First, let me just start by stating the blaringly obvious: Being an adult is exhausting.
Not only are you responsible for maintaining a source of income, a mode of transportation, any personal relationships you value, and important things like personal hygiene….you have to maintain your overall well-being, too!
The last 15 months have proven to be both impressive and tiring. Working two jobs, between 80-90 hours a week (if you know me personally, you literally hear the words “two jobs….90 hours a week” out of my mouth at least three times in conversation on a regular basis) have really taken a toll on my whole entire life. My sanity, my relationships, my health….it’s all suffered to some extent.
I recently started seeing a therapist, because a huge shift happened in my romantic relationship with my boyfriend’s family, and it pushed me to “Shut Down” mode. I haven’t felt that way in YEARS! I work really hard to be a do-er, and to keep going when nothing seems to go right, and it’s paid off for quite awhile. But you know those monumental moments in life that happen and just make you feel like hiding in a blanket fort with every Sweet Valley High book and Nicholas Sparks movie? I’m having more of those lately than I care to admit!
The purpose of my new therapy was to support and reinforce the promises I’ve made to myself to make this feeling go away. I also am fortunate to work in a holistic environment five days a week, and participate in a “BreakThru” Life Coaching program that helps with this, as well.
Ultimately, everyone just keeps telling me I need to focus on myself. Stop worrying about how what I feel or want conflicts with the feelings or wants of those who I care about. It makes me laugh (sarcastically, and with a not-so-flattering look on my face), because this is advice I’d give to anyone in my situation. But alas, I sit here constantly questioning my desires and dreams because of how it may make other people feel. This, in fact, was the catalyst with my boyfriends family. I made the best decision for ME, and was called selfish…because they didn’t like that.
It’s prompted me to take any free time I do have since then to do things that make me feel happy, fulfilled, and at ease. And in these past months, I’ve thought about what I could do to “bring my happy back.”
- Dating Myself: You know how when you start dating someone, you get all crazy when it comes to making them feel awesome? Well, I decided to transfer a little of that philosophy to my own personal self, and it’s been one of my favorite additions to my life. Generally, I love going to movies alone on my Tuesday half days. I only work mornings that day, and so if there is a movie I really want to see, I head over to the $6 show at Ultra Star and see whatever tickles my fancy. I get to see a movie I’ve been excited about, and just kind of zone out and enjoy the show. I get a “kids pack” with a small drink, a decent amount of popcorn, and FRUIT SNACKS!!! And I sit still for awhile without panicking about things that have to be done when I have time, or work. I get to just “be,” and genuinely enjoy something! I also frequently treat myself to a decadent snack or a new book, or other little activities that make me happy. I also splurge more on pretty perfume or new shoes, like I’d buy for Sean regularly.
- Volunteer More: Thanks to my friend Ashley, I volunteered with Urban Angels recently, and I’ve decided to do it more. I had the best of intentions to go back, but then got inundated with a lot after the fact. I am going to pledge one Tuesday a month to getting back there and helping out. As someone with her own history of homelessness, helping those who aren’t as fortunate as me keeps me connected to that part of myself that promised we’d be better. Also, I’ve learned the quickest way to turn around my bad moods are to do something nice. I bake cookies or make food for my co-workers, or google awesome/inspiring GoFundMe campaigns and donate to a strangers dream to lift my mood…and do good in the process! It’s become evident to me that focusing on helping others keeps me really centered. And I cherish that experience and its benefit so much!
- Make time for Downtime: This shouldn’t be so hard-but it is! ALL of my free moments are allotted to extra naps or fun times with friends/family. I don’t know how to do nothing anymore…it’s terrible! My new promise to myself is that if I have to do SOMETHING, it has to be something enjoyable for myself. Reading a book at the beach/park, taking a walk alone, baking cookies in an empty house, dancing to “Love on Top” in sparkly shoes and a dress at home alone….these are all on the qualifying list(s).
- Create/Maintain Rituals: I can’t pinpoint when exactly all of my organized routines flew out the window…but over the last year…it’s not happening! I’ve been working on waking up 15 minutes earlier and “getting ready” more. I used to wake up, wash my face and brush my teeth, make a smoothie, put my makeup on and do my hair….and my routine has become devastatingly basic since the career transition(s)! When I spend a little more time preparing for my day, it seems to go a little better. So I’m getting back to that, slowly but surely.
- Identify My Support System: I’m fortunate (and #BLESSED) with family, extended family, friends that are like family, and some pretty awesome work family, as well. I can depend on multiple people in a time of need, and I enjoy spending time with the people that mean most to me. For all the hard times I’ve faced, I recall those that got me through those times more than the times themselves. It is not lost on me that many people cannot say that. Over time, I’ve also realized some of the people I was closest to, have been outgrown. There’s no love lost, but in an effort to close certain chapters of my life and allow new ones to thrive, I had to let those relationships close with them! I had to stop giving everyone everlasting credit for the moments that mattered, and move on when necessary.
- ASK for Support: After just describing how awesome everyone is, it should be easy to do this part. But, it’s not. I have a tendency to shut down inside for at least 5 minutes when stressful/bad/sad things happen. That’s just how I cope, and it works for me. The hardest part is reaching out to someone, even just to reiterate the situation/solutions out loud, when the five minutes are up. I’m getting better. And I see a big difference! Being a “cry-in-bed-and-get-over-it-you-have-shit-to-do-today-Sondra” person was a temporary solution and didn’t contribute to my peace of mind in the long run. As soon as that feeling creeps up, I know that my situation warrants reaching out to someone…and yes, more often than not, that someone is my Mom!
- Refocus: With such a chaotic schedule, I find it very easy to let little things I mean or need to do for myself to the side. When I’m really overwhelmed at my 911 Dispatch job, I let my partner know I’m going to get away from my desk for a few minutes to refocus. When I’m stressed at my Chiropractic job, I know that I can always take a minute to walk around if needed. Outside of work, I grab my journal and jot down any thoughts in my head, if I don’t have a long diatribe to record at the time. Some other strategies include doodling mindlessly for 5 minutes (and I keep saying I’m going to buy one of those fancy coloring books), playing Candy Crush (no idea why it calms me down), or sitting in my car and listening to a favorite song. By taking even just a few minutes to separate myself from the chaos and stress, I’m able to re-focus and center myself!
It comes down to this: Maybe I do need to spend more time on myself and what I want to do. I’ve taken that to heart, and adjusted accordingly! These seven things help me accomplish that, but allow me to insert people I care about when necessary, too! We are in a constant battle with the pull of technology, the fear that we aren’t working hard or long enough, and a fear of missing out or falling behind. That’s how I landed two jobs and no sleep in the first place, right?
Taking the time to isolate ourselves with what we love, and giving ourselves time to absorb what those moments actually do for our mental health and overall well-being can be so powerful, and it’s SO NECESSARY!
What are some ways that YOU create a better you?