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
Life Uncategorized

I’m not going to do it all.

The universe doesn’t care if you’re Beyonce or the President of the United States – we all get the standard 24 hours in a day. Granted, we don’t have the luxury of having special assistants or personal managers to help schedule and block a day’s timeline perfectly like a game of Tetris. No, we are usually left to fend for ourselves when it comes to managing time. And even with help, things don’t always go to plan. I groan whenever a decently sized plan ends up falling apart, only to hear my mother in law tell me later in a coy but I-told-you-so way – “If you want to make God laugh, make a plan.” (Love you, Alyce!)

I’ve always managed to do just fine with time management in my life before baby. I mean, I had to be good with it, my survival at the time depended on it. I worked three different jobs while in college (full time), and I was also actively participating in three student organizations. I’ve learned more than once that burnout is a nasty beast, and it takes forever and a half with 5 shots of espresso in a Venti sized Starbucks coffee to manage to pick myself back up from the fallout and get moving once again.

I’m still trying to adjust after throwing a baby in the mix, even 8 months after coming home from the hospital. Guys, I still don’t feel “back to normal” yet. In fact, I’m just coming to terms that my life will never go back to what it once was – being able to enjoy a hot cup of coffee is something that I have to literally force myself to have. It is one of the little things that help keep me sane during this time of transition and keeps a sense of normalcy alive, even when everything else around me seems to be going up in flames. Frankly, I was relieved to be going back to work after my medical leave was over, but I was still struggling with how much life had changed when I came home. There was a baby to care for, and chores to be done, and bills to be paid, and errands to be run, and laundry, and cooking, and doctor’s appointments, and… I think you get the point.

My to-do list got way out of control. There was no balance left. There was no “me time” anymore. Something had to give.

I’ve found that adding the little things back into my life has helped me shape firm boundaries that need to be respected so I can be a happier person. (I NEED MY COFFEE.) First, it was the coffee. Then, it was a shower. A good hot shower, not the rushed 5 minute ones just to get myself clean. After that, it was a good meal. I wasn’t eating properly because I was placing the needs of others before me, and it showed. I slowly kept adding things back into my life that made me feel like a person again. Laundry and dishes be damned. They could wait. I had to put myself before the pile of stinky diapers that needed to go out that night.

The struggle with a new identity such as “MOM” can be overwhelming, as new expectations for how you should be as a person are just magically thrust upon you once that baby is conceived. It doesn’t help with the most recent set of standards for moms that have popped up on the picture-perfect Instagram photos and Pinterest posts. Cloth diapering. Organic, homemade baby foods and snacks. Breastfeeding. Cute and stylish outfits that put your 90’s clown-like childhood photos to shame.

You don’t have to do it all. I’m certainly not. Disposable diapers are my time trade-off for a cuppa joe in the morning. I’ll take it! And remember, social media tends to show the better side of a person. People like to post the best of themselves, while hiding and editing out the not-so-perfect aspects. (Like how I need mascara to make it look like I have lashes.)

Do what works for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. There is no shame in calling someone to watch your kid if you need a time out from life. And maybe a margarita.