feminine person with a unique manicure holding an ice cream cone

Sorting Your Needs Through Ice Cream Goggles

Sometimes life’s a shithead. Handing us one thing after another. Not letting us catch a break. It becomes hard to keep up with basic things — like laundry. If we were to run a contest to determine the best ways to measure stress, laundry piles would surely be in the top 5.

We’ve all been there in those times when everything feels like it’s spiraling out of control.

When things slow down we often aren’t sure which issue to prioritize and attend to first. That sense of not knowing where to start can become a stressor or trigger itself further derailing us from moving forward.

By all means, we all possess our own unique ways of getting things calm again. And, if you already have your go-to methods — you do you!

However, if you are totally unsure, here’s a potential starting place for you.

The Double Scoop Discernment of Needs

Essentially, if you’re in a tizzy, one way to get a handle on the situation is to consider a double-scoop ice cream cone.

The Cone

The cone itself represents our tangible needs. Things like shelter, your physical space, employment, food, water, sleep, etc. If these things are out of whack then it will be really hard to sort out the other layers.

Check in with yourself to see if you have your basic needs met or how you can get these needs met. As you are working on attending to these needs, be gentle with yourself and give yourself permission to put the rest of the ice cream cone aside until you get these needs situated.

Having a stable cone allows for a little melting in the meantime. Just as having your tangible needs met can create space for you to take your time sorting out more abstract needs without impacting your bottom line.

Two Scoops of Ice Cream

The two scoops of ice cream represent softer notions: intrapersonal and interpersonal needs. These can be more generally thought of as either relating to your relationship with yourself (intrapersonal) and/or with others (interpersonal).

Just as ice cream blends and melts together, so can these two notions. Despite melting together, if something about the ice cream didn’t taste right to you, you would want to try to figure out which flavor (or both) you might avoid ordering again. Similarly, in real life, you would want to tease out whether you are bothered by something about how you are being with yourself or if it’s something related to a dynamic you have with another person.

Having a clear sense of whether you have an unmet need within yourself or with another person are two very different things with a great deal of overlap. Identifying what parts are purely your’s can also be a great starting place for change.

The Toppings

Toppings, like sprinkles, whipped cream, fruit, cookies, you-name-it are the existential needs. This could be trying to understand the meaning of life, our own sense of purpose, self-actualization, personal fulfillment or the like.

Now, for some people existential needs are non-essential and for others, they make or break the dessert. Either way, these types of quandaries, while deeply important, can be put aside until we get the cone set up and get even a little ice cream in the cone. They will be just as sweet added later when the ice cream cone is more set up and ready for enrichment.

An Illustration

Ok, just to illustrate how this might help, let’s check out a light scenario.

Let’s pretend that you are a wedding planner and you are almost finished with wedding season. You haven’t had a weekend off in 3 months and needless to say, you feel pretty frazzled at this point. You feel cut off from your friends and family as they seem to have more of the 9-to-5 schedule. Upon reflection, you realize that you may not have much bandwidth for them anyways given that you have been so busy and you are just so tired at this point.

You are also feeling like you are falling out of love with the commercialization of love and are trying to figure out how to deal with that. Does this mean you are not meant to work in the wedding biz? Should you change careers? If so, to what? Is love even real???

Or does it mean that your business and the way you work needs to undergo some kind of transformation and rebirth? But, how much will that cost to rebrand or incorporate something new into the business? What are the hidden costs for losing some brand recognition or changing gears? Are there other hidden costs you need to consider?

As there is a lot on your mind, it’s been hard to get solid sleep each night, the laundry and dishes are piled up, and your succulents are suffering from the ebb and flow of drying out and then drowning in your attempts to make up for the neglect. They are soggy, wrinkled and discolored, and you’re not sure if they are gonna make it. On the bright side, your dog is happy and healthy.

You’ve got 2 more weekends of weddings to go but are in serious need of a little TLC.

The Double Scoop In Action

If you were to use the Double Scoop idea as a guide, you might consider tackling the laundry and the dishes, and restocking the fridge, if needed. You may even consider sprucing up the space to create an atmosphere of calm which could help you feel grounded and sleep better. On the work front, after a bit of rest, you could revisit your checklists with some fresh eyes just to make sure that all the structural pieces are in place.

Once you have attended to those tangible pieces, if you have the bandwidth to do so, you could find a way to connect with your loved ones. It could be something as small as a Facebook post to say you’re still alive and almost through the thick of it. Or it could be that you email them to send your love and let them know you would love to see them in a month once you get through these weddings and give yourself a moment to recoup.

Just as you are sending love to your friends and family, consider if there are any ways you have been neglecting yourself. Is there a way you can be kind to yourself or show yourself some love or encouragement to get through the next few weeks? Don’t skimp on this one! You matter.

Finally, consider brain dumping all of the big picture questions into a journal or word document with the promise that you will return to it later. You can also put some reminders in your calendar for once you are through with these weddings to start working on these bigger pieces into smaller, more manageable steps.

Essentially, some of these thoughts may not be very helpful in the home stretch. Containing and offloading these thoughts from your head and heart (temporarily) to be revisited later is what I have found to be most helpful when it’s just not the time nor place to go there right now.

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gif of Natalia Amari shaking her hair

Natalia Amari, lcsw

On a mission to help others overcome trauma and reclaim their personal power.

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