Hot Sauce, Planners, and Learning to Relax

This post is primarily about me bumbling about, trying to figure how to enjoy the little things. As you were.

Finding a balance between constantly searching for jobs, enjoying this time off, and making progress on my personal projects has proven to be more challenging than I anticipated. It’s taken some time to get in a rhythm that isn’t driven by “OH GOD I NEED TO DO SOMETHING TO PROVE MY USEFULNESS” because apparently that’s my default. I’ve also come face to face with my crippling sense of perfectionism and inability to actually relax. Turns out, planning every moment in a week and creating lofty, unattainable goals can be really rough on a girl.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about planning – lists are my go-to and my Passion Planner is the best thing for bringing my random ideas to life – but there has to be a balance. I realized that each declined job opening and failure to execute whatever personal goal I’ve set up for myself has beaten me down to a point where I forgot why I quit my job in the first place. What’s the point? Why am I putting myself through this?

So, naturally, I made a list. Don’t laugh at me.

Each item on the list was something that makes me happy – just me, all by myself. Things like trashy books and campfires on frosty mornings. Hot sauce on everything, really good baths, new makeup, and fluffy animals. Making playlists and writing short stories.

It seems kind of trivial, but it helped. Making a list put my actions in perspective. Is whatever I’m doing helping me do these things that make me happy? Is the endgame relevant to what I actually want?

After making the list, I acted on it pretty immediately. A lot of the things I’d written down involved camping, hiking or hunting, all of which I’ve neglected for years. I organized (another thing on the list, shockingly) all of my outdoor gear, tossed what was unusable and made another list of what I need to buy or find to complete my set. All of that stuff had just been sitting in a pile, moving from apartment to apartment without going through it at all. Just taking inventory of those things helped get me one step closer to actually going outside… when it isn’t winter, obvi. Working in retail for so long meant that my weekends were never free so I never, ever got to even entertain the idea of going on weekend trips.

One step closer to world domination! Or, at least, world exploration.

I did other things, too. Little things. Make lattes at home, prep plants for Spring, play more video games. It all adds up! Concentrating on what I love – actions that are within my control and contribute to daily happiness – has made it easier for me to focus on the bigger picture and what really matters.

Here are the major things that I’ve been doing that have lightened my mood and improved my productivity. Honestly, I’m posting this more for my own reference than anything else, but if someone else finds it to be useful for finding their own balance, that would be cool too.

Go for a walk before your brain has a chance to wake up.

In the morning, I fall out of bed and into some comfy walking clothes. While organizing all my outdoor gear, I also took the time to organize my workout clothes and made them easier to reach. Now I just have to put on what’s literally right in front of me and walk out the door. I grab my water bottle and don’t come back until I drink the entire thing and work up a bit of a sweat – a light shimmer, if you will. Sometimes I feel more ambitious and run, but the main goal is to just get outside for a bit and stretch out. When your environment expands, so does your brain.

I just made that up, but it’s how it feels to me.

Plan less, do more.

When resting, my brain’s default is to analyze every little thing that I could be doing at that moment. In those moments, I tend to write down every little thing and when I come back to it, the cumulative results can feel pretty overwhelming. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve found it more helpful to plan time for things that I want to do and people I want to see. Those are things that I need to write down – not all the shoulda coulda wouldas. Planning reminders to go hang out with a friend or do something fun on the weekends are proving to be more helpful in keeping me grounded in reality and out of my head.

Reserve weekends for fun!

Coming out of the retail world and now running on my own schedule, I’ve found it difficult to partition when it’s time to work from when it’s time to relax. I feel like I constantly need to be doing something to find a freelance gig, or line up an interview, or clean the apartment. There’s always something to do and I could just keep on going forever. But I’m not the Energizer Bunny and I need to power down every once in a while. On top of that, I’m sure I’m not the easiest to live with when it’s a Saturday and I just won’t relax.

My new strategy when I feel like I need to do something is ask myself “Is this something that can wait until Monday?” followed by “Will this take away from my weekend, or contribute to more fun later?” Most of the time, I’ve found that whatever it is can definitely wait. Beer tastes a lot better when it isn’t tinged with anxiety.

Turn off the TV and turn on some tunes.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. In the spirit of neuroticism, I love to make playlists organized by month and year. Here’s my March 2017 playlist, if you’re into that kind of thing.

That’s it! It’s simple, really. I’ve been enjoying my days more and actually getting more done. Crazy how that works. If you have any of your own strategies for combating anxiety and getting out of your head, I’d love to hear it! It’s a constantly-evolving process and I’m just getting started.

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