skip making choices.

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