I’ve had my entire 2017 planned out since around September of 2016.
I began a new role with a company that pays for me to travel, both domestically and internationally. So my time was already neatly laid out for me very early in advance.
It’s the year of weddings and babies for everyone I care about. It’s incredible how we all decide to become real adults in a matter of months. It’s so joyous, yet overwhelming.
I have family spread all over the US. I miss this family very much. I wish with everything in me I had the time to travel home more often than I am allowed.
The man I love bought a house- one that needs some TLC when time allows for it. Remodeling, upkeep, and maintenance, these are the things we scramble to accomplish in our “free time”.
I adopted a third dog. Yes, I am absolutely insane. So now our home is a haven for three large, attention-craved canines that have the combined energy of two four-year old boys who have been kept inside for a week straight.
I’ve found myself spiraling into a unique depression- it’s one that paralyzes my motivation and sense of happiness. Whenever I snatch a free moment for myself, I sit and wallow in all that I have to do. And rather than accomplish a few, easy tasks that will relieve some of this overwhelming stress, I pop on the television or open up a book and turn off my brain the only way I know how to nowadays.
And because I’m constantly feeling like I’m just trying to survive in order to make it to the next big upcoming responsibility I have to dedicate my time and energy to, I get so defensive about planning my 2018 away.
This isn’t a sustainable way of life.
So how do we pick ourselves up and restructure our way of thinking about responsibilities and stresses? How do we accurately position ourselves for success and happiness, even in the overwhelming moments?
Set achievable goals
It’s so often overwhelming to even think about tackling all the things that have been piling up, so much so that we often push it all off until the consequences catch up to us.
The best way to bring yourself out of the “hole of desperation” is to set achievable goals and go from there.
For example, set “Daily Goals”, “Weekly Goals”, “Monthly Goals”, and “Yearly Goals”.
Literally write these goals down, and as you accomplish them, mark them off of your list. That way, you can physically watch as all of those stressful responsibilities start to melt away, and before you know it, you’ve completed everything you needed to in a timely fashion with little-to-no stress!
Schedule time for self-care
Self-care can look very different for different people.
Since I am highly introverted, the best self-care that I can perform once a week is some much-needed alone time. That means no boyfriend, no dogs, no work. And preferably no binge-watching TV shows (as that quickly leads to a downward spiral).
My self-care can consist of a run at the gym, treating myself to a manicure, snapping some pictures of a new section of the city I haven’t explored yet, shopping at some local stores I’ve been wanting to check out, or posting up in a coffee shop with a new book.
If I am an extrovert, surrounding myself with friends is essential to re-energize me, so maybe I can schedule some time with people I haven’t seen for a while and catch up on life.
Be honest with yourself and others
There’s nothing more stressful than having too much on your plate and piling on more because you are afraid to say “No”.
One of my favorite things about myself is my ability to be honest with others when I am not able to do something. I shy away from lies, excuses or ghosting. It’s so much easier for me to say, “Thank you for the invitation but this week kicked my butt and honestly, I’m on the couch in my PJ’s and I don’t think I can convince myself to do “real-people” things tonight. Let’s catch up soon, though!”
When you do see people and they ask you the mandatory, “How are you?”, learn to respond with authenticity. Tell people about your stressful day at work, your frustration with your roommate, or your lack of sleep. Foster a discussion about real life, not this mythical world in which you’re eating your vegetables and getting eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night!
Focus on your health- both physically and mentally
When I get overwhelmed and stressed, my health is the first thing to go. I stress-eat, can’t get off the couch, forget to drink water, and surround myself with negative thoughts and ideas constantly.
Everytime I convince myself to go for a run or check out a new fitness class, I see my mood lift automatically. I drink water and I start to formulate full sentences! I look at the bright side of things and suddenly Monday wasn’t so long.
Take each day as it comes
This is by far the hardest thing for me to remember when I begin to feel overwhelmed. I immediately flip open my Day Planner and start arranging things far, far in the future, as if that’ll help at all.
When I wake up thinking about what I need to accomplish in the few hours of day that I get to see, I can better handle what is being thrown at me without worrying about tomorrow or next weekend or next year.
Sometimes I forget that I get one life to live, and that I am ruining this life with overcomplicating things and stressing about inconsequential ideas.
So instead of binge-watching House of Cards or sleeping away my anxiety, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and embrace today, and only today.