Hi everyone! With so much on my plate, I’m paying special attention to my mental and physical health. Why? Because I don’t want to burn out…again! Maybe you can use some of these tips too; everyone can benefit!
No matter how much I have to do, I make sure to go to bed between 9 and 9:30. I need to wake up fairly early to get some schoolwork done before work so going to bed early is essential. When I get back from work, which is usually between 5:30 and 7:30 depending on the shift, I try to get some more homework done. Lately I’ve also been doing some after dinner. This means I have to keep my energy high enough from morning to night which isn’t easy. Not getting enough sleep would mess everything up!
I have a very physical job; cat litter, dog food and birdseed aren’t exactly light! Add to that the fact that I’m on rollerblades as often as possible and you get a pretty high output that requires good nutrition if it’s to maintained healthily. I need my body to work for me, with me…which means I need to take good care of it just as I do my mind. That doesn’t just apply to me with all the heavy lifting and running/rolling around; it’s important for everyone though needs will of course vary.
I’ve noticed that if I don’t eat enough protein I feel quite weak and it follows that I could get injured far more easily. That’s why I make sure to have some meat in my lunch at work which is usually a wrap or salad. Almonds make for a good fast snack because of the healthy protein and fat. Eggs in the morning are also a good choice and I’ve been making my own granola with less sugar and fewer ingredients than store-bought ones. (Also less expensive!) I don’t need to eat as much around dinner time because that’s when I’m least active.
When you’re busy it can be hard to eat healthy even though that’s when it’s most important. Sometimes it’s quicker and easier to grab junk but if you want to reach your peak-performance creativity and foresight pays off. How can we do this? Easy…here’s my sequence:
- Make a grocery list…actually make one and use it in the store. If you like waiting till you get there to look for specials, I get it, me too, but it’s possible to look at those online or on the stores’ app.
- Pick your ingredients based off what you plan to make each day; it saves time to know what you’re making in advance and it definitely saves time to go to the store ONCE instead of multiple times because you forgot something.
- It can help to have a day assigned to meal prep. but if you don’t, simply making your lunch the night before saves a lot of time and frees up your morning a bit.
Keeping My Sanity:
What really helps me handle the workload are the breaks in between which I mainly use to rollerblade. (Although I’ve been keeping them on throughout my homework and other tasks, sometimes working standing up.) Staying active gives me a dopamine boost and sharpens my mental clarity. Pouring over something for hours on end might sound productive, but I assure you it isn’t…ask countless scientists who will back this up!
Depending on the complexity of what you’re working on, you may need a break every 20 minutes, half hour, 45 minutes or hour. I’d recommend not going beyond an hour though because your concentration will definitely wane. The trick is to work smarter, not harder! It also helps to determine how long your personal peak concentration lasts.
Let’s say you’re doing something fairly menial…not too complex, just repetitive. Working longer can be fine because the task doesn’t require as much focus. On the other hand you can still become fatigued, particularly if you’re bored or disinterested.
For something complex, it’s important to take breaks in between major thought currents. If you take a break too early and lose the flow it can be just as frustrating as running out of energy. The balance is knowing when to stop which you can think of as tying up a paragraph before stepping away. A mental bookmark that makes it easier to regain the flow when you come back to the task.
If our work involves sitting still, I recommend that your break gets you up and moving.
Passion Makes All the Difference
There are things we have to do even when we don’t want to, however it makes a huge difference when we enjoy what we do. The solution is to find passion wherever possible; make the task more interesting, pick classes or your job according to what you already enjoy, develop a healthy attitude towards learning new things, etc.
Re-Evaluate Your Life Regularly:
I’ve been trying to keep things in balance by asking myself regularly if I’m happy. It’s a re-evaluation of my general well-being which gives me an idea of what I need to adjust, if necessary. I find this to help not only with health stability but also growth.
Often we can get stuck in a rut…a pattern of doing the same things in the same ways even when they might not be making us happy. They might also not be the best ways of doing things. The way to beat this stagnancy is to remember that we can always change the way we do anything. If something isn’t working and needs adjustment, go ahead! Experiment! It’s the only way to discover what works best for you.
Here are examples of the questions I ask myself:
- Am I happy with my job?
I LOVE my job, it’s very fulfilling to help clients find exactly what they need and help solve some of their problems. I also enjoy seeing the regulars I’m coming to know better and meeting the new people who come in. My boss is empathetic, kind, supportive and definitely shows appreciate and reinforcement for what I do well, which makes me happy. I feel valued and needed which is a big thing for me. My coworkers are also kind and fun to speak with, we have good communication throughout our tasks and I know we have each others’ backs when it gets crazy busy.
- Am I ok with the number of hours I work per week?
I’m pushing that limit a little bit… but I really really need the money especially with my new budget and financial plan to erase my credit card balance. I want to become as financially independent as possible but being a young adult taking 2 classes at the same time makes that a challenge! Still, I’m up for it and determined to make it work. It might be a lot for me right now so I’ll keep an eye out but with careful time-management I should be ok. I shouldn’t increase my hours for a little while though…not before I’m done the classes at least.
- Speaking of class, do I enjoy the 2 that I’m taking?
Absolutely…the topics and course content are beyond interesting! I’m very much enjoying the learning process and format of the courses. African American literature throughout history and Sociology + mass media and culture are two fascinating and important subjects that I’m drawn to. I have a lot to do but studying never feels boring and even with the higher level of difficulty, I’m having a lot of fun!
- Am I ok with the number of hours I have to put in for class?
It’s fairly substantial because even though I only have 2 classes, fitting them in between work and other reality tasks can take a lot of energy. Nevertheless, when I budget my time efficiently things go well and I think it’s feasible.
- Do I have time to do other things I enjoy? A life outside work and studying?
That’s debatable. Let’s say I have 12 waking hours per day to do stuff: That’s 84 hours per week. 31 of those hours are at work plus a few extra hours at home for my marketing role which has started up again so let’s call it 35 hours of work. Then I spend between 2 and 3 hours per day on my classes which is another 14-21 hours. That’s 49 to 56 hours per week on work or school, leaving 28 to 35 hours for other things. My writing is one of those ‘other things’ and I don’t have a lot of time for it because those extra hours also have to include eating (I work while I eat except for dinner), getting groceries, meds, gas, making lunches, etc. Those things usually have to be done on my 2 days off because there isn’t much you can get done when you finish around 5-7 p.m.. There’s also fatigue to account for…you don’t feel like doing as much after a shift.
All that to say, my time is pretty booked! I can fit everything in but I don’t see friends and barely even text friends even though I should. Some would say I have zero social life but that’s not true; I’m ok with the social life I get at work. Besides, I’m not super social anyway. As long as I have time to rollerblade and write, which I’m trying to make more time for, I’ll be ok. I’m so into my job and interested by my courses that they can kind of count as me-time too. Sort of. I do feel on the run and under pressure pretty much all the time though which I would like to fix. That brings me to a big question…
- Am I happy and feeling enough benefits from what I do to make keeping it all going worth while and sustainable?
I do think so, even though when my mood shifts that’s not always the case. In general though I feel like what I’m doing is worthwhile and I’m decently comfortable with the compromises I’m making.
If you find yourself making more compromises than you’re comfortable with and your happiness is declining, it might be time to revamp a few things in your life.
What I’m Grateful For + What’s Working Well
- I don’t have to worry about long travel time anymore. With my classes online, it no longer takes me me an extra 2 1/2 to 3 hours to go and come come back. Less travel time = I have more time = I can work 5 days a week = I make more money = YAY
- I’m not in a classroom feeling very uncomfortable with 30 others AND with COVID! This also means I can take things more at my speed as long as I remain disciplined and manage my time effectively.
- Aaron told me something the other day and said I’d be frustrated. He said at Mc Donald’s they pay $20 an hour because they need people so badly. I’m not frustrated at all. I’d rather make less money but actually ENJOY my work environment. By the way I actually just got a raise from my boss and I feel very grateful; she’s extremely kind!
- By paying a student services fee, I’m able to continue with my psychotherapist at John Abbott even though I’m taking classes online. I also have my crisis centre worker if I need to talk in between those sessions every 2 weeks.
- I wasn’t staying with Aaron at the apartment very often anyway, but now he’s about to move out due to a new job. I’m very happy for him and for the fact that I’ll be staying in one place instead of two. To be honest, going between too many places can be a little destabilizing.
- I’m proud of my budget; I’ve allocated everything, I’m paying things off myself, and though I have to get myself out of some financial hot water I know that it’s a wonderful thing long-term.
What’s Not Working
I’m not fully sure what’s going on in my head…I’m feeling a lot of things and it seems like some symptoms are getting worse again. I think the main motivation for me to write this blog was to reaffirm certain things for myself as well as share some advice/experience with you.
With all the time I put in studying I was shocked to realize that schedule wise, I’m behind on the classwork. It’s really discouraging because I’m trying so hard to do things the right way but it’s clear now that everything is taking me longer than the program anticipates. This got me thinking of ADHD and how I experience it academically. I hope to write a post soon on ADHD, but for now suffice to say that it means I need to go through things more slowly and write detailed, colour-coded notes in order to retain. This helps me a lot but it takes more time which I can hardly afford right now.
My resolution involves a paper calendar where I’m scheduling which modules I need to do per week to meet the deadline. I’m also using it in conjunction with my budget, so all of my payments are recorded.
I think the paper calendar has fallen out of favour for many since calendars on phones and computers are more and more popular. It’s true that they can be extremely practical, especially since they’re always portable and accessible. What I’ve learned about myself is that even if something is accessible, it doesn’t mean I’ll remember to use it. This is particularly the case on my phone where there are a hundred other things I could use it for.
And then there are those relationship issues I’ve been mentioning from time to time… those really aren’t helping! It troubles me so much and can easily make me feel hopeless and depressed. That’s one of the reasons why even though I complain about how much I have to do…it’s necessary for my sanity. If I were to dwell on certain other struggles, I’d be feeling like crap.
So with all this which I suppose weakens my mental barriers for bullsh*t, my head has been playing more tricks on me.
The Benefit of Time
I’ve been adding little pieces to this blog over a series of days. This gave me the time to admit that as much as I try to convince myself, I’m not super happy right now. Things are more difficult. It also gave me time to speak with my Crisis worker and process a little more. One of his ideas was to stop a class since there’s so much going on and I don’t want to reduce work hours. He also sent me great resources to help with specific themes of struggle.
What Needs to Change:
I’m not going to drop a course, but I do have changes to make. I need sustainable progress that will lead me to the finish line, not a sprint that will force me to stop before getting there.
I’m going to use the services offered by the Access Centre/Cégep à Distance to extend the duration of my courses. I need to advocate for my needs as I urge you to do, and find my proper pace. The extension will hopefully reduce anxiety allowing me to work better.
The next thing to address is my constant need for motion; I can’t live on a treadmill. I need to make more time for self-care such as going through what my worker sent me and doing the exercises.
March and April are historically difficult for me, as with so many others! I need to deescalate my thoughts and practice dealing with triggers. That topic warrants a dedicated blog so I’m going to tie things up for now and wish you all a wonderful weekend!