It’s no secret that 2020 did a number on many, by starting with a pandemic the country was not prepared for to ending with an election nobody’s emotions could possibly handle after the whirlwind of experiences brought on by furloughs, social distancing, closed restaurants, reduced entertainment, and much more. For me, the true trauma came from other sources of pain and unpredictability, but I welcomed the opportunity to come together with people. Though we were limited to virtual contact, it helped some reach out to people that they didn’t bother to check-in with even when there weren’t national restrictions in place. Hey, neighbor. Or in-laws. Whatcha up to?
Anyway, I’m grateful that this year opened up more people to the importance of self-care and emotional intelligence. It turns out people have feelings, and they’re impacted in many ways by various things, so you need to be mindful. This doesn’t make you, or them, a mopey, sensitive person. It makes you a human with a pulse. From managers to pastors and even relatives who would go until Christmas without communicating, doors were opened. Suddenly, communities united during this time and the significance of family and important relationships became evident again. It’s sad how terrible things need to happen to wake people up and slap them with this truth. Death creeps a little too close for comfort and then you remember people are only a text, or flight, away. But better late than never. I just aspire to keep this mentality even if I’m not in the midst of disaster. Our time on earth is limited. It could be a pandemic that forces me to take my last breath, a fatal car accident, or the Rapture. Regardless, each moment spent here with my kids and family should be treasured. I should crave this time with them and be grateful each night to have been blessed with these opportunities–even if something sucky happened at work/I argued with someone via text/my goals still seem far away/someone cut me off on the road/I spilled a drink/the house is a mess/my bank account doesn’t have commas in it, etc.
Catch my drift?
But… to each his own. What I want to help everyone do is take a second to learn a few techniques for destressing in the upcoming year. I find that there are things I can do to prime myself for each day, which makes each blow feel less hard. Bad things happen everyday, but it only feels like the end of the world if you let it. Each time you drown in stress, you’re shortening your life span and making your bodily organs less effective and more likely to give in to unhealthy habits. Let’s cut that out and try some of these things instead.
Turn off phone notifications
I hate to be the one to tell you this, but people on the Internet are cruel, dumb, and stressful. Though most people refuse to let go of their social media accounts, something that can be done to reduce how much it affects them is to turn off phone notifications. All notifications. I haven’t had text message notifications turned on in over a year, and guess what? No one died. Family members and friends can wait. By turning off notifications, you give yourself the freedom to check messages and apps on your own time. Maybe you prefer to do this at night or once at lunch time, or once every other day. Regardless of what you choose, at least you are taking control of your life instead of leaving yourself open to anyone invading your personal space. I don’t want anyone to have unlimited access to me, just because I have a phone. I will get to you when I get to you, and if there’s an emergency, you can call. My mom found out through text that her brother died, because someone wasn’t considerate enough to ask her if she was free to talk. People are selfish above all, and the more you tether yourself to them, the more you’ll feel off kilter. The less you make yourself available 24/7 though, the more peace you’ll be able to regain. You don’t need to know if someone liked or commented on your picture on Instagram or Facebook at any point of the day. Save it all for when you’re sitting down and emotionally ready instead of being attacked by your own technology. A phone should give you benefits, not those who want your attention even when you can’t give it to them.
I love water. It’s so relaxing, whether I’m listening to it at the beach or watching it on a lake, it takes me to a serene place in my mind. I get most of my story inspirations, or plot fixes, in the shower. Baths are not my thing, because it takes too long to fill and the kids are always begging for my attention, but showers are quick and feel like a reset button for me. I don’t know if it’s because the warm water relaxes my body or if it’s because it reminds me of when I was in the womb (haha), but I don’t question it or think about it too much. Swimming in pools for half an hour to an hour everyday also relieves my stress. When my mind can’t stop going back and forth on something, and I just need to escape everything, swimming really does it for me. It doesn’t hurt that by the time I’m done, I’m in better physical shape. And last, but not least, don’t forget to drink water. A body that stays hydrated is able to think and move better. If everyone swam regularly and focused on their diet, doctors would lose a lot of money. Spending time in pools is even an option for those with injuries that need to take it easy.
Fix your sleep schedule
My husband makes fun of me for how often I’d nap before we got married, but I don’t regret it. I was working crazy hours and in graduate school which made me both physically and mentally exhausted. I needed the sleep and it made me feel better. If I’m not resting, I don’t feel like myself. They say skipping sleep for two days straight is the equivalent of being drunk. No one is in their prime when they’re drunk. But it’s not just about getting sleep when you can, it’s about consistency. Your body will be just as sluggish if you get 11 hours of sleep one night (after only being accustomed to 7) as a person who normally gets 8 and then only gets 5 one day. Routines are crucial, and some of the most successful people I know have taken the time to stick to a regular sleep schedule–even if it means missing out sometimes on hanging out with friends. I try to do the same, because at the end of the day, I care more about taking care of myself than partying with people who will be up until 2AM. It’s no one’s fault, and true friends will get that you have a schedule to respect if you make it clear it’s important to you and trickles into your mood, productivity, and overall wellbeing.
Build a castle with a mote
I know this sounds crazy, but if you’re in deep stress or need to escape a bad situation, don’t be afraid to isolate. I love how the quarantine has made this the new norm. I still go out to restaurants and parks when I am in the mood or want to celebrate something, but I no longer feel obligated to go anywhere I don’t want to go when I’m feeling terrible. From parties to school events or even happy hour, I am confident declining an invitation without feeling guilty if it’s what I need that day. Before I would feel rude if I didn’t go somewhere or canceled with someone, but now it doesn’t matter. I understand that if I’m feeling anxious or need to take time to myself, it’s perfectly fine to do so–without the company of others or the questions like, “What’s wrong?”
I don’t really care anymore if people call me boring or talk behind my back for not getting drunk with them every week. It’s my life, and I want to live it to the fullest. I won’t be able to enjoy anything if I’m stressed, don’t take time to rest, or go to functions that don’t really appeal to me. Stop caring about those who judge you for taking care of yourself. Those who love you will understand self-care is necessary and how the build up of stress can easily break anyone down. For people who still complain or whine like kids, I let them do their thing. I’m not on this earth to be a people pleaser; all I have to do is worry about what God thinks of me, and He values rest as well. When I’m feeling my best, addressing my anxiety, and making space for my kids or my writing, I’m in tune with my purpose in this world and can use my time to learn more about the Bible or strengthen the relationships in my life that are worth my investment. Everyone else will talk, but talk is cheap and gossip means people are jealous of you if they’re wasting their time worrying about your life instead of theirs. Don’t let it get to you. Find whatever it is you enjoy that reduces your stress levels and go with it.
It’s better to take care of yourself than to overanalyze what the haters are saying. No need to do things because you feel obligated or guilted into it. Learn to say, “no”, reclaim your sleep schedule and immerse yourself in things that matter to you. I promise you won’t regret it. I don’t have any regrets that people who send me text messages don’t get replies immediately.