A year ago I wrote a post called Balance. In it I offered productive solutions to care for mind, body, and soul. During this last year, I've attempted to follow my own recommendations. I’ve been incorporating yoga into my exercise, practicing meditation, and trying to sort out which social engagements I should pursue.
And during this last year I've been failing miserably.
Failing miserably - and learning how to truly re-balance my life. Because, you see, my life is so wonderfully full I don't have time to do all of the things I want to do. So today, rather than add more to your balance, today I'm going to ask you to take something away.
I once was given the advice to replace "I don't have time for..." with "It's not a priority..."
"I don't have time to go on a run," becomes "It's not a priority to go on a run."
"I don't have time to go to coffee with my friend," becomes "It's not a priority to go to coffee with my friend."
My Catholic guilt runs deep and saying out loud that important things aren’t a priority is brutal for me. But you know what? I am given 24 hours in a day, just like everyone else. It’s up to me to choose how I spend my time. The way I spend this time is a reflection of what’s important to me.
This summer my friend Kate gave me the brilliant advice to sort things into categories of 1) Big Rocks, 2) Medium Rocks, and 3) Small Rocks. Of course this equates to high, normal, and low priority - but somehow this verbiage helps relieve some guilt for not being able to do everything.
Today I’m better at mentally considering the size of the rock when I’m considering how I should spend my time. I’ve done this in a big way with my life as a whole (i.e. family, friends, work, and health are biggest priorities). I’ve also used this strategy to prioritize items within each of these categories (i.e. how to prioritize time at work so I can efficiently finish all imperative tasks and still leave (almost) on time).
Even more than mentally thinking about these things, making a list and creating a calendar helps me visualize what I need to do. Surprisingly, rather than feeling guilty for leaving the “small rocks” alone when I don’t have time to get to them, it’s given me freedom to enjoy the things which are truly important to me - so I can sit at a flag football game all afternoon without a whisper of guilt.
Prioritizing is hard. It requires forgiving yourself for not being able to do it all and it takes a lot of grace for yourself as you’re figuring out how much can really fit on your plate.
After a particularly busy and difficult month this summer, when I had been struggling with anxiety for weeks, I had an "aha!" moment. I had been trying to be a superhuman person: perfect girlfriend, loving step-mom, excellent employee, driven small business owner, fun-loving friend, innovative marketer, decent athlete, healthy eater, etc., etc.
It was making me crazy.
And then I realized: the people in my life don't need a superhuman Ann. They need a sane Ann.
When I stretch myself too thin, I don't do anything well. I don’t enjoy the things which are important to me and I suffer significant personal anxiety. Understanding this has helped me forgive myself when I don’t check all the things off my to-do list.
I’m working on forgiving myself for not doing everything and am instead focusing on doing a few things well.
One of the most important lessons I've learned this summer is the value of rest. Not "productive" rest as I talked about in my previous post, but true, turn-off-your-brain rest.
I've been learning it doesn't help to "power through" my fatigue to try to write creatively or spend quality time with loved ones. I've found that taking a time out and allowing myself to really recharge - even if only for 10 minutes - can make the rest of my day so much better (and ironically so much more productive).
These are some of the ways I've pursued rest:
Meditate for 10 minutes (I use the app: Calm)
Take a 20 minute power nap
Listen to relaxing music while taking a hot shower (I use my Erik Satie Pandora station)
Watch an episode of my latest Nextflix show: The Crown
There are other activities that also give me energy, but some of those also take energy to pursue. Things like meeting friends for happy hour or playing volleyball. Things like getting dressed up for a date night at the symphony or making dinner together with Patrick.
Those things are great things and are important to me, but they are different than rest. Rest is whatever you need to do to fill up your bucket again. It’s not selfish. It’s not lazy. It’s imperative for you to be a healthy, balanced human.
In this season of transition from summer to winter, ahead of the busy season of holidays and travel, I encourage you to find your balance - or perhaps re-balance - so your loved ones can enjoy the best version of you you can be.
With love, rest, and balance, from Peas and Hoppiness.