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Home Life

Practicing gratitude.

This has been one of those mornings where I woke up just thankful to be alive.

I’m getting over a severe stomach bug that had rendered me useless for the past 24 hours. It’s funny how you take basic bodily functions for granted until you become violently ill. I’m just glad that I can keep my food down now.

My appetite has returned, my aches and pains are gone, and I finally am able to indulge in my morning coffee once again. Hallelujah!

Today started off kind of cruddy, though.

I woke up to the cat banging things around the house. He does this when he gets hangry. Next, the fridge was looking a little neglected, with none of our usual breakfast staples like eggs, fruit, etc. We were also out of bread. I ended up cooking beans and rice for breakfast, since it was all we had in the pantry.

Then my husband started talking to me about the bills, before my morning coffee. Probably not the best idea. During this, the cat came out again, bit my ankles and drew blood because he was still not fed yet.

In one swift movement, I cut my husband off, picked up the cat, tossed him in the bathroom and closed the door. Probably not the best way to deal with that, but those bites hurt! And I didn’t get to eat or have my coffee. I was hangry too, dammit.

——–

Whoops! This post is about practicing gratitude. It really is easy to slip back into a negative pattern of thought.

So now, let me rewrite the morning above in a different light.

——–

I woke up today with no aches, nausea, or chills. It was definitely an improvement from Monday’s crap and I felt relatively rested for the first time in a while.

PJ was awake and playing peacefully in her bed. When I walked in the door to get her for breakfast, her face lit up to see that mom was still home during the day. (She usually doesn’t see me during the weekdays.) We ate an odd, but healthy breakfast of black beans and rice, with some broccoli and cheese. Both PJ and Dan gobbled it down. It was great to remember that I could still manage to make something out of nothing when the kitchen was a little empty.

Dan began to talk about the bills that could be paid once he gets a check from the last odd job he did with his parents, and tried to get me up to speed on what I missed while I was passed out for the entirety of Monday. Meanwhile, the cat was still being crazy. (I can’t make that part sound positive, no matter what I do.)

After the cat was fed, we all had a pretty chill morning. And for the first time in months, my daughter was in a cuddly mood. So we shared some snuggles on the couch while we watched Word Party. I was one happy mama.

——–

It’s amazing what a little change in perspective can do, isn’t it?

Sometimes, I just have to pause and take a hard look at what is really in front of me. There are a lot of days where it’s just easier to default to complaining, comparing, and just not being happy with what I have. It requires less energy for me to do this. These days, I have little energy to spare. Guess what happens then? I tend to become a bit negative about things when I’m tired or when I’m feeling sick.

Fortunately, this is something for me that can be changed with practice. It’s a change of habit in my own thought patterns. It sounds really dumb and silly on the surface, but it’s true.

Lifehack has some pretty good tips on how to practice gratitude here.

For example, in my first version of my morning, I had no bread for breakfast. Our family sometimes runs on toast alone. In my second version of my morning, surprise! We still had no bread.

Despite the fact that we didn’t have bread, eggs or fruit, I improvised and thought: Well, I have rice, a can of black beans, and some broccoli. Not a typical breakfast, but it’s a meal.

Instead of focusing on what I didn’t have, I switched my focus on what I did have to work with in the pantry. Some food is definitely better than no food at all. And I know how to make sandwich bread in a pinch, but that still feels a bit ambitious for me at the moment. Maybe later. We’re not gonna starve.

Second example: In the first story, I was mad about how much the cat was bugging me. In the second, I was thrilled to spend some quality time with my daughter. Both of these things happened, but in the second version of my morning, I chose to focus on the positive things, which included those snuggles I got from PJ. I haven’t received those since she was just a few months old, so that was awesome.

So of course, there are going to be good things and bad things that happen during the day. Some days, the bad can outweigh the good. This is when I believe it is very important to try and see the silver linings that may be present to get through the nastiness of the day. It may be the one thing that saves my sanity for the moment.

I honestly have it pretty damned good most of the time. And I’m super thankful for that.

Hey, there are definitely worse things out there that I will (hopefully) never have to experience… Like cleaning out the bathrooms at a McDonald’s. Or at a Taco Bell. Or any bathroom that I’ve had to use recently with my stomach bug. My heart goes out to you and I weep for you. You have my sincerest apologies. I am thankful for you.

Categories
Life Work

Confessions of a recovering workaholic.

The path to succeed is never linear.

Let me start by saying that I’ve been feeling extra guilty for not being able to update here much lately. Work has taken a big chunk of my time, leaving little wiggle room for much else for me, including things like sleep and showering. Our first family vacation is just around the corner now, and I’ve been scrambling to get the last little bits of stuff together before we drive away and shut the world out for a week.

But I’ve been here before. Actually, I’ve been in worse situations, where there was too much work and not nearly enough down time. Not too long ago, I managed to graduate college debt-free by taking 18 credit hour semesters, working three jobs, and actively participated in two other student organizations. All while helping a family business get off the ground.

Now that was hell. 60 hour work weeks feel like vacation to me now.

There will be periods of time where I’ll have a sort of mini existential crisis. This is when I’ll wonder what the hell I’m doing with my life (not fully utilizing my bachelor’s degree is one example) and whether it is beneficial to me in the long run. Sure, things can get depressing while pondering the above, but it is an important thought process for me to have.

You see, people like to think progress is like A, then B, then C. When in reality it’s basically jsGjdkslHkdnskd- (literally slamming my keyboard) then maybe you get money for it. God, if life was really that predictable and stable looking, I feel like people wouldn’t be freaking out about nearly everything as much.

Running out of money and dealing with severe burnout was not in my master plan of obtaining a bachelor’s degree. I don’t think anyone finds any pleasure nor strives to work themselves to the point of sleep deprivation and forgetting to do things like eat, sleep, and neglect basic hygiene things like showering. No wonder people are all smelly and depressed these days. Fortunately for me, the resulting crashes from overworking myself had positive outcomes. I learned to slow down to stop and smell the roses without feeling guilty about it.

Growing up, my work ethic was born out of necessity (for things like eating) and at the same time trying to keep up with the kids that had money to do extracurricular things. School field trips, social activities, club fees, you name it. Sure, I could work long hours and suck up the pain associated with that, but I was smart enough to know in the long run that working this way 24/7 is just plain unsustainable. But I wanted a lot of things. And the only way at the time to get myself those things was to work my ass off for them.

While it takes a certain degree of madness and dedication to accomplish any big goal in life, the best advice I can give anyone with a full plate is to make sure to come up for air every once in a while. All the work, bills, and general chaos that is life will still be waiting for you after that much-needed break. Don’t let the little things kill you.

Now here’s the part where you really came for – How to not die of burnout? Maybe you’re in the thick of it and need some tips on how to manage when breaks are apparently not an option? Now let me stress this – please take time to take care of yourself. You are useless to others if you don’t put on your own oxygen mask first.

Anyway, here are my somewhat embarrassing and sometimes nasty things I did to get by during the worst of it.

1. Be resourceful and find many uses for everyday things.

Is it day 7 of dirty hair and the dry shampoo decided to run out? Baby powder to the rescue. Don’t have the money for shaving cream? Conditioner works wonders. Not only does this save time and avoid stressing about the little things, it is also very frugal and can save money down the road.

2. Be efficient about time management.

Use notes. Calendars. Reminders. Auto-payments. Anything that can help clear up some mental capacity in your head is great. I’m not ashamed to say I will always use calculators to check my work when crunching numbers. I don’t always trust my math skills, and it saves brainpower for worrying about other silly things.

It is also known that simplifying parts of your daily routine helps to keep that mental space clear. School and work uniforms actually do us a favor – they require little effort or thought in the morning to throw on, and they help reserve that mental energy for working or studying.

3. Don’t be picky.

If things don’t go to plan or play out like you’d like them to, don’t fret. Also, don’t spend your precious energy force to fix things that were perhaps never meant to be fixed in the first place. Focus on what you can do yourself. Don’t allow the actions of others or anything else outside of your control make you feel stuck in a loop.

This is something that is also easier said than done for me. I’m still learning how to let go and let live. If this starts to overwhelm me, I give myself a mental “time out” and start to focus on my actions and how I react to certain situations.

Taking a day off for a breather isn’t the end of the world either. Those things that need to be done or conquered will still be there the next morning. So please rest if needed!

4. Start saying NO.

Imagine you’re sitting at the dinner table during the holidays with some distant relative who keeps insisting you haven’t had enough to eat, but you’ve eaten enough to feed a whole village in one sitting and you just can’t take anymore. You politely have to decline or risk your stomach rupturing.

Simply apply the same visual in your work, your personal life, or whatever when that plate is overflowing. Those who mind won’t matter and those who do matter won’t mind. Your health and sanity is what matters most at the end of the day.

Categories
Health Work

Here’s how to say no: Advice from a recovering people-pleaser.

I felt compelled to jot this sentiment down here since it seems like everyone around me finally started to recover from their holiday hangovers. I’m just now getting back into the swing of things myself. After time off, it may seem inappropriate or invoke feelings of guilt to decline projects or tasks that come around. But becoming a “yes man” can do more harm than good sometimes. Believe me, I’ve learned this the hard way more than a few times. I’ll still relapse every now and then and bite off a bit more than I can chew, but I just have to remember that I’m only human… And that I need to do things like sleep and shower to keep me sane enough for the next day.

Ironically, learning how to say no has allowed me to become even more productive, despite taking on fewer assignments. Know why? Because if I don’t have a million and a half things to do, life becomes less stressful. Less stress allows me to focus better on the things that do matter. It also prevents me from binging on Taco Bell because of the self-induced time crunch I’ve put myself into because I haven’t carved out time to pack a proper lunch or dinner. Saying no isn’t just good for my physical health either, it is also wonderful for the soul. How nice and liberating it feels to not be compelled to help people all the time, 24/7.

That being said, I understand that there are goals to be accomplished. It’s the new year, and everyone is on that New Year’s Resolution bandwagon right about now, trying to keep to new commitments or changes that will be beneficial in the long run. But old habits also have a tendency to die hard.

If one of your resolutions in 2019 is to take care of yourself, I’d highly recommend starting with this magical word. And look, you don’t have to be an ass about saying no to things (unless you really want to, I’m not judging you). There’s plenty of ways to decline politely and with grace.

Here are some baby steps to get started:

1. Say the actual word out loud.

Not something like “I’m not sure” or “I don’t think so”… Just “no” should suffice. If no seems too harsh, you can also try some other decently firm options:

“Not for me, thank you.”

“I’m afraid I can’t.”

“Thanks, but I’ve got a lot on my plate right now.”

2. Save the explanation.

This will save both time and energy. You also don’t want them to try to find a way around a fabricated excuse to try and win you over. Sure, the whole “my kid is sick” thing can work, but only so many times before someone starts to question what you could be feeding them.

3. Remember opportunity costs.

Nothing comes free. What would it cost to take on another request? Sleep? Money? Time? That desperately needed venti quadruple shot caramel macchiato from Starbucks?  The choice is yours. Would it be worth it?

4. Don’t procrastinate.

Sure, you can hold off your official answer if you’re not sure about your decision yet, but this will only satisfy whoever you’re answering to temporarily. They’ll be back.

5. Keep your boundaries in check.

If you’ve said no once already, don’t be afraid to say it again. If they start to be pushy or rude about it, then you can just ignore them. Or be rude back. Whatever is your style, I guess. Just remember to reinforce your position. Don’t be a doormat.

6. Prioritize.

If this happens to be a work thing, and your supervisors are asking you to tackle more than you can handle at the moment, you can always say something like “I’m game to take on this project, but I would need a few weeks to get it done right. How would you like me to tackle this while working on tasks A, B, and C?”

7. Go on, be selfish.

I get it. It can still be hard sometimes to say no, especially when it happens to be towards your toddler who is now throwing a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store because you wouldn’t get them a candy bar. Or when your mother in law tries to guilt trip you for the 10th time this month. Remember to put your needs first and take care of yourself.

Go on, embrace your inner Ron Swanson.

ron swanson nopeee

 

Categories
Health Tech Work

Why “unplugging” from the internet is important for me.

I fondly remember the camping trips I used to take growing up. We loaded up the car until things were starting to spill out of the doors, ran around the house a bit to make sure we didn’t forget anything (except the kitchen sink) and headed towards our favorite camping spot. It wasn’t too far away from where we lived, but it was far enough to be out of the noise of the city, and away from any responsibilities and obligations that we had back home. This was our vacation ritual almost every year, and we all looked forward to it every season.

Once we arrived, the bags got unpacked, the food got cooking, and our phones got turned off and packed away for an entire week. Yes, all the way off. Not on silent or vibrate. We went completely off the map.

Nobody could reach us easily and we could enjoy our family time in peace. I feel like this practice would cause some panic attacks now – but it seemed to be completely normal to do this sort of thing only 10 years ago.

Ha, “only” ten years ago. Look at me throwing around decades of time like it’s nothing. Psh.

2000s-childhood-photo-cringe
Here’s a cringy childhood photo from the early 2000’s – proof that I really am getting older.

So why is it so hard to disconnect these days? Well, the internet is a lot more than what it was back in 2008, cell phones can now do so much more than just contact people, and a sort of obligation of availability seems to have taken hold of a lot of people. We now have online presences to maintain on our social media profiles and websites.

I think we’ve gotten to a place as a society where if we decided to unplug from our online lives, people will actually become concerned that we’ve died or something. (I’m still here, WordPress!) We’ve forgotten that we also have lives offline that need tending to.

The whole morning routine is even impacted by technology. Checking email, catching up on the news, even working out, it all usually involves being online or connected to our smartphones and/or the internet now. I have always done my best to keep a healthy boundary between my offline life and the online world. There are several reasons why I do this, and the biggest of these is to make sure I can stay healthy and productive IRL.

Even my husband and my in-laws will get irritated with me every now and then because I don’t always have my phone on me. There are certain days where a smartphone would be a distraction to me, and if I’m at work or on a job with them somewhere, I will more than likely not have my smartphone physically on me.

Just look at my life for the past few weeks:

  • I’ve picked up more hours at a part-time job, and my employer would not appreciate me updating my blog/Facebook on the clock.
  • We’ve closed on a “fixer-upper” that needs some TLC before someone in Toledo can call it a home, and have been chipping away on the to-do list for that. (Another post on that later!)
  • I have a 1-year-old.
  • The laundry has been piling up.
  • I have friends to hang out with.

… You get the idea, right?

Besides being in a busy season, here are some other important reasons why unplugging needs to be done regularly for me.

For Mental Health

I think of it like brushing my teeth. It’s annoying, but it needs to be done every day or some funky stuff will start happening in my mouth. The same thing applies to my brain. And my eyes. My head will literally start to hurt from all the light of the screens I stare at for hours, and looking at perfect, flawless photos of friends and other things I follow 24/7 is definitely not good for my mental mojo.

Turning off the computer and putting my phone away lets me be more aware of my surroundings, and allows me to be grateful for my life around me. It is good to live in the moment.

For Work

It really wouldn’t be safe for me to be distracted by a YouTube video while trying to use sharp and dangerous power tools that could cut off my arm. I can only multitask to a certain extent – and the more places my attention is, the less effective my work is.

This also applies to my writing. I find if I do it too much, my creativity suffers a bit. If I allow myself to unplug and experience the world going on around me, then I can jump back into the online world later and put those things on paper (or on this blog) for others to read about.

For My Daughter

There would be something seriously sad about missing a big moment of her childhood now because of my inattention due to my smartphone. Or from working too much. Or from being away a lot.

PJ is growing up so fast. Walking has now turned into running – sometimes clumsily into random objects. I really need to keep an eye on her now!

She is a big reason why the unplugging time for me is absolutely mandatory. PJ will not be this little forever, and I’ve got to cherish every moment that I can before I miss it.

For My Husband

Unplugging is definitely a thing that we both can struggle with sometimes, and I know he loves his time online with his friends playing Overwatch or PUBG on the Xbox, and then zoning out on Netflix after a long day. But we’ve both come to a shocking realization – everything on our bodies is starting to hurt and we are getting older by the minute.

There are so many things we want to get out and do together before we get so old that we can’t move well anymore – and we also need the time together to keep our relationship solid. Even if it’s just a few minutes in the morning sipping coffee together in the kitchen before we head to our jobs. Quality time offline to connect and check in with each other is so important!

For Freedom!

*cue screeching ‘Murica eagle here*

wat-eagle-reddit-murica
“lol wat?”

It is so liberating to not have any strings attached when I decide to go offline and to explore and to just live my effing life! As I’m wrapping up this blog post, I’m already thinking about what I’m about to go do next on a rare day off. I’m waiting for Dan and PJ to wake up from their naps. Maybe we’ll go to the park or something, but everyone is definitely looking forward to spending family time together today until Dan has to report to work this evening.

Gotta take advantage of chances like these to relax! I’ll be back soon with the story of our latest project soon.

 

Categories
Health

Parents, we need to talk about mental health issues.

Warning: This post contains strong language and triggering content.


“We want to do a lot of stuff; we’re not in great shape. We didn’t get a good night’s sleep. We’re a little depressed. Coffee solves all these problems in one delightful little cup.”

I think the above quote from Jerry Seinfeld describes my current relationship with coffee almost perfectly spot on. It gives me a good kind of anxiety that helps me cross things off my to-do list every week. Like I’m in control of something in my life.

Now, I hate to admit it, but depressive episodes still happen to me every once in a while. After PJ’s first birthday passed, I thought I was going to be in the clear from postpartum depression, and this emotional and hormonal crap could be put behind me.

Well, yesterday just proved me wrong.

Seemingly out of nowhere after being productive and finishing up dinner, I started feeling sad, which caused me to ruminate about all of the things I couldn’t control in my life, reliving all of the bad things that were happening to me while I saw everyone else around me thriving, happy, and unaware of my emotional anguish and pain. That set off the thought pattern of depression – that I am useless, I’m a burden, I suck at everything, I’m a piece of garbage (but at least I know I’m a piece of garbage human being, and that makes me feel a bit better).

This inner dialogue from BoJack Horseman really hits the nail on the head of the kind of thought process that happens to me while I’m in a bout of depression:

“I don’t deserve breakfast. Shut up. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, what does that do? Go get yourself some breakfast you stupid fat ass.”

“These are cookies, this is not breakfast. You are eating cookies. Stop it. Stop eating cookies and go make yourself breakfast. Stop it. Don’t eat one more cookie. Put that cookie down. Do not eat that cookie. I can’t believe you ate that cookie.”

(I shouldn’t be able to relate to a fictional character so much, especially not one like BoJack.)

That fun voice in my head decided to pay me a visit after being on vacation for a few months apparently. I was completely unprepared to deal with it. I was feeding PJ dinner and she was throwing a fit. Dan decided to attend an evening church service out of town, my in-laws were at a barbecue somewhere else, and I was in no shape to drive her to my mom’s in that mental state. I felt trapped.

Luckily, as I was about to get into the really bad part of it, my father in law shows up at the door, told me the barbecue was pretty boring, and that they would be more than happy to take PJ for the night so I could try and recollect myself.

These guys win the in-laws of the year award. Seriously.

It was breaking my heart to have PJ witness this latest meltdown. I needed someone to come get her while I had to deal with this on my own. Again. She was even trying to feed me dinner and could tell something was off with me. I put on a brave face, told her that mommy wasn’t feeling well, then sent her away with her Paw-Paw before collapsing on the living room couch in hysteric tears.

“This too shall pass… This too shall pass…”

I poured myself a few too many glasses of red wine, then settled in for a Netflix binge session, and managed to keep myself spaced out until Dan finally got home. Then he got the lovely task of helping me decompress and getting that voice in my head to go away. I needed him when the depressive episode started, but I also know it’s unrealistic and unhealthy for him to be there to walk me through this sort of thing every time it happens.

I’ve also been dealing with this sort of thing for a while in college, but it never registered to me that it could be depression. I just dismissed those negative feelings and chalked them up to stress and insomnia issues from the heavy workload I was taking on at the time. I was taking up to 16 credit hours and working three different jobs. I coped with everything by drinking, partying, and smoking hookah.

But now I’m a parent and an unconventional work-near-home housewife. I go to church (almost) every Sunday. I can’t go party with my friends like I used to in order to decompress. No more drinking and being irresponsible for a few hours out of each day. I have to be responsible 24/7 now. I can’t break out the hookah either while PJ is awake, and at the end of the night, I’m just too exhausted to care about anything. I’ve been trying to find new ways to cope.

The good news is that I’ve replaced some of the bad habits I used to have with good ones. I’m gonna sound like an old lady here, but gardening really helps keep my mind out of that downward spiral. I love working in the dirt outside and being in the fresh air, and most importantly, not being stuck inside the house.

I’ve also taken up a morning yoga practice with the free Down Dog Yoga app. Back when we made more money, I had a YMCA membership and I would take yoga classes there. I only was able to get a few classes in before falling pregnant and ultimately canceling my membership. But I’ve gotten back into it and it helps me stay grounded and be more aware of how my body is feeling.

That, in turn, has also helped me clean up my diet in the past few months. I’m eating my fruits and veggies every day, drinking plenty of water, and taking vitamins as needed. I’m basically doing all of these things that are supposed to help with mental issues just short of taking medication for it, as I cannot afford those treatments or any sort of therapist at this time with our miserable healthcare situation.

So I was devastated when yesterday still happened, despite all of this positive change, and so I had reverted back to an unhealthy old method to numb myself of any feeling. I’m at least able to function today, but I’m still beating myself about it a little bit.

All I can do for now to keep this thing at bay is to stay busy, get out of the house regularly, and make sure to take care of myself with good food and regular exercise. (Words of encouragement would also help! It sounds dumb, but it does help.) It sucks that there is still a great stigma to this sort of thing in the US, but I am comforted to find that I am not alone in this struggle. There are other people who are dealing with this sort of thing have created these communities online to help each other out.

And while it is terrible to see suicides happen, the notable deaths of people like Robin Williams, Chester Bennington, and most recently Tim Bergling (aka Avicii) due to mental illness have helped to show that this thing can affect even the most influential, powerful, and most amazing people on this planet. These people, along with other living, high profile individuals who have struggled with these illnesses are coming out with their own experiences and helping to create a dialogue about mental health that has been badly needed.

Another scary thought ran through my head recently, too: If I haven’t been taught how to regulate my emotions, how well would this kind of thing end up for PJ if she experiences this? How would I be able to help her get through it? I don’t want my daughter to develop bad habits like I did. She deserves to be more educated about these issues. Much more than Dan and I were growing up.

We shouldn’t feel ashamed to talk about mental illnesses, because they literally affect everybody. From those who are suffering themselves, those with loved ones who have these issues, and for those with friends and peers who are struggling. Let us not argue about how or why this thing happens, but let us create a united front on how to deal with it and get help.

So let’s talk about it!