Take a day

Some things have been falling through the cracks lately, and occasionally I have to wonder if one of those things is my sanity. I’ve wanted to write this post for a while, but haven’t had the “golden opportunity” to do so yet. But I’m tired of waiting for the perfect moment for pretty much anything, because for me that just means I keep waiting and waiting and then wondering if the best opportunity already passed by.

Here’s the thing: That’s how a lot of us treat days off. Uh oh, I said the thing. The American Dream and the Protestant work ethic are gonna come haunt me if I’m not more careful. Of course, that’s incredibly flippant, but I also mean it seriously. For so much of Western society, especially the U.S., taking a day off just because it’s what would be best for you is avoided and looked down upon to the point of being taboo. It’s irresponsible, wasteful, unrealistic, lazy.

And I really do understand that for some people taking a day off isn’t a feasible reality. When you have other people to care for and need to put food on the table, it’s not always an option. But your continued well-being is too important to be put on hold forever.

So I don’t care — take an hour off, a day off, five freaking minutes off. If you can feel that you are getting burned out, give yourself a break.

Signs of burnout include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Irritability
  • Exhaustion
  • Trouble focusing
  • Unpredictable appetite
  • Trouble sleeping or getting up in the morning
  • Worry/anxiety
  • Prolonged periods of high stress
  • Bouts of apathy

These symptoms can of course be indicative of other things, but if you’re feeling like this list nearly sums you up, it might be time to figure out where you can take a step back. Maybe that means skipping your workout or taking a mental health day. Maybe it means saying no to another responsibility or endeavor. Maybe it means staying in on a Friday night instead of going out. Maybe it means ditching your family or plans and just going for a walk or to the movies.

I am, historically, not great at this. My junior year of college was overwhelming to the point of taking a really big toll on my health, and I hit the lowest point I’ve ever been at. It was really difficult, but I had to change something. So I started going to counseling, and eventually took a few things off my plate. It wasn’t easy; counseling was way outside my comfort zone, and I risked further damaging an already uneasy relationship when I discontinued a large commitment I had taken on. I skipped classes sometimes, and renegotiated a big assignment with one professor so that I could spend time with an ailing family member.

And I didn’t get better immediately. I didn’t get better steadily. I still have awful days and seasons. But within a few months even I could see the difference, and other people went out of their way to mention it to me. Honestly I wish the adults in my life had been better at teaching me this in practice and not just words, but now that I’m an adult I’m trying to get better at it.

So please, if you feel like it’s too much, figure out the best way to give your mind or heart or body (or all of them) a break. Talk to your boss or your family or someone about where you’re at, and ways to lighten your load. Your future self will thank you, and there is no shame in making sure you have the strength to keep going. What methods have you found most effective at preventing burnout? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

More than useless

I was going to put up a cool post on travel today (don’t worry, it’s coming later), but honestly I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Why? Because I’ve felt like a genuinely crappy adult this week.

Monday morning I found a spider in my sock and, being really afraid of spiders, totally freaked. A rock hit my windshield on the way back from work and cracked it, so that had to get replaced. I was looking through job openings and found an entry level position that I would be a pretty good fit for — except they want a minimum 10 years experience. A friend invited me to her wedding and I don’t know if I’ll be able to go. And frankly, getting out of bed has been difficult.

My life isn’t that bad. It isn’t even bad. I have no need to substantially fear for my safety or basic needs, I have a job and people who care about me. Of course there are silver linings. But that doesn’t make the clouds suddenly not grey.

I really, really wish I had a good response to this. In 5 days or 5 months or 5 years I might. But right now I just know that tomorrow is worth it, and that (as much as saying it makes me uncomfortable) I’m worth it. For the record, so are you.

When you feel overwhelmed or like you keep screwing up, or just completely and thoroughly meh, here is my list of things that help:

  • Drink water
  • Have a snack
  • Journal/pray
  • Take a shower
  • Write my way out
  • Tactile hobbies (coloring, cleaning, crocheting, etc.)
  • Tell someone I feel down — this gets it out of my head and out where I can understand it better
  • Go outside (walking is especially helpful)
  • Read a familiar book
  • Listen to music (I have playlists for this, but I highly recommend “More Than Useless” by Relient K)
  • Ask someone to sit close or for a hug
  • Watch a small bit of TV
  • Cook or bake something

Sometimes being an adult — or even being a human — sucks. If you’re stuck in a slump, try making your own list and using it to help make crappy days better. If it’s more than a slump and you’ve been feeling not yourself for several weeks or longer, consider talking to a mental health professional. A very significant thank you to my dear friend Kami for the list this is based on, and for reminding me to adjust it to what works best for me.

What have you found most helpful in getting through difficult stretches? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and remember that you’re probably better at this whole adulting thing than you feel.

Old stomping grounds

This weekend, I visited my college for the first time since graduating. Granted, it had only been 5-or-so months, but going back to somewhere you used to belong is a textbook example of strange. I didn’t know how much would have changed or if everything would be basically the same as it had been when I left.

The first thing I was forced to grapple with was realizing I wouldn’t be able to do it all in a short visit. There was no possible way to see everyone, eat at all the old places, take in all the old views, relive all the old times. On the one hand, that kind of sucks. But I’m pretty sure there’s a lesson in that somewhere, and learning to be content with doing less than everything is definitely something I need to practice.

Of course it was fantastic to be able to see so many friends and a few past professors — and it didn’t hurt to be close to the beach again (yes, I lived by the beach for 4 years). A few things had changed, but overall I was surprised that it almost felt like I never left. Almost.

Where I hadn’t expected to notice change was, frankly, in myself. I graduated less than 6 months ago, and my life hasn’t undergone any more big transitions, so it was odd to feel like somehow I had changed more than the place I left. But I have changed. I’ve become more sure of myself and less sure of where I’m at, somehow even more independent and determined. I haven’t necessarily become less anxious or forward-thinking, but I am more aware of how those qualities affect any given day.

Nostalgia was still a factor, and it will always be difficult to drive away from a place that means so much, with no idea when I’ll be back. But it also hammered home what I was pretty sure of when I graduated — I was ready to move on. It made the 4 years I spent there feel simultaneously near and small, and it made me wonder what I might be feeling similarly about in another 4 years. To quote my very favorite ‘80s movie, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Going back to a place that was home for 4 years reassured me that I didn’t miss out on life as it passed me by, but was also a big reminder that it does move fast and it doesn’t stop for anyone. I was talking with a good friend recently about major milestones in life, and emerging adulthood is a period when some really big ones can happen in quick succession. Each will be one to look back on, but more importantly a new place to move forward from.

What transition has felt the most significant in your life so far? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thank you for reading, and good luck adulting!

P.S. For all the amazingly kind people who brought up this blog over the weekend, you’re the best and I’m honored to hear your feedback. Thanks y’all.

You matter.

It will be another serious post today, but it’s one that is incredibly important to me. Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

I imagine that each of us can think of someone we know who has been affected by suicide, depression, and/or self-harm. Some of the people I am closest to have been deeply impacted, and dark times have pushed me further down that path than I would like to admit.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 800,000 people die by suicide every year, and it is the number one cause of death for those ages 15-29. Suicidal thoughts and attempts among adults are most common for those ages 18 to 25, according to statistics from Emory University. The suicide rate is higher among males, though the attempt rate is higher among females.

Hundreds of thousands of people across the world are dealing with depression; it is more prevalent among women than men, and has high rates among adolescents and the elderly. Approximately two-thirds of those who die by suicide were dealing with depression.

Unfortunately, there is no easy response to such profound pain. But there is always something we can do. I may not know your story or what you’ve been through, but I do know you matter. Your life and light and laughter are important, and you are capable of more good than you know. Pain isn’t trivial — it doesn’t go away overnight and honestly it might not ever fully disappear.

Maybe you don’t know anyone right now who is dealing with depression, self-harm, or suicidal thoughts. But someday you will encounter someone who is facing them. Maybe you do know someone who is in the depths of those challenges. They’re worth your help and your time. Maybe you’re the one who feels stuck and hopeless, or are questioning whether the fight is worth it.

You are worth it. You matter. Even when it feels like it, you are never alone. There are people who care about you more than you know. And if you can’t reach out to them for some reason, I’m here, always.

The bottom line is even when those thoughts creep in you have the power to choose kindness toward yourself. You have to power to reach out or look within (or both) and find the strength to treat yourself with compassion. You are made of stardust and hope and worth every new beginning and second chance that might ever come along, so allow yourself the time and freedom to take them. You’re worth putting the razor blade down. You’re worth stepping outside to feel the sunshine. You’re worth asking a friend to hang out. You’re worth another day.

In addition to those above, here are links to some resources below that offer information and/or help for those dealing with depression, self-harm, and suicide.

I know this was somber, but I hope that it makes the light in the darkness a little easier to see, and that it encourages all of us to keep our eyes, hearts, and arms open to people who might be hurting — including ourselves. Thank you for reading, and you can always reach me through a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, and Instagram @oh.grow.up, or through my Contact page if you’d rather not post publicly.

Honesty and terror are roommates

At least in my head. Honesty and communication are two of the most important values/skills to me, and when it matters most there is a 99.97% chance I will suck at them. And that realization in itself feels awful — especially considering I have a degree in the latter. (It only adds irony to remember that I graduated at the top of my major.) Most of it boils down to bad past experiences and moderate anxiety.

I don’t say all of this for sympathy or a pity party, because honestly I hate admitting it. I’m saying this so that hopefully it helps someone else.

Anxiety, or feeling like you’re doing terribly at the things you’re supposed to be good at, is really intimidating. And it’s a thing that in reality most people deal with, but often we try to compensate for it and almost never talk to other people about it. I really want to change that; it would be naïve to think it’s easy, but I have to believe it’s worth it.

So here’s the honest truth:

I feel incredibly insecure when thinking about/talking about/encroaching upon the subject of job searching. I get nervous and clammy and defensive and I usually avoid all of that by talking about it as infrequently as possible. I often feel like I’m poor at articulating myself in a normal conversation, and think most clearly when writing, which makes phone calls and important conversations more difficult than it feels like they should be.

So when it comes to having conversations about this in-between phase so many of us are at in life, particularly with people who aren’t in that phase, it can be difficult to feel like the conversation is worth the anxiety and potential misunderstandings. I’m not the expert, but I also have to remember that other people don’t always know where I’m at and talking about it is the only way to shrink that gap.

I don’t know what things make you feel anxious or intimidated, but I do know that talking about it with someone who cares about you can help a lot, and that fears start to get smaller when you face them. What fears do you feel like you’re starting to conquer? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and I hope the week feels like a mountain you’re capable of climbing.