Normalized Chaos

“I wake up at 4:40 every morning and get things in order for the caregiver. After taking my shower and getting ready for work, I wake up my daughter and walk her to the bus. Make lunches and head out to work. My shift starts at 7. If I’m lucky, there will be no transportation issues. Work is busy—yes; but I love it. I am sure to pull my weight around the office so they can’t point at me and say I was the one that brought the team down. After work, I rush to the after school program, pick up my daughter and head home. There’s homework and dinner and of course I have to relieve mom’s caregiver. Many nights it’s 12 or 1 before I fall in the bed. I barely sleep because I know that there is more on my list that I haven’t had a chance to do. After all, if I don’t do it—who will?”

These are the type of statements I hear all too often from my female clients. Exhaustion. Long lists of caregiving. Extraordinary circumstances. All of which they have normalized. They have normalized their chaos. This phenomenon of normalized chaos is adding to the factors that are slowly killing women. The idea that the frenetic, out-of-control pace at which we live our lives is normal. The “is what it is” mentality. We even start to participate in the common language of chaos—“I know you’re super busy…” “I don’t have time to…” “I’m exhausted!” “Let me check, my schedule is crazy.” With each verbal and mental repetition of the chaos in our life, we are creating and solidifying our reality.

It is true that there are many and differing demands on our time as women. Some expectations are external, many are internal. No matter what the demands of your time are or the unique circumstances of your life may be, it is important to work actively against normalizing chaos. Try these steps to help:

1.Everything begins in the mind. Start watching your thoughts. Are you telling people or yourself how busy and stressed you are? Are you letting folks know that you don’t have time for yourself? Are you using words like “overwhelmed”, “exhausted”, or “making it?” Start looking at your language and begin to challenge it. Work to tweak your language into a slightly more positive lens. Instead of telling people your plate is full or your overwhelmed (which are indications of what you have to do, not how or who you are)…start sharing small positive thoughts or victories you have had during the day.

2.There is no medal for martyrdom. Begin to evaluate your list and connect it to your language (see #1). What “has” to be done? Does it “have” to be done by you? Under careful evaluation you may begin to see that many of the things you have placed under your “have to” list are, indeed, choices. It is important to recognize yourself as a willing participant in your life journey, making choices and recognizing the outcome of those choices—as opposed to a pawn in your life journey. You are in control.

 3.Find a social group to support you. Find your tribe. Those people that are there for you and really get you. People to help support you, challenge you and uplift you. Don’t surround yourself with “yes” people. Surround yourself with real people who will hold you accountable for you. This may not be your current group of “friends.” It may, indeed, be time to tweak your friendships to ensure that you are in reciprocal relationships.

4.Thoroughly evaluate your list. Then evaluate it again. Then evaluate it again. Once you have created your list of things you choose to do (see #2), put it down and walk away from it. In a couple days, revisit and re-evaluate it. You should be able to dwindle a few items off your list. Put it away again for a few days. When you revisit and re-evaluate it, you should have even more clarity. Note the purpose of your choices, what they mean to you and potentially what they are costing you (emotionally, physically, spiritually). We often times enter situations, agreements and even partnerships without fully evaluating them for their role and purpose in our lives.

Living a life of normalized chaos is doable. We do it all the time. It is a choice, and like all choices it has a consequence. The consequences of normalized chaos can appear “minor” (not a much free time, haven’t seen a movie in a while) or they can be more substantial (mental and physical health problems). Unaddressed and unchecked, normalized chaos becomes the only way of life you know, taking charge of your time and energy and leaving you feeling drained and unfulfilled. You deserve everything good and wonderful in this world, the most precious of which is a free resource—your time. Reclaim it. Reclaim you.

In good mental health,


Dr. Shawn Arango Ricks

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Dr. Ricks writes forThe Organic Scholar, a blog for free thinking, socially-conscious writers. Her posts are also featured here. 

​​​​​​​​dr. Shawn Ricks