We’ve all had a heavy year. Some heavier than others, but heavy, all the same. Whether you’ve lost a loved one, found yourself unemployed, been driven to despair by the boredom of lockdown or you’ve been shielding and resent those not taking the lockdown as seriously as you, the strain is feeling a bit much, right?
Well, I can’t promise that these seven steps will evaporate your demons completely, but I can be sure that they will go a long way in making the load feel a little lighter.
1. Read newspapers or watch news sources you disagree with
We’ve lived through half a decade of political fractiousness which has seen emotions soar to vertiginous heights. Do you watch someone speak on Question Time and want to throw your mug at the TV screen in pure frustration, or ever read a Tweet that brings your whole mood down for the day? I get it. I’ve been there so many times this year. My poor phone has narrowly escaped being thrown out the window on several occasions, especially around the time of George Floyd’s murder. It depresses you to know that there are people out there who fundamentally disagree with you on something which you hold close to your heart. But don’t let that frustration manifest into judgement or hate. Try your very best to put yourself in the shoes of that other person in order that you can somewhat understand why it is they hold their belief which is so drastically in contrast to yours. The purpose of this is not to agree with them or alter your own opinion to match theirs, but to understand what has led them to think in the way that they do.
Are you a farmer infuriated by growing veganism trends? Go and read a veganism campaigner’s blog. Leave your fury at the door and ask yourself why this campaigner feels this way.
Are you an ardent Biden-Harris supporter perplexed by Trump’s popularity? Watch One America News and listen to why Trump gained even more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016.
Are you shielding and feel incensed by the BLM protests which took place when the country should have been on lockdown? Ask the question why so many people felt it necessary to put their lives at risk.
There are so few things in life that have a definite right and wrong side. Sometimes there can be multiple versions of the truth, none of which are necessarily wrong. It’s uncomfortable and requires complete open-mindedness but gaining that understanding will alleviate some of that resentment you feel for those sitting on the other side of the fence.
2. Remember, this isn’t a race
I feel like 2020 has stolen a year from me. A year where I could have had that career break. A year where I could’ve taken that trip of a lifetime. A year where I could have met the love of my life. I feel as though I’m now a year behind.
But actually, this is nothing but a self-imposed schedule. There is nobody standing by the side-lines with a stop watch, yelling that I’m behind because I’m taking that trip in 2021 instead of 2020. This whole race to the finish line is a complete figment of our imaginations with which we stress ourselves out. This urgency, this need to complete the different levels of life, like little Marios bustling around dodging turtle shells and collecting coins, is absolutely ludicrous. Because unlike Mario, we don’t actually have a finish line. We will have never completed life. There’ll always be something we haven’t achieved, so why rush through each level like it’s a sprint to the end?
There’s no finish line, no ribbon to run through, no trophy waiting for you on a podium and, most importantly, there’s nobody running against you. So hit snooze on that alarm ringing in your head. You’re not running late, because there is no deadline.
3. Keep a journal
Writing a diary is such an effective form of cleansing yourself of the cluster of emotions bustling around inside of you.
Feeling angry? Write it down. Feeling giddy? Write it down. Feeling nauseous? Write it down. Feel a fantastic idea burning at the front of your head? Write it down.
You could go with a prosy old-fashioned ‘Dear Diary’ letter, or you could literally just scribble down your stream of consciousness, allowing incoherent thoughts spill out onto the page.
Whenever I’ve felt overwhelmed, writing my thoughts – especially those I could never utter to another living being – genuinely lightens the load I am carrying. It puts it out there into the universe, so that it’s no longer mine alone to carry.
There are some entries that I read back later and can’t believe how worked up I was about something which now seems so inconsequential, but I am grateful that I had that outlet in order that the emotions didn’t build up inside of me.
4. Ditch the numbers
Controlling everything to the nth degree might feel like a coping mechanism, but sometimes taking it too far can push us right back into that stressed out, frantic headspace we’re trying to avoid. So if weighing yourself every morning is going to determine your mood for the rest of the day, just don’t do it. If failing to nail your PB is going to ruin the run, turn off the clock and just run for the hell of it. If you spend more time willing your word count to reach your target than actually typing words, then switch to a notepad and write in that instead.
I’m a numbers geek and I’ve got an app to track everything, but as much satisfaction as this brings me, sometimes I just have to live that day without scouring the analytics.
5. Say no straight away
“I’ll have a think”
These are some of the most frustrating phrases in the English language, to say and to receive. If you want to say no, then do so straight away. Saying any of the above will leave the ‘provisional’ plan hanging over you until you pluck up the courage to say no. You’ll spend weeks, even months, with the plans in the back of your mind, dreading further contact from the person who invited you and, worse still, going over and over in your head how you’re going to get out of it.
On the other side of this debacle is someone who, at best doesn’t know whether they’re coming or going and at worst is going to feel let down and disappointed because you allowed them to get their hopes up.
If plans are suggested that you want to say no to, say no and let that be that. The person who invited you is at liberty to go away and make those plans with someone else, and you’re not carrying around the burden of knowing you’re either going to go through with something you don’t want to, or are going to let someone down. Don’t put that pressure on yourself. A simple “thank you, but actually it’s not really my kind of thing” will do just fine.
6. Figure out a routine
If everything is feeling a bit overwhelming, or if on the flip side life is feeling empty and purposeless, get yourself a routine. Floating around to see if you get anything done, or floating around waiting for something to happen, is going to leave you feeling out of sorts.
Get up at the same time five days-a-week, even if you don’t have an office to get to. Exercise at the same time. Eat at the same time. Work at the same time. Read at the same time.
You needn’t kill yourself to stick to your schedule (see point 4), but having a routine or something to do at a certain time can really be the push you need to feel a bit more together. You could even change up your routine each week if monotony is counterproductive for you. I guarantee your productivity will soar, as will your contentment.
7. Cut the free-time guilt
We live in a society which equates busy-ness (that’s a word, right?) with success. It’s as if we think that the busiest people are the best people, and the people taking life at their own pace are to be tutted at and scorned.
So long as your schedule allows you to be independent and that you are not exploiting a hard working person to facilitate your laziness, does it really matter if you have oodles of free time?
If your schedule allows you to work a half day, why feel guilty about the other half being free?
If need only work for four days a week, why feel guilty that you have Fridays to yourself?
If you take a day off from work and choose to spend it reading in the garden instead of dusting the skirting boards, why let it eat you up inside?
We already feel guilty about so much, that guilt about simply having time to spend as we choose really is not necessary. Binge that docu-series. Listen to the podcast. Take that stroll. Break into song like it’s the final act of Les Mis. You do you boo.