Wanting control

Right now I’m overwhelmed with my research.  My pipeline is messed up in that there’s too many new projects and not enough in the under review or even draft stage.  I feel pulled in all different directions.  And lots of things aren’t going smoothly.  This means I’ve been having a lot of anxiety dreams (last night’s was that we’d gone on vacation and couldn’t remember if we’d left food and water out for the cats!)

So this morning I was musing, maybe we should do a no sugar challenge.  The kids got awfully sugary cereal after we decided that cereal bars was too much like having cake for breakfast.  (Cereal bars had initially been planned as a rare once in a while when they need food-to-go breakfst but soon we were going through 14 bars a week.)  There’s so much added sugar in everything.  We should stop cold-turkey just to see what we come up with.  Of course, each time I’ve been trying to get pregnant or have been pregnant we’ve had no-added-sugar in the house, so it would really be more of a reminder challenge than a voyage of discovery challenge.

Then I wandered onto Mint.  What if DH stays unemployed long term, I thought.  How are we going to handle money?  Maybe we should do a no-spend challenge to see how low we could go.  I mean, there’s the $750/mo for daycare which will be going away except for more expensive day camps in the summer, but can we still stay under my take-home pay?  What do we spend all that money on anyway?  Do we even know?  Let’s say for the sake of easy mental math, that my take-home pay is $6K, but that’s only for 9 months, which means we’d need to spend under $4.5K/month over a 12 month period.   According to mint, we’ve spent under my (actual) prorated take-home pay in January and February, but not so much the rest of the year.  But how much of the difference is reimbursed business expenses?   Let’s see, Utilities average $300, Groceries average $800 (though we could certainly cut there), restaurants $300 (could also be cut), gas $100, entertainment $100, a nebulous “shopping” category (which includes some of DH’s reimbursable work expenses) is $700, and then there’s this huge nebulous “other” which includes a jumble of insurance, work expenses, taxes, car repair, dentist, kid’s activities, yard stuff, and so much more.  I don’t even know where to start separating that stuff out.  And when we’re not spending close to my take-home pay, it doesn’t really matter.  Is it worth sorting out right now?  Probably not.  What would make the most sense would be to keep an eye on how much we have to transfer from savings to checking each month and if we never end up spending down too much of our savings or hitting the emergency fund, we can continue to not pay attention.

Of course, all of these potential challenges take time and mental energy away from the real problem, which is that I need to get a handle on my work.  I need to finish papers and get them out so they’re no longer taking up mental space and keep my head above water on everything else.

So I don’t think I’ll be doing any of these challenges.  I shouldn’t even be typing this post now.  Except I’ve done it which means it’s off my mind and I have one fewer thing for my brain to try to distract me with when it should really be trying to make sense of the work I have before me.

17 Responses to “Wanting control”

  1. gwinne Says:

    I have no answer, but, man, I hear you, esp. in the work control and sugar categories (oh my god, the cereal bars make me CRAZY).

  2. J Liedl Says:

    I woke up early this morning with my brain racing on seven different “must do” things for work and family. Just writing some of them out into a few Evernote reminders, once I got out of bed, helped. I realized that one of the underlying points of tension is that the faculty union still doesn’t have a deal with the university. It’s not unusual at this point in the process, but I’m always unsettled in these summers, worrying about how long our savings will last if we do go on strike. It’s funny how money thoughts underlie a whole bunch of other “must do” concerns for me!

  3. Bardiac Says:

    If DH were home long term he would either get some other sort of job or take over child care, no?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My youngest is starting K, so there isn’t really much childcare left (afterschool care is like 1K/year). I don’t know about some other sort of job– we might have to move if he wants to keep employment that he enjoys and is trained for.

      • SP Says:

        This is what I worry about regarding my job. Moving would not be good for T’s career, but it is unclear how long I will have work I’m trained for in the geographic radius I’m willing to consider. :/

        We’ve talked about it a bit, and our current thinking is that it would be more likely I’d pursue something else rather than us moving. But that could change.

  4. SP Says:

    Maybe one of those challenges could be revived once your project pipeline is in order, but it does seem like starting a new challenge only compounds the problem of “new things/projects” going on!

    When I’m anxious about things, I do enjoy categorizing and analyzing our spending trends – but it does take time and is probably not the most efficient anxiety remedy.

  5. Leigh Says:

    I’ve been having so many anxiety dreams about the condo board lately. We don’t have enough in reserves for me to sleep well at night and everyone else seems less worried about it. To top it off, we spent 115% of my husband’s salary take home pay in H1. (All of his stock net pay went to either my taxable Vanguard account or his.) I finally convinced him to try tracking his personal spending because he couldn’t really recount where it all went, even looking at Mint.

    For control, I’ve been turning to exercise. It’s been really great and then helps me focus more on my work when I have time for it.

  6. chacha1 Says:

    Sometimes all I can do is make a big-ass to-do list, look it over, and realize “I don’t actually NEED to do any of that.” And then I can focus.

  7. jjiraffe Says:

    Yeah, I feel this too. I try to use stoicism to combat my brain from doing this too much – which is to say, I use stoicism a lot. Mainly, I try to focus on just one thing at a time. It’s a constant battle.

  8. Cloud Says:

    I have forbidden myself from doing any “what if” planning for the time being. In my case, some of the uncertainty is coming from the health care “reform” debacle and just general terribleness in the news. I’m trying to remind myself that we decided to stay put at least through the 2018 elections and nothing has happened yet that should change that decision. But I am finding it increasingly hard to shut out the crap and focus on work.

    Gah. So I guess what I’m saying is, yeah, I hear you. When I talk time management with people I differentiate the feeling of being overworked and the feeling of being overwhelmed. I personally need to take different steps to handle the two different situations. The problem I have now is that the things making me feel overwhelmed are pretty much outside my control, so my usual coping steps aren’t relevant. I guess it is a chance for personal growth for me or something, but I’m honestly angry that I’m dealing with it. And I know that as people feeling stress from the current political situation go, I’m pretty damn sheltered. What a mess.

  9. nicoleandmaggie Says:


  10. CG Says:

    I’m at a similar point where I have a lot of things getting started but nothing with any real momentum yet. I blame this on a belated post-tenure slump because I’ve now finished everything I was working on pre-tenure. The good news is that I have lots of concrete plans and things getting started. The bad news is that I feel scattered and like I don’t have any traction on anything (being trapped in the endless hell of IRB approval on one of the projects doesn’t help). I’ve reacted by, like you, finding things to distract myself. In my case, it’s thinking about buying a different house, possibly in the (challenging and challenged) city where I work. I get kind of manic about these things but it’s happened enough times that I know it’ll pass and I’ll get back to doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I have to think that the stress of your DH’s job situation compounds this quite a bit for you.

  11. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    Does it help you to work through lists mentally like this? I think I just had one of these posts :)

    Around the election, I spent several months on what-if planning and I think it actually made me MORE anxious because I couldn’t do much. I suppose being thrown headlong into months of renovations has reduced that fruitless worrying just by virtue of taking up all my mental space.

    I truly hope that we can all be through our mental woods in a couple months, or sooner!

  12. Donna Freedman Says:

    When I get anxious about things that are out of my control (the election, as Revanche noted, is a prime example) then I, too, start looking at my assets and spending. Can I earn more? Can I spend less? How much do I really *need* for retirement?

    Being able to make even one small change helps me feel that I have some input, and slow the anxiety. Recent example: I was fretting over the fact that (for various reasons) I’d taken on noticeably less freelance in the past six months. How could I shrink my monthly expenditures to match? They’re already pretty low!

    But I hit on one small change. My best friend and I meet for lunch and extended hangout once a week; we take turns buying. For the past few months I’ve been approaching at least one hangout a week in this way: “I’ll come after after lunch; that way, I get a little more done and don’t have to stay up late working to make up for the partial day off.”

    We still meet up at least four times a month, but I’m now on the hook for one lunch rather than two. Since she’s a late sleeper, I can get going at 8 a.m., work until noon, eat a sandwich and head over to her place once she’s back from lunch. (She eats most of her meals outside the home.) This saves me about $30 to $35 a month — small change in the grand scheme of things, but the illusion of control makes me feel calmer.

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