Note to Self: It's Okay to Relax
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Before you’ve even gotten out of bed, you already know how many emails lay waiting in your inbox. You’ve just checked your phone for the 23rd time, and it’s 9:15 am. Your days are filled with constant stress and unrelenting stimuli because of the overwhelming pressure to be productive, on your A-game, giving your 110% (at least). At lunch, while other people are able to take breaks for 15, 30, or sometimes even 60 minutes, you’re sitting at your desk, clambering away on your keyboard, trying to clear up your to-do list. You don’t take lunches, at least, not unless they’ve been scheduled in your calendar weeks in advance. At night, when you get home, you’re tired, mentally drained, a bit cranky, even. But you don’t have time to be cranky. You’ve got stuff to do, messages to respond to, an empire to build.
Does this sound like you? Because it definitely sounds like me.
Has anybody noticed that the idea of ‘working around the clock’ and being ‘always on’ has become more of an accepted practice these days? If you have a corporate job, emails or texts from your boss at 10 pm are no longer off-limits, even if you’ve technically clocked out hours ago. If you’re a freelancer, it’s more of a gray area. And if you’re a side hustler (someone with a day job and a project on the side that takes as much time as a part-time job, if not more), like me, it’s even more of a struggle. These days, we’ve started to equate being busy with being significant. I have never seen this mindset more blatantly apparent than in Los Angeles, where everyone seems to be a writer-photographer-musician-actor who also works in a law office or delivers DoorDash during the day. Work is great, and having multiple things going for you is never a bad thing. But being overworked is potentially devastating. Whenever I am overworked (and I let it happen often) I get easily irritated, burnt out, and worst of all, I lose my creative spark. I just don’t want to deal with it at that point.
Note to self (and to you): snap out of it.
It’s okay to relax every now and then. But as with most good things, it’s much easier said than done. I am without a doubt a Type A personality through and through, so packing my morning-to-evening with ‘stuff’ is my default mode. Relaxing – I mean really relaxing – is hard. I’m not talking about scheduling time for weekend brunches and movie nights, though those are great too. I’m talking about really surrendering to the present moment, and not letting anything else get in the way, regardless of whether it’s for 10 minutes or 10 days. At the end of the day, it’s okay to be focused, but your career will benefit even more if you allow yourself to unplug and unwind every now and then. Below, I’m sharing a few things that I am currently working on practicing in my own life to help me find more balance between the chaos of it all.
Get Things Out of Your Head, and Onto Paper
If I have 1,000 thoughts bouncing around in my head, I’m going to be on-edge about it. I worry 24/7 about things I need to do – doesn’t matter if they’re small things like buying toilet paper or gigantic things like finishing a work presentation. One thing that helps clear my mind seems so simple, but it works. Write it down. Take a moment to build a robust, fully thought-out to-do list or journal about everything that’s bothering you. Getting things on paper reassures my mind because there’s less chance I’ll forget about it, especially since I look at to-do lists every day.
Delegate Your Work Better
Having a lot of stuff to do comes with the territory. You’re building a life you want to be proud of, and that takes WORK, after all. If there’s a lot of tasks that you need to get done, be better about structuring your workload into a system that ensures everything will get done. I try to schedule all of my personal work and blog work on Sunday - Thursday of each week, in the evening, after my day job. Something else I’ve been trying to get better at (but it’s haaard!) is time batching, which is the idea of doing more than one thing at once, and sticking to that consistently. For example, dealing with finances and meal prepping for the week on Mondays (and only Mondays), working on personal projects and answering emails on Tuesdays, reading/taking a bath/TLC on Wednesdays, and using Thursdays and Fridays as your days to catch up with friends. This structure is honestly hard for me because I’m the kind of person who needs to write almost every day to feel productive, and who can get completely thrown into answering emails and forget that I’ve got other stuff to do that’s more important. Blogger Lauryn Evarts swears by time batching though, and has a longer write-up about it on her blog, the Skinny Confidential, which I think about often whenever I'm trying to organize my work week.
Schedule Time to Relax
I know this sounds counter-intuitive. But, if you’re seriously a Type A like me, the only way you’ll really be reassured that there’s some relax time happening in your life is if you actually schedule a time to do so. Pull up a chair, grab a cup of tea (or wine, or coffee), and designate some times throughout the week where you give yourself permission to not do ANY work–not even checking your email or scrolling through Instagram. It’s almost amusing how hard it is to actually find time to relax throughout the week, but it’s probably the most important thing you can do.
Plan a Trip
I like to plan as many trips as possible–a habit which, by the way, my wallet detests me for. But travel is high on my priority list, and having a trip to look forward to instantly reinvigorates my mood and gives me a reason to make it through the week. Travel doesn’t have to mean shelling out thousands of bucks for a week in Greece. Day trips, hikes, and staycations count, too. Try to do something every now and then that takes you off the grid for a short period of time, even if it’s only for an afternoon. I promise, the grid will still be there when you get back.
Remind Yourself to Be Present
Do you ever find yourself crawling through the week, trying desperately to fast-forward to the weekend? I’ve been so guilty of this for so long, but recently, I’ve discovered that this way of thinking is so toxic, not only for productivity, but also for dealing with the delicate balance between relaxation and stress. When you catch yourself slipping, remind yourself to be present. Focus on what’s going on now, whatever that might be. You’ll feel a bit more fulfilled and less anxious about time passing. I usually catch myself when I’m working out or when I'm driving, and I try to remind myself to stop trying to rush through it all.
Relaxing isn’t about zipping through your issues or your tasks so that you can make more time to do nothing. It’s about learning to walk the line in between it all, and do it in a way that’s a bit more sustainable.