Crying over spilt coffee - a thought for caregivers and anyone else who wants a happier life

You know how it is - one moment you have a lovely large cup of your favourite coffee and the next moment most of it is on the floor, with splashes on the furniture and up your leg. There is no "glass half empty or glass half full" - the cup is 90% empty and you 100% have to clean up the mess and you probably have to change your clothes. Oh, and you don't even have the nice coffee waiting for you at the end. How do you react?

This was my situation earlier in the week and I'd really been looking forward to the coffee. I'll admit, the cup hitting the floor was synchronised with swear word, as I bet it would be for most people. It's what happens next that's important.

What your reaction says

Reactions to small things like the coffee are a guide to current mental state, how resilient or overwhelmed you are. There's a scale of reactions, and in my head I picture it looks like the spice level chilli at a well-known chicken chain (cooked with medium, hot sauce on the side for me please). Some typical reactions on the scale include:

1) Anger and refusal to even clean it up because there are other, more pressing things to do

2) Tears adding to the flood as you sob, trying ineffectively to clear it up with a few tissues

3) Some sighs of annoyance, maybe a little tear as you clear it up with your appropriate choice of cleaning / mopping implements, then a little sulk about not having the coffee

4) A little shrug as you get ready to mop and clean, then make youself a replacement coffee.

The higher up the chilli scale, the more overwhelmed you are probably already feeling so the one extra thing is just too much. When you are generally more relaxed you are more resilient to these things and able to cope - if "whelmed" was a word, that is what you be.

When you're at level 1 and leave the spilt coffee to deal with later, there's a good chance that it will have seeped further, making it a bigger mess, which takes more time to clean up. It's a good metaphor for anything that is put off - it will probably grow and take longer / be harder to resolve. When you deal with it quickly, you sort it out more easily and can relax and move on to the next thing.

So how do you stay at the lower levels?

Look after yourself! How you do that is up to you. There are lots of little things that anyone can do over the course of a day or week, and these will be different for everyone - whether it’s relaxing or active, alone or with someone else. Think about what recharges your batteries – dancing around the house or reading a book, going for a long walk or having a long bath, taking time to yourself or spending it with someone else. What will you do to help look after yourself in the next 48 hours? How will you keep this time for yourself?

When my in-laws started to need care, I knew how to look after both them and myself – because I’d got it so wrong in the past, when my other half was signed off work with stress and my life was turned upside down too. These blog posts are based on the things that helped me, the lessons I learnt the hard way and what I realise with the benefit of hindsight would have helped. I’ve collected some of the other key learning points and tips and made these available to download at

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