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How To Deal When Things Aren’t Okay

Getting gutsy means being brutally honest, even when you don’t want to be. It means being authentic and real…and sometimes part of being real means admitting that everything is not okay.

Yesterday morning, I tweeted the following:

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 6.05.31 AM

I was a bit surprised when the tweet received a few favorites and several replies of people agreeing and mentioning that they felt the same way. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

It wasn’t one particular “big” thing that sent me over the edge either…it was a culmination of a million little things that all added up into one giant mess of complete overwhelm.

The brutal winter weather (seasonal affective disorder, anyone?), deaths in my extended family, anniversaries of two other deaths in my family, new responsibilities at work, a major running slump.

The overwhelm also came in the virtual form too: complete fatigue with all things social media, reading the same repetitive message on blog after blog and a never-ending stream of emails.

So after work yesterday, I let go of all expectations for that night. I canceled my plans to go to yoga, ditched the idea of going to the gym, turned off my computer and let myself just be. I spent extra time cuddling my pup, hung out with my parents for a bit and crawled into bed at 9 p.m.

I woke up this morning feeling much better- not 100 percent back to my normal self (that will come with time..and perhaps a little sun?!), but definitely refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the week.

Why do I tell you all this? Because I value this community we’ve built and I like being honest with you. I want you to know that I am a real person with real feelings and things aren’t always perfect. As much as I preach about getting gutsy, reaching your goals and living your best life, I want you to know that I understand that sometimes things get in the way of that and we all get a little off track. This is life and it can’t be wrapped in a neat, tidy bow. 

Here are some steps I’m taking to manage overwhelm and deal when things aren’t okay:

1. Acknowledge the sadness. A lot of times, we try to push aside our feelings. We tell ourselves they are silly or not worthy of feeling. That is not true. No matter how “trivial” your issue seems, squashing it by downplaying its importance will only make the problem bigger in the long run. When you feel sad, acknowledge it. Feel it. Allow yourself some time to wallow in that feeling because only after you’ve truly experienced it, embraced it and acknowledged its existence…then you can learn to let it go.

2. Make a list of the things that lead to your overwhelm. Similar to acknowledging the sadness, take the time to recognize exactly the things that are making you feel sad or overwhelmed. Feel free to make the list on paper if it helps you to do that. I personally just keep the list in my head. Even though you probably *know* what’s making you feel crappy (because you likely can’t stop thinking about those things!), it helps to think about it in list form. You may even discover little things you didn’t even realize were bothering you so much until you actively took the time to bring them to the surface.

3. Develop actionable steps to make yourself happier. Yes, it is completely okay to be sad. It is normal to be stressed and overwhelmed. Time definitely helps heal those wounds, but so does taking action. Take a look at that list of things that lead to your overwhelm and reverse it. What kind of actions can you take to make yourself feel better? What little changes can you make in your life to avoid getting to this point of stress again?

Here are some actionable steps I plan to take, based on the things that sent me spiraling into burnout:

  • Be strict with my calendar. I love having a full calendar- I appreciate every fun opportunity that comes my way whether it’s going out to dinner with friends, attending a PR event in the city or practicing yoga. But lately, I’ve found myself craving a quieter calendar. I’m trying my best to keep social plans after work to one night per week, two at the maximum. I’m also trying to keep two nights per week completely empty for my own sanity. That way, I can decide what I want to do with that time whether it’s going to the gym, watching a mindless TV show or reading a book and going to bed early. Instead of accepting every invitation that comes my way, I’m putting myself first and scheduling my days for my maximum energy and happiness.
  • Stop the hate reading. Admit it, we all do it. There are certain people on social media that we can’t stand for one reason or another, but we continue to read their blog or follow their tweets or Instagram photos. Every time you see one of their updates, you feel all rage-y inside, but for whatever reason, can’t look away. I’m going to try my best to unfollow those people and forget about them. We all have enough stress in our own lives…it’s not worth it to pick up unnecessary negativity or anger from the way we feel about others. Unsubscribe, unfollow, breathe.
  • Be kind to myself. It’s amazing how kind we often are to others, but how brutal we can be to ourselves. In yoga the other day, I found myself staring at my thighs and thinking to myself, “You’ve definitely gained weight. No wonder you can’t do this pose. You’re fat.” How terrible, right? I was completely bullying myself, in the middle of an activity that is all about appreciating yourself for exactly who you are. We are often our own worst enemies when we should strive to be our own biggest fans and strongest advocates. I’m working hard to stop the negative self-talk. It’s not productive in the least bit.
  • Re-introduce early morning workouts into my weekly calendar. Part of my slump has been that I’m not running as much, which makes me worry about being prepared for the Broad Street Run and makes me feel extra crappy about my body image. I promise myself I’ll run at the gym after work, but most days I’m too tired or have other responsibilities to tend to, so I end up skipping my workout. The only way I know I’ll make it happen is if I do it first thing when I wake up. Plus, that dose of endorphins in the morning usually leads to a happier and more productive day all around.
  • Limit time on social media. This one is going to be a bit more challenging, as social media is a major part of both my job and my personal interest. Yesterday’s mini Twitter break was good for my soul. Besides checking for work, I tried to limit my time on my personal account and it felt good to step back, even just for a few hours. It can be completely exhausting to live your life in 140 characters. There’s a lot of pressure to stay active and be interesting and funny 24/7. I’m reminding myself that it’s okay to take a break.

Remember: you can only be your best self and accomplish your goals when you take care of yourself first. When you begin to feel overwhelm creeping in, allow yourself to be completely selfish with your time and energy to take care of YOU. 

Is anyone with me on this? How do you cope when things aren’t okay? I’d love to hear your stories and ideas in the comments below.

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Meet Jessica

I live by the saying “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” and help others do the same to reach their biggest, brightest goals. Read my story here.

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