Today I put on a real outfit and makeup, as if I was going somewhere. I even added dark lipstick and a fancy scarf. No use in going halfway.
I did it for myself. Jason certainly isn’t someone who is hung up on whether or not I wear makeup, and I don’t think my teenage son could be convinced into caring.
But I care, and I guess that’s the point. Bothering with lipstick and straightening my hair is kinda stupid right now, even I know that. But it’s NOT stupid really, if it makes me feel better. These actions play tricks on the mind. I feel better and more productive if I’ve bothered to “pull myself together.”
I have other friends who don’t seem to need this. They have fully embraced being at home. They have dispensed with rigid schedules. Some have even taken to drinking at odd hours, and/or rolling out of bed in the afternoon.
I don’t judge these friends, but I know I can’t do it. In fact, a part of me might envy them just a little. I can’t handle the guilt. Not for me. Maybe some people are better able to relax. Maybe my definition of “relax” has changed over the years. All I know is, I’d rather feel good.
It’s so poetic and counterintuitive that there is freedom to be found in structure. Weird to say, but I guess I like structure. I like having a morning routine to set me to rights, and a night routine to put myself to bed. These things can become indispensable companions in a world that’s topsy turvy.
But that’s just how I am. I have to take myself in hand as if I were a toddler. I have to almost forcefully apply direction to my life. There must be a schedule. I must get dressed. I must attempt to log my food and keep up with my water drinking. I must have a list of things to do, and I must keep working on it.
I KNOW that right now feels like the perfect time to indulge, but ultimately, eating and drinking too much in my PJ’s is not going to make me feel like my best self. Instead, it will make me feel depressed and out of shape. I cannot just hang around and watch movies, unless I want to experience an unrelenting guilt spiral about how I’m wasting my time and squandering my talent.
We’re clearly not all built to cope the same way. Some of us are a little more high-strung in general, and you know who you are…
My anxiety-prone friends, I am talking to you! You are NOT like that person you know who has adopted a “no rules” approach to life during these trying times. You can’t do that and feel right in your own head. YOU need to feel like you’re doing something. (Trust me, I know you!)
If I could pass along one piece of advice, it would be this: make a dang schedule. Even if you are the only one forcing yourself to adhere to it, treat that schedule as sacred and follow it to the best of your ability. Get more done. Feel more accomplished. Give your day defined tasks and significance.
Oh yeah, and exercise about twice as much as you think you should! (Especially if you’re working from home.) I’m finding lately that even though I have to force myself to go for walks, they are truly a miracle for my mood, and I always need to go for about twice as long as I initially want to. Getting outdoors makes a person feel more free, which we all need right now!
Oh! And lipstick. Never underestimate the pick-me-up power of a great lipstick.
Yours in light, life, love and isolated fabulousness,
Society is pretty relentless in showing us what “success” looks like. We know it well from television shows, music videos and social media. It is a sun-drenched life of privilege and freedom. It is a life where money is no object, and where everyone is almost effortlessly beautiful and popular. It is, of course, what many of us want for ourselves.
Unfortunately, lots of us must grow up to face a life that looks very different from the life of our hopes and dreams. No one’s goal is to be unemployed, or to feel underemployed and underutilized at work. The child within us, the one with the big ideas, cannot help but become dissatisfied. Where are those awards? The accolades? Where is the totally sweet company car? Where is all the money that the media tells us over and over again that if we just work really really hard for, we will certainly get? (Not to mention the big house, the beautiful, adoring partner, the luxurious vacations and, these days, the thousands of online followers!)
It can seem like we want to collectively sweep anyone who isn’t at the top of their game under the rug. Like we would rather ignore them until they get their eyebrows on fleek and some dolla dolla bills in their bank account. That’s hell on the ego, and with the current Newfoundland budget, it could also turn into a lot of sweeping.
So, what do you do if you’re the one facing tough times? How do you keep up your happy if your life isn’t quite the vision of success you were hoping to achieve by now?
Without further ado, here are my top ten tips for keeping your sanity, and your good mojo going when you are out of work, frustrated with your work situation or otherwise under financial strain.
Pull yourself together! The temptation exists to let yourself slide when your prospects take a downturn. Fight this urge. Get dressed and put on your face, if that’s what you need to do to make yourself feel great. (Eyeliner makes me feel better every time!) Wear decent clothes. Eat a sensible meal. Make sure your household mess is tamed to a dull-roar. It’s cheesy, but when you make your world look and feel better, it’s hard not to be at least a little happier.
Honestly assess your situation. It’s more convenient to play ostrich, but it’s way better for you to get this entire bummer situation out into the open first. This could mean that you sit down alone with an open computer and an open mind, and/or this might be a conversation you have with your partner. Either way, get out that budgeting app and look up your bank accounts too. It’s time for a thorough examination of where you are, so that you can get a handle on what it will take to get to where you need to be. Are your expenses basically covered? Can you afford to save anything? Do you have a cushion in case things get worse? Is there any spending you could conceivably cut back on?
Take the best financial care of yourself possible. Once you’ve taken stock, you can make a goal-oriented plan. Seeing a way to move forward the best way to fight the blues! You might not get a job (or a raise) today, but you can at least be informed enough to know where you’re headed. (It may be highly beneficial to read up on finances, or seek out a financial adviser.) Also, if you need to submit time-sensitive forms, (for EI purposes for example), make sure you do so early. Write those due dates down, or put reminders in your technology! It is depressing to have to ask for money, sure. It is more depressing to have NO MONEY because you didn’t take the time to do some basic steps.
GO OUTSIDE. It turns out that staying inside worrying and staring at a computer screen isn’t very happiness-inducing. Don’t do this to yourself. You DO have permission to go outside. Even if it’s just for a little while, and especially if it’s sunny out. I never come back home and think, ah damn, I shouldn’t have taken that half hour walk in the sunshine.
Plan your days. If you go to bed knowing that you have no definite plans tomorrow, it can really drag you down. But wait…why don’t you have any plans? You may not be working, but, are you allocating some specific amount of your time to looking for a job? Do you still practice your hobbies? Do you make time for that walk we just talked about? A full, planned day when you are not working will keep your spirits up, and help you be more productive.
Maintain a BUDGET. I mentioned a budgeting app earlier. It doesn’t have to be an app, but that’s certainly one convenient way to go. I am surprised by the number of adults I know who don’t keep track of personal finances somehow. It is so worthwhile! If you don’t want to use app and you like excel, or some other method, use that, but do something. Simply ‘hoping for the best’ money-wise is rarely a prudent approach. Track your budget, and actually log what you spend your money on. You could be very surprised!
Don’t fixate. If you are taking good financial care of yourself, you are allocating time in your day for your job hunt, and you are trying your best to be on top of your budget, give yourself a break. You can worry about money when you do budget stuff, or when you actually sit down to pay the bills, but not for the rest of the day. If you have to, you could even write down your money worries to address later when you find them cropping up in your mind. You are allowed to use your mind for other things. (Yes, you are even allowed to be happy!)
Hobbies. You have to do the things that make you “you,” even if you feel down. Whether it’s singing, or lawn darts, or Filipino stick fighting, or putting together giant puzzles in the basement, include some time in your plan for things that bring you genuine joy. These small pockets of activity will brighten your mood, and that tends to spill over into the rest of your life.
Treat yourself. Ok, if money is tight and/or you’re between jobs, this might not amount to a weekend at a fancy resort. How about a new lipstick? A cool t-shirt? A haircut or a book to read? Even if your resources are limited, you can usually afford the occasional something that puts a smile on your face. Plan to make those small indulgences semi-regularly. If even a few dollars seems impossible, make a list of non-monetary treats you can rotate through. You and your partner could exchange 15-minute massages. You could make a date with a friend for a walk in the park. You could make a trip to your local library. You could take a long, leisurely hour of yoga. The most important thing is that this be a brief celebration of you! We are all human after all, and we all need some excitement…just like how every calorie-counter needs a cheat meal!
Maintain Your Contacts and Stay Professional. It is important to not let any simmering resentment cloud your judgement on what constitutes “professional” behaviour. Do not burn bridges. Do not spurn former colleagues. Do not simply disappear either. Instead, challenge yourself to keep on top of your industry. Study up. Periodically email people whom you admire in your field. Check out forums surrounding whatever it is you do. You will feel much better if you are a part of the conversation. As well, remember that employers typically waste no time in checking whatever publicly available information there is to be had on prospective employees. This underscores the need for an impeccable online profile. Make sure you represent yourself well in general. Are you someone YOU would hire?
All in all, good luck, keep that smile on your face, and keep trying. I really do know it’s tough out there! -Jennnq
Practically as soon as I get gung-ho enough about pursuing my own happiness to build a whole blog about it, life gets all up in my face like…
“Yo, you sure about that bro?”
I feel like I’m being tested lately. You guys already know about the not-so-great job stuff from last time. Since then, a few other things have gone wrong. Most of them have been small irritations, but not all. I could get into them here, but the point of this is not to bring you, or myself down. Suffice it to say that all in all, lately I’ve been feeling more blue than my hair.
That’s not my style. At my core, I believe I’m a happy person. I practice writing down my gratitudes. I often find myself deeply moved by art or music. I receive and give many hugs. I am such a loved and lucky lady!
In fact, I’m intensely aware of my good fortune in being born and raised here. I can explore my rights and freedoms in ways that some, in other parts of the world, simply cannot. My feeling “blue” comes with its own compounded burden of guilt, since I realize I am in such a good situation. I am a woman living in Canada. I am educated. I choose my own friends. I am free to discuss my politcal opinions with them. I could shave my head and show it off in public if I felt like it. I can drive a car (or a mail truck). I speak two languages. My teenager STILL thinks I’m cool.
Yet, who among us is immune to sadness? Not this happiness-seeker. I know this cloud; the one that just sort of shows up from time to time, making all of the great stuff that much harder to see, and turning “happiness” into something that takes real work, attention, and a critical mind.
I mean, as greedy as my Western privileged white-girl blues can seem, if you feel sad, the choice is always there to give into it. I could wake up tomorrow, and once the offspring is off the school, I could just wander back into the house, sit my arse down, and cease making progress at all. No one will yell at me if I don’t tidy up. No one will weep if I do not write a word. Not a soul would notice right away if I abandoned my personal schedule in favour of a little Jerry Springer, or Netflix, or YouTube, or just endlessly scrolling my Twitter feed.
But you know what happens when you quit. Giving up only feeds the blues. When you stop fighting for positive momentum, and it gets harder and harder to start again. When you allow yourself to fall further behind, your mood sinks even lower. It’s made worse when you wake up the next day to a mountain that’s a little higher. Worse when you become that much further from where you ought to be.
I won’t quit. I can’t quit. I have goals that I’m after, and too many promises I’ve made to myself.
I console myself by thinking that maybe I’m a late bloomer. That’s not so bad. So, I didn’t become a “success” in my early twenties or anything. So what? I’m certainly not alone there. Maybe I just don’t “make it” until I’m older than average. Maybe that’s ok. I want to think it is. It’s hard to not feel a pang of jealousy when I know so many smart, successful people, and here I am, Jenn Martin, still curious about EVERYTHING, but not much further ahead than I was 10 years ago. I’m just plugging along, hanging my hopes on a star.
I’m taking steps to improve. The “behind” feeling was definitely worse at the beginning of last week. In fact, it was so big, inundating, and kinda scary that I had to do something about it.
I made myself a battle plan.
THE HAPPINESS BATTLE PLAN
I sat down with a pencil and a clean, unlined sheet of paper. (I don’t like to be confined. Even by those dastardly lines! Ha ha.) Alone and with NO distractions, I got introspective. I wrote notes on the attributes that would make up my ideal self. Physically, mentally, spiritually, career-wise, socially…everything! I went crazy with it. No limits. (This had the almost immediate effect of helping me feel better. Purpose is everything!) I made notes on the most awesome person I could want to be: well-read, informed, friendly, funny, fit, living in accordance with my morals/ideals, spending time with loved ones and making a difference…all of it. (I tried to be as specific as possible.)
While that was fun, and a pretty illuminating exercise, a pipe dream version of myself isn’t anything, unless I can make those ideas functional. (Sort of like how saying you want to “get fit” doesn’t get you any closer to a six-pack or make you better at prepping meals!) I took that sheet of ideals and I extrapolated it into goals on a new sheet. For everything I had said I wanted, I carefully considered how someone would actually get there.
For example, yes, I do want to be more well-read. I have an English degree, and I love books, but for the past few years, I genuinely haven’t read much. (Life gets busy!) A goal? How about I read a book a month, plus I actually keep track of them for myself? I could even do a little review! (Bring back the book report, yeah!) That’s a real goal, and it’s a lot better than continuing to feel self-concious that I read too little.
THEN I took this new list of goals, and started scheduling things into my planner. I slotted in gym time, reading time, ukulele time…all of the fun things I actually want in my life, in a proper space.
It’s worth noting here that my planning style used to be way more chaotic. I used to just have one list for to-do’s AND my schedule. It was all in one place, mangled together. It was ugly, and a mess, and I NEVER wound up getting everything finished.
As of last week, my schedule is now JUST a schedule, and my to-do list is separate. In fact, I actually sub-divided those “to-do” tasks: one list for ‘urgent’ things and one for everything else. My schedule pages look a LOT less stressful now, and there is NO excuse for not attacking the “urgent” list first!
I also want to highlight here the fact that I once used to have this crazy idea about fitting everything into a single day. Like, my ideal day would involve cooking, cleaning, working, writing, singing, personal projects, research, working out, playing an instrument, spending time with my child and partner and everything else. Of course, it’s impossible! My solution? A schedule that leaves lots spaces, so I don’t go crazy, and that spans the whole week.
I know I’m neurotic, but you guys, whatever it takes, right?
A lot of folks believe in more of a “go with the flow” approach, but I find a lack of planning stressful. If you want to get things done, this is one system that takes into account your vision for the future. You will at least know that you are doing things in accordance with your higher self!
The whole process, start to finish, took me about 2 hours. I now have ideals and goals that I can review periodically, and I can always check to see that they’re infoming my schedule. The new plan isn’t perfect. I still need to play with it, but I already think it is VERY helpful. I can at least see a path toward progress, instead of dealing with the awful feeling of treading water.
Plus, while I’m not at my very best now, I think that happiness is cumulative. This is a good way of making sure I am actually doing those smaller, happiness-inducing things that wind up meaning so much. (I’m even planning on seeing my friends more, as I don’t very often, and I crave those deep, thought-provoking conversations!)
So no, I’m not where I want to be. Yes, I want to wash these blues right outta my head. (Perhaps literally…I’m plotting a new dye job to boost my spirits too!) I am willing to work for it, and if you’re like me, you might just be well-advised to go back to the drawing board and do the same.
Happy Monday everyone!
Now get out there and shoot for the stars! 🙂 -Jennnq