Anxiety & Depression What to Do When You’re in the Weeds (Part 1)

By Rosie Wittleder


What does it mean to “be in the weeds”? Obviously, this phrase could include many different things for different people. But for me, being in the weeds is when I feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, depressed, or have trouble sleeping for more than a day or two. When I open my eyes in the morning and the first thing I feel is angst or gloom? I’m in the weeds. I think of it as longer-term suffering. Not just, “Oh man, this day isn’t working out like I wanted it to.”

There are many factors that can contribute to being in the weeds. Some of us deal with past trauma, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other ongoing mental health challenges. We tend to have a higher chance of slipping into the weeds more easily. This is the case for me, and I have been in and out of the weeds a lot in the last decade. Which is why the practices I mention below are part of my day-to-day life. I can’t wait for life to take me to the weeds. I have to get out ahead of it and have routines set up to help me live well.

Some things put us in the weeds that have nothing to do with how our brains are wired. It could be the loss of a loved one, ongoing stress at the workplace, infertility, marital issues or divorce, addiction within families, dysfunctional relationships, having a new baby, moving to a new home or city, not having close friends, looking at the pain of our past for the first time, etc. In other words, a lot of things can trigger us.

We all experience being in the weeds at some point. In fact, I believe we are either in the weeds now, just getting out of the weeds, or perhaps about to be in the weeds. Some of us have grown so accustomed to that place that we don’t even know if we are living there permanently. We don’t know there is an entirely different way to live that is available to us.

But there is hope.

There are things we can do when we find ourselves in these kinds of situations. There are ways to find internal equilibrium again--or maybe for the first time. Here are three things that have worked for me. These suggestions are not exhaustive by any means. They are just some basic action steps that have helped me during those times in the weeds.

Simplify Your Life.

When you’re just trying to get through hard days, your energy is down. You get overwhelmed much more easily. Your brain is working on over-drive. Stress is your enemy when trying to recover and move out of the weeds. You cannot grow, and your heart cannot be seen and healed when you’re under pressure. And so much of our stress comes from the pace at which we live life.
What things are you doing that are not currently vital? Things that are non-essential need to go. It won’t be this way forever, but for the time being, it is very important to dial back the pace and intensity of life. Which requires establishing new priorities and making changes to your calendar.

Examples? My life came to a screeching halt almost ten years ago when I was in an intense season of dealing with past pain. Before this, I used to live a very well-tidied and organized life. My home was usually clean and in order. But cleaning and trying to keep up household chores went to the back burner during this time. If something could wait, I would let it wait.

My meals became insanely simple, requiring little to no prep. And cereal. Lots of cereal. I quit making my bed. I quit caring about what other people thought about my house, how I managed money, how much I could get done, how I managed life. I had to cut back on my hours at work. And eventually, I ended up leaving my job altogether for another that moved at a much slower pace.
Onto social calendars and engagements. When we agree to do something, we must ask ourselves: Is this person or plan something that will bring me more freedom or drain me? If I’m with people who can’t tolerate my brokenness, people I have to slap on a smile to be around, then I need to consider eliminating or majorly cutting back on time with them. We need to conserve what energy and space we have to getting out of the weeds. These types of relationships suck the life out of us during a time when we don’t have a lot of life to give up.

The same idea may apply with on-going and never-ending kid activities. Or play dates. I’m sorry, but going on a big play date with children everywhere, trying to keep track of your kids to ensure they are still alive, while also trying to have a conversation with another adult when you’re having a hard time? There is nothing about this situation that brings me life. And that’s okay. It doesn’t make us bad. It makes us trying to pay attention to things that are draining us. And endless kid activities are not essential. They are choices we make.

Don’t get me wrong, I love sports, activities and doing fun things with other people. I’m not putting those things down. I love the outdoors and almost all things active, especially with quality friends. I grew up playing sports and still do, and it is an important part of my life. My son is on a similar path. But when you’re really struggling, it’s not good for you to be running around. It will only increase the amount of time you stay in the weeds.

The ways we can simplify our lives are endless--depending on your job, how you live your life, your situation, etc. What are the non-essentials you can decrease? It may be helpful to have a trusted friend help you figure this out, because sometimes we aren’t aware of what is essential and what is not. We get used to thinking that we have to do this or that. But in reality, we don’t. And sometimes we need a good friend’s perspective to help us see all our options.

Once we have cleared up more space in our life, we can add life-giving practices into our days. But we must clean house before we can add these other routines in. We will cover this in the next article.

Questions to Consider:

  • Are there things I’m doing that really aren’t mine to do?

  • What things am I doing for others that they should be doing for themselves?

  • Where am I giving away my energy too freely?

  • What things have I considered a “demand of life” when they are actually non-essential?

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