Stressed Much?

(Pop Culture by James Clar. The artist took this gun, shot a single bullet at an issue of Art Review and cast the gun in candy.)

On Thursday I woke up with a feeling of dread and anxiety… I took my daughter to school, put my son in for a nap and tried to write a blog post. I don’t remember, but I’m pretty sure it was crappy. Then I geared up for a day of hyper-scheduled activity. The way I’d planned the day, I would be bouncing all over Manhattan until 6 PM. I freaked. I panicked. A sense of gloom washed over me. I looked at my inbox. I had 873 unread messages. Then I looked at my schedule. What was I killing myself for? Pseudo appointments. Blogging is a business with a lot of tweet ups, come to my showroom press previews, lets get together for a lunches, and lets collaborate on somethings… I’m not going to say these things aren’t important, they are. But none of it was actually that serious… and it was stressing me the hell out. The potential gain was not equal to the level of nervous that it was making me. (It’s not always BS like that, its usually actual work thats bogging me down, but the basic problem is that I overcommit myself!)

(Iron Fist, by James Clar. A giant chrome fist sits on top of a screen that continuously scrolls flags from different countries. The fist is enclosed in a reflective mirror box, causing the colors and shapes from the flags to wrap around the fist.)

So I did three things that I’m going to try to do more often.

1. I cancelled all meetings that weren’t highly important. As in: ALL OF THEM (except my daughters dentist apt).

2. I turned off the email on my cell phone. I can explain: As much as I love my iPhone, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m addicted to it, and that the constant possibility of emails interrupting everything I am doing all the time is distinctly lowering my quality of life. The iPhone, or rather, the way I misuse it, has spoiled that feeling of being present in your own life.


3. I went for a run (outdoors- not on a treadmill) and then took  my son and met my husband for a nice lunch. (It was his birthday.)

Problem solved, anxiety lifted. But this is short term, I need to make some serious structural changes to my life and learn how to manage my time better.

(Circle Square by James Clar. Circular light cast in a resin square. The florescent light creates a clean circle until it enters the resin square, which causes the line to blur. Two basic shapes made from two different mediums and the interaction between them.)

Anyone have any tips?

My friend Adele writes a blog about striving toward living a minimal lifestyle and she taught me about OHIO: Only Handle It Once. Meaning when you get your mail, emails etc… you decide what to do with it that very second, istead of putting it into yet another pile of crap to deal with later.

I need more tips like this on time management!

How do you guys get organized and not let the constant stream of TO DO’s crowd your brain and make life less enjoyable?!? I mean, the reason I CHOOSE to do jobs like blogging, painting, decorating is BECAUSE it’s a non- 9-5 activity where I can make my own schedule, be with my kids and MOST OF ALL, because I LOVE IT!!!! I’m angry at myself for letting it get to this level of overcommitted and stressed. Its bad, and I need to decompress.

Tips? How do you working mothers, stay at home moms (because running a household and being a mom is so much freaking work its scary! For me, working is actually easier than being a mother/wife!) general business people and successful human beings do it?

(I chose the work of artist James Clar to accompany this post because his work really seems to relate to the feelings of modern anxiety that I’m having. Photos and more info HERE.)

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  1. Marielle says:

    I love the first and last piece!!! very my type..keep in mind when ur doing my apartment! love ya

  2. Andrea says:

    Like your friend’s only handle it once rule, I try to manage emails/voicemails right away. That is, if you can reply within 2 minutes, do it right away, if you can’t then set it aside until you can dedicate more time to deal with it.

  3. Um hello – a 9 to 5 job is MUCH less work than motherhood or household management!! And blogging while being a mother at home? I’ve never had so little sleep! I have tried OHIO but it’s just not the way I operate – I am an out of sight out of mind person so if I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist! That’s why I have a HUGE bulletin board – and it’s not filled with just pretty inspiration – it’s the stuff of life! Even when the kids get old enough to go away to school, there is still plenty to do and runs to UPS and the bank increase! Whenever I earn enough money, an assistant will be the first order of the day!

    • Nicole Cohen says:

      I totally need an assistant too. I actually would love a “House Manager” like a Real Housewife. Yes, there, I said it. I need a house manager to run my life for me.

  4. interns, sweetie, interns.

  5. oh, and that gun piece is fantabulous. srsly.

    ps- don’t sweat the blog stuff. tweet-ups and showroom cocktails are all good, but all optional. only go to what you want, when you want, and make that a hard a fast rule. you aren’t obligated to anyone, at anytime.

    as for emails, they are outta control, and i have no idea how to tame that beast other than:

    1) i have a folder in my mail called “pitches”. everything that comes into my inbox that is not from a friend, business associate or someone i somehow personally know goes into that folder… immediately, without review. later, if i want, i can sort for relevance, see if it’s an invite i want to attend or product i want to cover, etc. i can also ignore the folder forever if want, and i often do when busy with paying work. i have control.

    2) i set up “smart” folders just for client email addresses, so in case i miss something, and it gets tossed to “pitches”, i can refer to the smart folders. i check thee smart folders regularly, and my pitches folder infrequently, ‘natch.

    3) unsubscribe to EVERYTHING. i’m sure you like me, get put on all kinds of crazy mailing lists. if it’s a newsletter, i automatically unsubscribe. i also unsubscribed to every single flash sale and shopping website (save for about 3). i really don’t need any more stuff in my life, so why do i need to get sale promotions? doing this cut my inbox by almost half. so freeing.

    good luck, sweets!

    • Nicole Cohen says:

      I love the emails idea. I need to do that stat.

      It’s not all fluff all though that day it totally was. That’s why I was able to ditch it so easily. Most of the time it’s real work- make a painting, meet with client etc.. I had someone cancel a custom painting that day because my lead time was taking too long for them. Soooooo- yea that cost me a pretty penny.

      I actually have to turn down design work because I’m over committed.

      And interns are totally on their way! Just hired two!

  6. As a full time student working part time and trying to start my own designcompany, I know the feeling. For me the best thing is to stop procrastinating, which unfortunately is one of my “favorite” things to do. I find that the best way to get started is to communicate what Im stressed about, to any one that will listen, and it will become clear to me how to deal with the problem. It’s like saying it out loud makes it easier to fokus my thoughts and also my actions. Hope this makes sense and that u get some sort of help from it :P
    Thanx for a great blog btw :)

  7. MMish says:

    i didnt read the other comments so if this is repetitive i apologize. Get an assistant asap and hire a COMPETENT live-in nanny who not only cleans your house but manages your kids schedule, groceries, appointments etc

    • Nicole Cohen says:

      Oh yea, I totally need to hire a ton of people. Thats a fact. Competent ones!

  8. WORD, sister. I feel you!!! I haven’t written anything since the Oscars, and its because I’m feeling constantly like you do (did). I have different things going on, but its stressful, nonetheless, and spending (*quality*) time with my girls was taking a backseat to other, less important things for me. Plus I need to get my headshots out there and actually AUDITION for stuff so I can BE an actor, not just talk about it. I felt myself needing to LIVE the life I was describing, not just write about it. Anyway. As far as help, I am still looking. I love the OHIO idea; def going to try that. I also have a huge calendar, the iPhone has some great organizational apps, my schedule is IN there (and I started scheduling everything from workouts to “remember to call Mom” kinda stuff… I have ADD :), and I am taking a break from writing…for now. ;) I know you’ll find a way, in your usual fabulous fashion to make it work for YOU. oh! AND! Jenny recommended this amazing yoga DVD for me that I’m loving…its really amazing: Kundalini Yoga to detox and destress, by Maya Fiennes. For serious. Its good. Good luck, lovey! xo

  9. There’s a blog I read (sorry if giving you another blog is clogging your already clogged schedule) called and she has tons of great tips and advice about getting rid of crap in your life. Might help you out a bit. Not sure it’s as epic as the Tomboy Style referral I gave you, but hey, just a thought!

  10. i feel your pain. i feel like i live under a stack of to do’s. not sure what the answer is but it’s life. when you figure it out, blog about it and helps us all out!

  11. Ok…..I’m not alone! Totally get it. Technology seems to get in the way so much more than it is helpful. My husband has a way old cel phone with no emails (I think he got rid of his star tack not too long ago…so imagine!) and he says its the best thing. So kudos on turning off your email on your phone. Yes, it interrupts everything. I think my best recommendation, which I need to follow, is to have very clear time frames for each activity. Blogging from 9-10:30, Design- 10:30-12:30, home errands 2-4. And be strict about keeping to the shedule, ie no returning emails when you are working on a design pitch. And be present in that activity that you are doing, so you do it well the first time around and you don’t have to go back and fix it later and so you are 100% focused on task at hand. Glad you are getting interns….that should be very helpful. And yes, being a mommy is hardest of all…..its a 24 hr. thing. xx

    • I kept thinking about this all day yesterday….the good news is….that these are growing pains….which is a good thing….

  12. perfect timing. i had a complete nervous breakdown on saturday. i just realized how much angst and resentment i carry around with me because there is so much “to-do” and my life is “so hard.” i am a working mother and it’s that double edged sword: as much as i know that staying home is SO MUCH work and i would need more of a balance, i feel like i am missing out on my real life because i am working. ugh. i think you have to do whatever you can to get through the rough patches but on some level i really just want to move to the woods with my family and make jam.

    • Nicole Cohen says:

      I like that you put “so hard” in quotes. Cause truth be told, our lives aren’t really actually HARD hard, they are just normal hard. But yes, I totally sometimes think Im just going to run away. So thats when I have a little breakdown, cry in my bed for an hour and then go for a run.

      We need to start a support group for stressed out mommas.

      • dal says:

        some sort of online community that discourages retail therapy. i’ve done studies, and it only helps so much, for so long… and an addiction to pretty things makes it much harder to think about walking away from your job! : )

  13. Okay, I’m just going to put this out there. If you are SO busy doing so many design and art things that you have to hire interns… why don’t you blog about THEM!? Your blog got you to where you are today – the world would not know who you are without it – yet the blog suffers with frustrated lackluster posts. Why not blog about all of the things that you are doing?? That would be interesting, that would be inspiring… like the old Sketch42.

    • Nicole Cohen says:


      In the beginning, I was working on my own house. So it was easy to blog about it. Now Im working on a lot of art projects, which I get the feeling a lot of readers don’t like, AND because design takes a shitload of time to actually come about. Did I not just post a kick ass bachelor pad? Even though I could have saved it and pawned it out to different design mags?

      And I didn’t go out looking for interns, they found me.

      But yes, Im suffering with frustration. Its so hard to keep up MY OWN inspiration after 3 years.

    • Nicole Cohen says:

      I have an awesome post for tomorrow, that took a week or two to put together. So don’t worry. Sorry if I came off as defensive. You are right. Shut up and get back to basics, right?

    • G-
      I came across Sketch42 a little over a year ago and found myself hooked for three days straight until I was able to catch up and make sure there wasn’t one post I missed. I was completely mesmerized by both her voice, creativity and ability to find the beauty in things many would easily pass over. Since then, I have read the blog daily and must say that Nicole’s posts never lack luster in both her unique witty views or impressive eye.

      You suggest that Nicole should blog about her busy life but isn’t that exactly what she does every day? On top of her artistic endeavors, collaborations, DIY projects and decorating apartments, she goes as far as stopping to photograph a view of the Plaza on a beautiful NYC day, harassing strangers on the street about their outfits and even sharing her sometimes controversial but always comical opinions all for the ENJOYMENT OF HER READERS. On top of the daily entertainment and pumped up dose of culture that she injects into many daily lives, she is a mother, a wife and a person. It’s a shame if you no longer appreciate the time and creativity that so many clearly see in this blog.

      Nicole- you’re human and although you spend so much time wanting to please your readers, you’re frustrations are normal and many of us look forward to your daily posts and will continue to stay loyal readers. Keep up the awesome work!

  14. actually, nicole, you blog about your work and art more than any other blog i read. just my two cents.

  15. i am a BIG fan of ohio. only i never knew it was called that.
    been doing that forever.
    but the turning off of computers and cell phones needs to happen big time around here.

  16. Nicole,
    My dear friend Vis. Vamp raves about you and when you met in NY, she and Albert came to our home. We survived a renovation and now twins in college. Life is all about coping and sometimes we just have to take a mental health day, step off the hamster wheel enough to see that it is a beautiful place. Take time for you. Seek out a mentor….an intern might help too and saying NO is truly something we all need to learn.
    Great post, thanks for opening this up – heck this could be a blog just about this struggle we all face…
    too much to do, so little time.:)
    Hang in there, a good lunch and a nap always set me right.

    • Nicole Cohen says:

      When Val came into town, it was summer and I drove in from Jersey just to see her… She’s been so sweet and helpful all along the way. I always want to be the person that can meet up and will take the time to help other bloggers etc… Thats how I met so many amazing people that I know count among my close friends!

      But, I do have 2 kids now… (one kid is a toy, 2 kids are a minivan.)

      So yea, definitely need to take the mental health days once in a while. I love doing all this so much that I just say YES to everything and then end up feeling stressed when push comes to shove.

      Its a lesson we all need to learn I guess! It really does help to talk it out!

  17. Nicole,

    I found you through PVE, and I was so happy to land on your wonderful site. Long ago, when I started Real Simple magazine for women with complicated lives, I wanted to help them balance their lives in order to reach their creative potential. It wasn’t so much about organized closets but that order gave them time to dream and regenerate. Now that I have a second life, I realize the goal is not to learn to live in balance but rather to learn to live out of balance. I used to tell myself not to play to the highs and lows of life but hug the middle. My third evolution was simply to be glad to be alive and know that the next and better day is just around the corner. I can tell you are already mightily evolved. Stress is a growth mechanism and your post confirms that you are growing. So glad I wandered into your world.

    All best,

  18. lis says:

    My husband and I try to have one “un-plug” day every week. No computer, no TV, we don’t carry our phones around and if we do, no email, no games etc. Just no “screen time”. If people call, they can leave a message and we’ll call back if it’s important, but 95% of calls can wait a day. Maybe a full day of it is too much to aim for – we don’t have kids and we’re not bloggers so a full day is doable for us – but those few hours where no one can instantly reach you, your eyes are watching the real world instead of a screen, those few hours help me reconnect and be present with myself and the world around me. And I tend to hear my own feelings and thoughts more, if that makes sense. Things that have maybe been bubbling up under the surface inside me get a chance to be heard and then (hopefully) be addressed and dealt with. It also seems to push us outside for walks or drives or bike rides often, and that never hurts :)

  19. Atara S says:

    Ok first of all I don’t know how I missed this post but I just came across it and I could swear this sounds exactly like me (other than the blogging and appointments) I battle everyday with anxiety, stress and just trying to slow down. It got so bad a few months ago that I wasn’t sleeping because I have a very hard time “shutting down” I’m a stay at home mom and everyday I say it would be easier to go to work! (I know they’re both equally hard) but anyway here are things that have reallyyyy helped me so much!
    1. YOGA
    2. Shutting Down. I do this every day for at least an hour during my day. Its really helped me keep more present in my day and focus more in the NOW
    3. Gonna sound weird but aside from my coffee I started drinking a cup of tea every afternoon and now i look forward to it for relaxation
    4. Last but not least remember this: There is always Tomorrow
    Hope some of this helped…
    Oh one more thing! I make lots of lists! Helps me stay more organized!

    • Nicole Cohen says:

      This really did help. Thank you. Its nice to know others feel the same way… Ive always enjoyed yoga, time to get back into it. And AMEN to the powering down. Need that badly.


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