I have a new resolution/mantra/life approach, and it is this: “stop volunteering for things”. Now before you start judging me as a heartless, horrible person please take the time to understand the context. You know by now that I am a go-getter who likes to be involved in a lot of things. I am a doer, and I rarely say no to activities. However, there comes a certain point where enough is enough. For instance, I had a month straight of 0 weekends (through a combination of work and volunteer obligations) and somehow at the end I was utterly exhausted. A novel concept, yes? I have finally made the decision that working full time and going to grad school full time is quite enough for one person to handle. Does this mean that I will never pitch in at extra events when needed? Of course not. But it does mean that I am going to be much more mindful of what I say yes to, and will try not to actively seek anything extra out. In addition to not joining new groups (outside of work) or volunteering for additional things, I am going to be more mindful of scheduling in time to decompress with friends. I’ve entered a stage in my life where I am wanting to spend time with others more than I have before, and while I still need time to myself to recover I also equally need one-on-one time with others.
My own health, in general, is going to be a huge focus for me in the coming months. I need to be more holistic in my approach to self-care. Travel season completely derailed the fitness progress I had made running last summer, and I never seemed to have the time or energy to pick things back up and focus on myself. Instead of things slowing down as I was back home, I just seemed to be in an endless cycle of signing up for more things and becoming more run down. Because of this I feel less fit than I have in quite some time, and I have noticed that the negative body-image messages I fought so hard to reprogram a few years ago are popping back up again in full force. It’s funny, isn’t it, how when we think the work is done the same problems reappear to torment us yet again? Turns out our stuff never completely goes away, we just become better at coping with it. Rather than falling into the hole of negative self-talk, I am making the decision here, now, today to be proactive and make the change I need in order to be happy and healthy.
So this decision to stop taking on other volunteer work is very important for both my mental and physical health. I need to have the energy to focus on maintaining physical activity as well as healthy eating, in addition to the time to prep for both things. While I am certainly not where I was junior year of undergrad where I began that first health journey, I definitely feel like I have lost more progress than I would have liked. That is ok though. We are all humans, and as such, are allowed to go places on our journeys that we may not have expected to. Like the cycle of change, each “misstep” is really just a change in trajectory, not a step backward. We can never move backward–and that is comforting.
In addition to a commitment to regular exercise and an awareness of my eating, I also need to practice mindfulness regarding my thoughts, feelings and reactions. Rather than being angry or disgusted at my internal thoughts (more negative energy) my mission is to learn how to acknowledge those thoughts and messages; giving them the attention they need in order to be fulfilled and float away. This is very difficult. But I am committed.
At the same time, too, I welcome support and encouragement. I would love to build a network/community of those who are going through a similar journey, or a different one but are willing to share. I welcome workout buddies (however I need to plan things in advance as my schedule is quite full, and as an introvert I do need time to mentally prepare myself for plans). I also ask for moral support as I am going to begin watching the office goodies and refreshment outings.
Finally, I am also committed to getting regularly scheduled practice and writing time back into my days. I was in quite the funk yesterday, and much later than I should have I decided to sing through some musical theatre books and practice the piano. Just like that, I had the most amazing next two hours of the evening. Quite simply, when my artistic needs are not being met I become depressed. The fix is simple, so rather than giving into these feelings of depression I will try to be better at taking the steps to meet my needs. I have resigned myself to the fact that it is likely I will not have the time to perform until I finish my masters degree, but this does not mean that I cannot be writing and singing and playing my instruments on my own time. As long as I prioritize having my own time.
It is hard to remember that as a multi-dimensional person I have multi-dimensional needs, but I am committed to a holistic self-care approach. I invite you to examine what needs are and are not being met in your life, and to take the steps necessary to meeting them for yourself. After all, we do our best work and are our best selves only when our needs are first met.
Wish me luck, and let me know if you need any encouragement!