After hearing the phrase "unprecedented times" enough to last me a lifetime, I've decided to rebrand it "chaotic times," because that's what it really feels like. No amount of routine-building and habit-forming seems to untangle the long list of things to think about right now; you know you're spending your days stressed and busy, but nothing seems to get done and that to-do list only gets longer, even though there's an abundance of time being spent at home with nothing to do. Lo and behold, you find yourself in a downward spiral because you're somehow burnt out while also not doing enough. While we can't solve all your problems, we can share a few ways to help you cope with ever-growing stress levels, especially as the the seasons change and with it, the real estate market.
1. Recognize that personal time is non-negotiable to excel professionally.
A Twitter user was correct when they said, "Remember to get some sun and drink some water - you're really just a houseplant with more complicated emotions." In order to bring your best self to the table, you need to nurture your best self. There is absolutely zero shame in taking a step back to rest so you can return with the motivation and energy you were lacking before. In fact, when Japan implemented a 3-day weekend, they saw a 40% increase in productivity. When you're nurturing a relationship with not only yourself, but your friends and family or anyone who is important to you, you're setting yourself up to approach your work life with the same attitude of balance and care.
Actionable item: Set a timer for ten minutes and do something that clears your brain. Meditate, find a quick online yoga class, scroll through Twitter, read a chapter of a book, journal, take the dog on a walk around the block, play with the cat, listen to a podcast, do a crossword; the options are endless.
2. Protect your time.
"The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities." - Stephen Covey
Upon first glance, you may read this quote and think to yourself, "must be nice to have the time for that", but the fact is that you probably do! Sure, that hour of TV after work is a cherished time to turn your brain off, but the reality is that you could make that 45 minutes of TV (most episodes are only 45 minutes anyway!) and 15 minutes of talking on the phone with a friend or reading a chapter of a book. Maybe you genuinely don't have a few minutes to spare because your calendar keeps filling up with meetings - this is where you physically schedule time with yourself so your calendar says you're busy, because you are. Prioritizing yourself is just as important as taking that meeting.
Actionable item: Take the steps required to get some time to yourself. Request some PTO (go ahead...I'll wait right here...), or if you can't swing a day off of work, put some time on your calendar this weekend that you'll commit to doing whatever you want. Even if it's one hour on a Sunday evening, take it, and make sure to stick to it. Tell your friend you'll call 'em back and don't answer the door when your neighbor knocks - this is your time!
3. Find a hobby and don't monetize it.
With the world in a less than ideal financial state, it can be really easy to feel the need to monetize your hobbies for a few extra bucks in case of a rainy day. While a side hustle is an awesome undertaking, it's still an undertaking. Make sure to leave some hobbies as simply hobbies that you don't make money from and maybe you're not even good at. Relieving the pressure of meeting a goal will make your hobby more enjoyable, as all you're required to do is enjoy yourself.
Actionable item: Sit down and do something you love doing, but you're not very good at (yet!). For me, this is painting. It's therapeutic and creative, but I'm absolute trash at it and that's okay! Being someone who wants to be perfect the first time or not do it at all, I recognize that this is much easier said than done, but after some practice, you'll learn to sit down and enjoy, and appreciate that some things are just for fun.
4. Get outside!
As mentioned above, humans are like plants, but with more complicated emotions, so we also need sunlight to survive and thrive. Sunlight helps your body produce Vitamin D, which is essential for things like your immune system and bone health, so lather on the SPF and get to it! Even if the outdoors aren't your thing, making time for a 20 minute walk will significantly improve your mood and the very least allow you to get some light exercise.
Actionable item: This item, unsurprisingly, is to get outside! Like the above actions, take the step to put it in your calendar and make it happen. Find a new hike or a new park, try kayaking or paddle boarding, or just take a walk around the neighborhood. A picnic in the backyard counts too - exercise isn't required!
5. Allow yourself to be a couch potato.
This may be an unpopular item in a wellbeing checklist, but I wholeheartedly believe that giving into being vertical for a couple days can be the only way out of a funk. When you're really, really in a funk, getting outside or finding a hobby is the absolute last think you want to do, and you're probably facing fatigue just thinking about it. The key here is to hold yourself accountable and get back on your feet when those couple of days are done, though. So listen to your body and sit down with a good book, watch the TV show your mom keeps recommending, and try again when you can pick between ice cream flavors without complete overwhelm.
Actionable item: Next time you start to ask yourself, "Okay, what next?", consider opting for rest over a new project. Of course, if you're on a roll and have the motivation, by all means get to it! But if the feeling of dread starts to set in, notice it, listen to it, and accept it. Thank your body for letting you know it needed a rest, and then give it to yourself. Productivity ≠ worth. Get lazy with it.