There will always be moments when it feels like the world is crumbling around you, and you wonder if everything is all your fault.
What if I had done this? What if I never did that — where would I be?
Questions that focus on the past and the “could-have-been” feel paralyzing.
Although the past is fixed, it does contain lessons.
The future, however, holds all possibilities. If you wonder what to do when your life is a complete disaster, know that you possess tools and wisdom from your past to build a better future.
To help you access these tools, it’s useful to understand exactly why your life is so out of order.
Why Is Your Life a Mess?
Life is a mess. Existence is messy. You are not alone in finding your life in disarray, but fortunately, no one’s chaos is impossible to clean up.
The first step is facing it and figuring out how things got so out of hand. Here are a few possibilities for why your life is a mess:
- Circumstances outside of your control: We make the best of plans, but the world spins around us, sometimes throwing curveballs. Those curveballs can snowball, creating a bigger problem that suddenly seems overwhelming.
- You don’t know what you want: It isn’t easy to put your life back together or move forward when you don’t know what you want for your life. This confusion can paralyze you and lead to apathy and inertia.
- You’ve failed at something: Failure at one thing can make you feel like a failure in general. Don’t think of failure as a step back, but rather a step towards knowing what doesn’t work for you.
Although you may not be able to squeeze the proverbial toothpaste back into the tube, you can put the excess to good use — as zit cream or to clean your foggy headlights. (That may be a metaphor, but it’s true!)
In other words, the mess in your life can be repurposed and transformed into something useful as part of the clean-up process. Don’t waste your life experiences — even the bad ones. Use them as building blocks for your new life.
Let’s look at how to fix your life with 15 strategies to turn things around and find happiness.
- Why Is Your Life a Mess?
- My Life Is a Mess: 15 Ways to Clean It Up
- 1. Avoid Suppressing Your Emotions
- 2. Make a To-Do List
- 3. Let Your Schedule Suit You
- 4. Don’t Be Ashamed
- 5. Take One Thing Off Your Plate
- 6. Focus Your Energy on Your Passions
- 7. Breathe into Right Now
- 8. Help Someone in Need
- 9. Adopt a Phoenix and Ash Mentality
- 10. Reframe Self-Pity
- 11. Accept the Mess
- 12. Find Community
- 13. Get Excited
- 14. Challenge Your Perceptions
- 15. Challenge Toxic Positivity and Leave Time to Grieve
- Is your life a mess? Where will you begin?
My Life Is a Mess: 15 Ways to Clean It Up
1. Avoid Suppressing Your Emotions
When life gets messy, anxiety tends to ramp up. Your impulse is to shut down that feeling, but shutting down doesnt eliminate the anxiety — it just buries it. It will hum in the background as you try to move forward.
When you address anxiety head-on, you are better equipped to begin the work of real change. Talk through your feelings with someone you trust to help you discern which thoughts hold weight and which are just negative self-talk.
Visualize your fear as a wave passing through you as you work through this process. These waves come and go, but they don’t define you.
2. Make a To-Do List
It feels overwhelming to have so many unfinished tasks in front of you; however, they are far more challenging to tackle just swimming around your head.
Think small and short term. If planning for the year ahead overwhelms you with dread, make your to-do list for this month. If that’s too scary, make a to-do list for tomorrow.
Broken down into small tasks, those big scary goals become no big deal. Instead of writing down “find a job,” make your goal “Look at job websites for one hour.” Celebrate each small task as you cross them off!
3. Let Your Schedule Suit You
Some people need routine. A consistent and planned schedule allows them to maintain their sense of order and lessen their anxiety.
If you’ve never been good at keeping a routine, that’s okay. Don’t try and squeeze a square peg in a round hole. If you’re type B, go with the flow. If you have concentration disorders like ADHD, create an easy-breezy method that works for you.
For example, if you have ten tasks on your to-do list, tell yourself you just have to do one today for only one hour. You can choose the project the day of, and choose the one hour at any point in the day, as it suits your mood.
4. Don’t Be Ashamed
Every person experiences disaster on some level. The circumstances might be outside of your control, or may be the result of a few mistakes.
Remember that you did the best you could at the moment, even if it didn’t work out. With each “failure” comes a lesson, and maybe right now, you are learning a ton of them. However, with lessons come tools and wisdom.
You currently have more tools than ever before, meaning you are more capable than ever before to get your life back on track. Things may feel like a mess, or even a total failure, but look — you are here reading this article! You survived a battle with yourself, and that’s incredible!
5. Take One Thing Off Your Plate
If you take a look at that to-do list, does it feel overwhelming? We’ll let you in on a secret: you don’t have to do every task yourself.
We often try to handle everything ourselves so we aren’t a burden to our loved ones. If you are overwhelmed, reach out to a friend and talk through your to-do list.
If you haven’t made one, talk through your worries and allow your friend to take one thing off your plate. Just because you didn’t do it yourself doesn’t mean you’ve failed. You had the courage to ask for help.
6. Focus Your Energy on Your Passions
When “real life” is stressful, envelope yourself in the comfort of things you love to do. Find small ways to engage your passions daily.
These actions help you feel rooted in your identity and connected to love and growth potential.
Go for a five-minute walk every day, take pictures of your favorite objects in your house, make the meal that comforted you as a kid, or join a yoga club!
Honoring yourself in a small way every day helps foster the mindset you need to get your life back on track.
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7. Breathe into Right Now
Nothing feels worse than your life crumbling around you. However, that feeling is just your perception.
When you feel your life is in shambles, focus on this second — not the things you have to do, the friends who are mad at you, the job you lost, or whatever it may be.
Focus on your heart beating or your breathing. Where are you sitting? Is it soft? Bumpy? What sounds do you notice if you sit quietly?
Imagine your breath flowing through you, all the way to the tips of your fingers and toes. You are here. Right now. You aren’t crumbling; you’re breathing. The world isn’t over; it’s getting ready to present you with opportunities.
8. Help Someone in Need
You may be thinking, “My life's falling apart! I need to focus on that, so why would I help someone else?”
However, it’s always easier to deal with someone else’s problems, as you have a fresh, objective, and clear perspective on the issues they see as paralyzing. A small challenge may seem huge to them, just as your problems feel enormous to you.
Being there for someone else also makes you feel good and useful, and it shows you that you are capable of meeting a problem head-on and overcoming it. You become better prepared to handle your difficult problems, and the friend you helped may be willing to return the favor.
9. Adopt a Phoenix and Ash Mentality
New growth is born from ashes. For thousands of years, indigenous cultures all over the world have used controlled ritual burnings of the land they care for. Careful and precise burnings allow for new growth and sustain entire ecosystems.
In this mindset, fire isn’t a disaster but a rebirth, just like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Even the root of the word “apocalypse” means a disclosure of truth or a revelation.
This moment isn’t the end. Your world may be crumbling to reveal an important truth, helping you to discern and carve out a new path for yourself. Don’t be scared; prepare yourself for the better future arising from the rubble.
10. Reframe Self-Pity
Self-pity has a strong negative connotation, as it is often viewed as enabling lazy behavior or self-defeat. But guess what? The meaning of words shift over time as our culture changes.
Pity originates from the mid-13th century word pite, meaning compassion and kindness. Pite, in the Old French context, meant tenderness and care. Try to reframe self-indulgent self-pity to self-pite. Be compassionate with yourself, rather than putting yourself down. Take care of you and your needs, rather than assuming you’re not worthy or capable. Be tender with yourself.
11. Accept the Mess
Hey, things aren’t great right now. In fact, they’re a mess. No problem. Claim it! Own it!
The truth is, every single person has a mayhem that they’re trying to keep hidden. Be honest about where you are, and you’ll be surprised to find you’re not the only one.
Reject shame and embrace community. Uplift each other. The more shame you place on yourself, the heavier your burden, and the harder it will be to get back up again.
Admitting your truth and owning it will take a massive weight off of your back.
12. Find Community
Whether your biggest problem is financial, emotional, or physical, reach out to a local support group or mutual aid fund.
Most major cities and even small towns have mutual aid groups that pool money from donations to provide financial support, community care, housing, and food. Head over to Google and search [Your City] + Mutual Aid.
Don’t be afraid to reach out, even if you’re not sure how you need help. If you’re struggling with addiction, grief, depression, or anxiety, reach out to local support groups. We don’t exist on this planet to struggle alone.
13. Get Excited
Pull out a notebook and pen, and try to jot down 15 things that excite you in your present or something you are excited about for the future. These can be as big or small as you want.
For example, “I’m excited about Stephanie’s birthday party.” How about this? “I’m excited for my cup of coffee tomorrow morning,” or, “I’m excited to walk around Target and buy absolutely nothing.”
It could be even smaller, like, “I’m excited to see my dog run to me.” No matter how much your life might feel like a mess, there are always little things to be excited about.
14. Challenge Your Perceptions
Why do you feel as though everything is falling apart? Challenge that thought by asking a different question. Instead of asking, “Why is my life a mess?” try answering the question, “What pieces are holding together? What is working in my life?”
As you identify the areas of your life that are working, the problem areas will begin to feel smaller. Perception is everything, and it can have a significant effect on motivation. Your reality can change when your perspective does.
15. Challenge Toxic Positivity and Leave Time to Grieve
If you’ve ever gone through a traumatic, difficult, or life-altering experience that has left you shaken, you may have experienced someone telling you, “Just think positive; everything will work out!”
While their intentions may be good and positive thinking is powerful, this attitude can feel reductive and invalidateyour pain.
Toxic positivity is a generalized state of optimism that can result in the minimization, denial, or invalidation of an authentic emotional experience.
Try to avoid generalizing positivity but instead focus on positive thinking that leaves room for the genuine pain, loss, or depression you may be feeling.
Is your life a mess? Where will you begin?
Figuring out how to fix your life can add to the pressure and stress you already feel. Knowing where to begin with the clean-up process is daunting when you are already down on yourself.
Just begin with one of the strategies listed above. Choose one that seems to resonate with you, or pick one at random. Simply taking action makes you feel more in control and gives you a sense of accomplishment.
Remember, life isn’t supposed to be perfect; it isn’t even supposed to be easy. Life is complicated and messy, but it’s also beautiful, seductive, and heartwarming.
In the same reality, your life can be both a mess and a wonderful adventure. Learning to find the wonder can help you carve through the chaos.