I'm not going to lie... I've been finding it difficult to get excited about things in general these days. The ups and downs of the past year have led me to this slightly "settled and mundane" version of myself that I don't quite recognize.
I am typically the annoying friend that you have to tell to "take a break" or "sit down" every once and a while. The one that says, "what's next" before you're even done with the current thing you are doing (this is a quality of mine that drives my husband up a wall). Usually, once the glimmer of spring is in front of me, I'm the one that makes a list of 1000 things that we're going to do in the coming months (I'm also the one that probably only does about 25 of the things on that list). But still...I am usually BURSTING with excitement about the unknown days ahead, sure that they will be filled with magic and wonder.
But not this year. This year I'm finding it hard to plan anything and my "burst" must be broken. I'm finding it hard to get excited about the nicer weather and the joy that mother nature has to offer me as we can get outside. This spring, my bounce is a little lower, a little slower, a little harder to find.
I could probably continue typing about all the "feels" that I've been having lately, but believe me, I've been analyzing those "feels" for weeks! After long and careful deliberation (and a short-lived romance with my couch and a marathon of British Drama shows) I've decided that it's time to take my own advice and do something about it. (This is a common struggle of "helpers"...we focus so much on helping those around us that we often forget to take our own advice when we are in need of a pick-me-up).
I'm not the one that usually needs a "pick-me-up". I'm also not one that typically needs to plan my wellness. I've always been in tune to what my body and mind need and have intentionally focused my work, activities, and connections around the things that help me to feel my best. But this year, after a year of disrupted routines, endless hours in the same room of my home, an overwhelming volume of emails, trying to balance the happiness and wellness of my family, and never knowing what the next day will look like, I feel like I need a little self-care boot-camp. SO HERE'S MY PLAN!!! Remember how I said that I've been analyzing all of the "feels"? Well, over the past few nights, I sat down with a pen and paper and started writing down what seemed to be bothering me the most, draining my energy, and leading to my overall burnout. (Because I have determined that burnout is what I am feeling. Not burnout from my career, but burnout from the uncertainty, inconsistency, and immense amount of flexibility that we have had to endure the past year). I then came up with what I can realistically do about it right now. From there I took out my handy-dandy planner (I still prefer a paper version that I can write in) and figured out how to fit my self-care strategies into my life. Here's what I came up with:
Problem: My brain is tired
My brain is tired from the inconceivable amount of "information and administration" I have had to do within my home the past year. My home has gone from a place of rest and rejuvenation to a place that I spend almost every hour at working or organizing life for my family. Did I mention that I'm also in my last few months of school? Which just means that I'm spending even more time in the same room, in front of a computer reading, writing, and sitting. (I am REALLY OVER all of the sitting). My main concerns in this area are:
Never leaving my house
Having all of the different "parts" of my life melting together (no boundary between work, school, home, etc...)
Computer over-load (too much time staring at the computer screen) and constantly getting on it because I walk by it all day long.
Sitting too much (in the same room, all day long)
Solution: Create a plan to Break up my day.
I've been telling myself for months that I need to break up my day and that I need to find a way to step away from my computer. Although I have thought about it and know that it would be best for my overall happiness and productivity, I haven't been able to do it. Why not you ask? Because I didn't actually sit-down and create a plan to break up my day. So, with my endless list of "to-do's" and both my personal and work calendars in front of me, I decided to break up my day into two primary pieces: Work and non-work. I took my planner, compared my work and nonwork calendars and blocked off specific time for each. For my work day, I looked at the meetings I had planned on each day, recognizing that those were times that I would have to be sitting in front of my desk. I then looked at the tasks I have on my "to-do" list and tried to determine which ones needed to be in front of the computer and which ones could I do on-paper or away from my desk/home office. I then scheduled tasks that I could do from my treadmill in the morning (I have a treadmill desk so that I can walk and be on my laptop at the same time...it's where I am typing this blog from at this exact moment). I recognized that I could start each work day on the treadmill (reviewing emails every morning) with a few other longer durations throughout the week. THIS will help my struggle with sitting too much and with being in the same room. I then determined what tasks I could print-out and work on away from my computer. Were there projects that I could realistically do without staring at my computer? This was a little difficult, but I did find some creative ways to make this happen, and scheduled them into my day, making note that on nicer days I should work on these from my patio, or a different room in my house. The other thing I decided was to spend lunch time taking a walk outside. Since I'm stuck at my desk a lot, I will be happier and more productive if I allow myself to step-away for a lunch break, taking a walk around the neighborhood. I can always eat lunch while I work throughout the day.
Next, I had to look at my "non-work" part of the day. I have a massive list of things I want to do around my house, but again, my lack of "bounce" and the fact that I'm here ALL DAY is making me less excited to actually tackle this list. So...I looked at this list with the hope that breaking up my work-day AND blocking out specific work-time and home-time" will help me want to be more active around the house. I looked at the list and determined the things on it that were really bugging me: my closet needs organized and rearranged for spring/summer and I have some outside landscaping projects that I have been wanting to start. Like so many other lists, broad tasks like these can be even more difficult to do when you are lacking motivation. So...I broke them down into smaller tasks to do throughout the week. For example, I looked at my kids' after-school sports schedules and determined which nights were busy and which nights did I have a little time. Those flexible nights I wrote in my calendar to do small tasks such. Instead of writing "clean the closet", I wrote, "take out any winter clothes that you want to donate". Then on another day I wrote, "go through spring/summer bin and take out any spring/summer clothes that you want to donate". Followed by a day or two of "fold and put away winter clothes" and "hang/organize spring/summer clothes". Seems simple, but it's a task I've been putting off for weeks, that is making me feel even less-bouncy. Disclaimer: This picture is NOT my closet...this is what I wish my closet currently looked like! These are just a few of the first steps (because I know that you should start with realistic small-steps). Some ideas I have if these don't seem to help are: Determining if I schedule a morning run for coffee a few days a week. I make a cup of coffee every morning, but maybe I should try to go somewhere for coffee twice a week. It would give me a reason to put on something other than sweatpants and would get me out of the house. I could even take my laptop and work from a coffee shop for a bit.
Problem: Too much time in the same place, and no idea what else to do
Are you seeing a theme here? I think this hyper-active go-getter is really struggling with burnout caused by complacency. I'm a rolling stone that has been forced to sit still for a year and I have gathered moss....and that JUST WILL NOT DO!
Solution: GET OUT!!!!!
As I mentioned, I've been struggling to be excited about the changes of spring, which is not my typical response to birds and flowers. It's almost as though I have forgotten how to plan things (I will blame COVID for this...lol). So I spent a little time talking to my kids and thinking about the things we like to do. We made a list of simple activities and ones that involve a little more time and effort. We then looked at the calendar again and put one or two things down with the words "THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK". Some of the things we wrote down (and writing them down is the KEY to actually remembering that they are options are:
Have a catch outside (we are a sports family and all of have played some form of ball: softball, baseball, football, volleyball, etc..." so having a catch is something that gets us off of our butts and outside of our house. It's also something that we are all good at, so it's relaxing rather than frustrating.
Go hit golf balls. Golfing is my favorite! But last year the courses and tournaments that we usually golf in were shut down. Again, I think the disappointment of not being able to golf last year has led to me forgetting that I can golf this year. So whether I hit some practice balls in the yard, or I go to the driving range once a week, I made sure to write "swing the clubs" once a week on my list/calendar.
Go out for ice-cream. This is similar to my "go for coffee" during the workday idea. We haven't gone out to eat in over a year and if you ask me, going for ice-cream is even better.
Go the gym: I typically like to exercise at home, but being home non-stop has really killed my desire to exercise here as well... So it hit me, why not sign up for a class or two throughout the week. I don't want to commit to a gym membership, but I can definitely swing $5 to pay for a group fitness class once a week: anything to get me out of the house and back into the swing of exercising.
Go hiking/biking: This is also one of our favorites and costs absolutely nothing. Again...I know that we love to do this, but the blah-ness of the past year has been a fun-sucker that has made me forget a little bit about the things that make me smile. Just talking about this list with my kids was starting to excite me for the spring and I could feel a little bit of my bounce coming back!
Problem: Feeling disconnected
Although I have tried to stay connected to family and friends, it hasn't been the same. For months we were all terrified to be around other people and for the rest of our time we've tiptoed around everyone not sure of their thoughts, feelings, or comfort level with "hanging out" with others. We haven't been able to do the small things that feel "special" like going out for breakfast or having small gatherings. Holidays have been different, birthdays have been different, and even sports have been different. Although we've stayed in-touch, we haven't been able to stay connected.
Solution: Initiate the connection
I feel like this was a skill we were all losing before COVID came upon us. I think we rose to the occasion when the shut-down first occurred, making surprise visits to front porches, sending letters and cards, and facetiming. But then, I think we all fell into the same pit: thinking and feeling that we weren't really supposed to be around each other and then falling into this new pattern of staying at home by ourselves. So guess what!!! If it's bugging me, then I need to take the initiative to start to rekindle the connections (and those of you with teenagers, I'm sure you've seen this happen even more with them!) I realize that I can address many of my "stuck" points with the same solutions and getting connected is no different. Asking a friend to join me at a group fitness class, or for a walk around the neighborhood can kill two birds with one stone (as a bird lover, I hate that expression, but use it a lot). The same with going out for coffee or breakfast... I think I forget that we are allowed to do those things again. There are still concerns around spreading COVID, and I will not pretend that they still don't exist. We are still learning and still taking precautions as I never want to be the reason that someone else becomes ill. BUT, I think I need to retrain my brain that it is okay to connect again and take it a step further and be the one that starts initiating those connections. Lastly, although it may seem like it goes against my desire to connect, I deleted all of my social media apps off of my phone. I found that scrolling through social media on my phone was making it too easy to not get involved in things outside of my house. It was also filled with a lot of negativity that was beginning to make me think differently about people that I have always enjoyed engaging with. So, I deleted the apps. This way, I only jump on to social media for a few minutes a day when I get on my computer. It's been a time and happiness game changer!! So...I've talked a lot today! To those of you that know me, this is not a surprise. I can ramble on about nothing, so imagine when there is something that I've been thinking about for days...if not weeks! Obviously, this is not a fool proof plan. But it is a first step. We all get stuck sometimes. Even those of us that seem like we have it all together (a little secret: none of us actually do!). Although I've been feeling "stuck" the past few weeks, I still can see the light at the end of the tunnel and know that it will only take a little intention, a little effort, and a little sunshine to put the bounce back in my step. This is what we call, "knowing your warning signs". Recognizing when you're not quite at your best so that you can intentionally put a plan together to fight past these stuck points. Even now, an hour after I began typing this up, I feel better. Just talking about my blah-ness and reviewing my action plan (along with an hour walk on the treadmill) has helped me to feel more energized then I did when I woke up today. Maybe I'll keep you posted on how it's going with a little wellness roundup throughout the spring and summer. For now, I have a gigantic list of work tasks that await me. The difference is, today I have a plan for how I am going to attack it, a pre-determined time that I'm going to walk away from it, and a scheduled activity outside of my house for the evening. Best of luck to the rest of you that have lost your bounce this year. You're not alone, and we will all bounce back together!