Sunday, June 2, 2013

Put Yourself First!

Hi everyone!!

I haven't written in so long, I practically forgot I had a blog. I can't believe it's already JUNE 2013!!! The older you get the more time just flies by... We get into a daily routine where it becomes the norm to be preoccupied with work, jobs, errands, paying bills, kids, schooling, or problems (our own and others'.)

Lately I've been feeling a bit overloaded with the new job. I'm enjoying the job itself and my coworkers are great. I'm used to transitioning jobs and frequently moving, but now that I've settled into my new home with my husband, I am actually less adaptable to change than I used to be. Once you get used to running on stress and adrenaline, it's normal to always be prepared for the next stressful event. But when it's the opposite, and life is pretty calm and normal, that stress induced activity is no longer appealing. In fact, it feels good to be living a "normal" life.

Here are some things I've been telling myself as of late, that might help you too.

1) It's okay to be boring
All my adult life I have been striving for just that. Boring. I'm not a spontaneous person. Even a night out with friends requires meticulous planning on my end. How much will it cost? How much should I set aside for gas? Am I up for it? I have a lot of other things going on - will I be too distracted to have fun? My mind is like a circle of questions and what-ifs that never stops. Call me uptight, because its probably an accurate description! Although I do love seeing my friends and I always have a good time, I'm just a pretty boring person (on the surface). I don't like drinking (but I don't care if you do!), I don't care for lavish parties or loud places. My favorite place to be is at home with my husband, dog, and cat, reading, writing, or watching YouTube. I guess I'm just a homebody - and that's okay. I've accepted that I don't need a lot of stimulation to feel happy and that being boring is okay!

2) It's okay to say no - even when you "shouldn't"
When I started my new job, it really consumed my time and energy. I fell off the face of the earth and completely forgot about Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. I forgot because my energy was entirely consumed with staying focused at work and getting enough sleep, having enough mental energy for each day. Being dedicated to a big life change requires the ability to say no to others, even when it comes to important events like weddings, birthday parties, pre-planned get togethers, or any extracurricular activity. Obviously there are situations we can't say no to - taking care of the kids, caring for ourselves, etc. The point I am making is that during a stressful life change, you don't owe anyone anything. It's 1,000,000 percent okay to say no, to cancel, and to make yourself unavailable for as long as you need to get yourself through a life transition as smoothly as possible.

3) It's okay to put yourself first
Tying into my last topic of saying no, there really are no rules (except for the law, obviously) and the rules you set for yourself. Are you confined by the rules of your parents if you no longer live with them? Will so and so get mad if you don't attend their event? Are you unable to make it to a graduation or other important event because you simply don't have the money? It's okay - and healthy - to put your needs before others.  Think about it - what's the worst that could happen? I'm not advocating for being a flake, but I'm reiterating that others put their needs first - why shouldn't you? (You can usually spot those who don't put their needs first, though, because they will make you feel guilty or try to manipulate you into doing what they want. Don't fall for that! Hold your own and remember that your life isn't about meeting their needs.)

4) Its okay to not be productive
I tend to get stressed when my house is a mess. Something about the clutter gives me a little OCD. Okay, a lot of OCD. But I've had to learn to live with the mess and be okay with it. It's important to have a clean and organized living space, but its also good to practice being one with your environment, despite whether you can relax in it or not. Will everything fall to pieces if the dishes aren't done? Will the world end if the laundry gets done on Monday instead of Sunday? Just some things to put into perspective. Life is a lot easier when you stop assuming that everything around you is based on a set of rules. Who says you have to do anything productive? If sitting with yourself makes you uncomfortable, what is it you're avoiding by always being busy? Give yourself a break and let it be okay. 

5) Get in the driver's seat 
What good do your anxieties serve you? Except creating rapid heartbeat, cortisol levels skyrocketing, hormone imbalance, moodiness, depression, fighting with family... the list goes on. It's easy to say "just stop stressing" but this isn't the goal - and frankly that comment is insensitive. (I should know, I've been told that many times - and I've even told other people that!) Here is a good practice when you feel particularly stressed or anxious about a situation.

Imagine a situation that gives you the MOST anxiety. What is it? Is it confronting a family member? Is it saying no to your boss? Is it standing up to a loved one? Most anxious situations involve some level of conflict. Even saying no when you normally say yes can create that anxiety. 

So you've got that picture in your mind of this anxious situation. How does it feel? Where in your body do you feel the anxiety the most? What thoughts are creeping into your mind? Take note of what things you are repeating to yourself. Have you suddenly become critical of yourself - possibly becoming negative about the situation and assuming the worst before its even happened? Are you ready to throw up your hands at the whole thing and just "give in" to the other person?

The most anxiety inducing situation for me (one of them) is expressing my disdain or anger in a healthy way. A typical situation involves waiting an extra 20 minutes for an appointment that was supposed to have already begun. Typically, I'd bite my tongue and say "it's no big deal" and suppress that anger, later becoming resentful due to all the build up of repressed anger. (Guess what resentment turns into? Boiling over with anger and misdirected criticism or anger at yourself or others.)

In order to express my disdain healthily, I should politely tell the person "Did you know it's 20 past the start of our appointment time? I like to start on time whenever possible since I have a pretty tight schedule." At this point I assume the person I'm speaking to will become defensive, abrasive, or try to 'get back at me' for being honest and straightforward.

Regardless of the outcome and their response, I've expressed my discontent and therefore said my piece. I already feel better and lighter for doing that. I put my fears and anxieties in the passenger's seat, and I put my rational self - and my anger - in the driver's seat.

This practice can be used in any situation. It requires patience and maturity, and the ability to open yourself up to some uncomfortable situations. Expressing anger in a healthy way doesn't mean calling up everyone whose ever wronged you and "telling them off". In fact, when anger is expressed at the time it's felt, there is no need to boil over and "let it all out" when the final straw breaks the camels back.

These are tips I've learned throughout the years, especially in the past year, that have really helped me along the way. You won't always have the opportunity to express your anger, but doing so more often - putting your emotional, anxious side in the passenger's seat - will help you become a more sane, less anxious person. 

Hopefully these tips will help you feel better and more relaxed about your personal decisions. It's okay to be you, and to put yourself and your needs first.