Behind Closed Doors

Never underestimate the power of change. Even simple change. Sometimes a mere change in your surroundings, life, or mindset can have immense benefits.

I have held off talking about this particular topic for a while now. My dad and brother are probably sick and tired of my constant updates about my situation, but admittedly, my mind is overly nit-picky. I have certain (probably unreasonable) standards for myself, and usually the most insignificant of details is what grinds my gears.

This school year, I’m living in an apartment off-campus with one roommate, a roommate who happens to be an ex. Which, right off the bat, people probably are already pointing out an obvious problem here, but that’s not even a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

I established early on that I wanted distinctly separate spaces for each of us. I see my home as a sanctuary away from the stress of the outside world (if that means I have some hermit tendencies, well, so be it). Only for certain people and in certain moods am I willing to sacrifice my space and standards of living (again, selfish? Probably. I’m just way too picky for my own good).

How the apartment is laid out, you walk into a living room/kitchen space, go down the hall to a bathroom and bedroom, and a large back room finishes it off. My roommate took the back room, and I had a desk set up in the living area. We each had a twin bed in the bedroom and we obviously both use the bathroom.

I never actually realized it as I went about my day, but I essentially was never truly alone. Since my desk (the spot I am at 98% of the time) is the living area, I was always subject to hearing whatever was going on in the back room as well as being around him if he was in the kitchen or going out the front door. This also meant I knew when the kitchen and front door were being used and essentially would need some cleaning, making me paranoid of whatever mess might be left over and being generally on edge 24/7.

In complete honesty, the last few weeks, I have been at one of my deepest depressions in a long time. Just really not in a good head space. Every single aspect of life left me overwhelmed and yet I had zero motivation to do anything. The bare minimum in class, even if that meant putting off my own health, was all I could muster.

And yes, I’m still working through that phase right now in hopes that I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, but last weekend, some magic happened. Magic in the form of a roommate’s idea and a mother’s words. First, when coming back between class and work on Friday, I was taken aback to see my roommate’s bed no longer in the bedroom. He then told me that he realized that I truly have never had any privacy in the apartment, figuring that moving himself completely to the back room might help. Also, when I was at work, my parents came down to the apartment to puppy-sit, and my mom (aka my savior) was really honest with my roommate in my fragile state and some of the little things I’ve confided in my family but haven’t explicitly detailed to the roommate (confrontation is not my strong suit).

After some serious self-care (which looked like washing my face and showering after not doing so all week), I walked into the bedroom, closed the door, and I don’t know what it was, but I immediately felt a difference. I relaxed for the first time in what felt like months. I hadn’t actually talked to my roommate since moving in, and we actually had conversations. I actually slept in later than 5 AM and felt more rested and not like a zombie. My creative mind felt like it was waking up from a long hibernation.

We introverts truly, desperately need alone time to fully recharge. Regardless of your temperament, we all need an environment that supports our well-being. In my case, that means having a room where I can close a door and be in my own space, a space where I’m not constantly spinning around worries about how clean the kitchen is or being aggravated by any minute behavior of my roommate differing from my own preferences.

Don’t underestimate how your environment affects you. If you’re in a space that drains you, constantly around others that don’t benefit your mind, it’s time to change things up. Maybe you’re somewhere that doesn’t allow for much dramatic change, but even simply adding some fun decor or going to a place away from home that can provide you with peace can really help. And, most importantly, self-care all the way. Do the little things that make you happy, in a space that supports your motivation and productivity. A change of scenery can be the push you need to reevaluate your attitude and mindset to better reflect how you truly want to feel.

Where is your “happy place”? What elements in that space make it your sanctuary to recharge and ground yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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Fear Setting

Verbal to Visual has provided a helpful image to illustrate this TED Talk.

 

Seems like a backwards concept, right? Why would we want to amplify our anxieties when we could focus on our goals, our successes?

Tim Ferriss speaks of the value of better understanding our lowpoints in his TED Talk. As he lives with bipolar depression and has found himself many times on the edge of darkness and suicide, his insight is worth a listen.

So what do I mean by “fear setting”? Well, we all know about goal-setting, a practice even I’ve probably talked your ear off about. It’s most effective to physically write out what you hope to achieve for yourself so you can keep those thoughts at the forefront. You can then better align your daily actions with those goals and make them that much more tangible.

Yes, you’ve heard that one a few or plenty of times from me. But what about fear setting? Mental illness or not, we’ve had points of hesitation, of self-doubt. If an opportunity arises, we fear its implications and might automatically push it aside. This could be anything from accepting a new job, going out to a social event, or even just taking a break for yourself when you feel overwhelmed with work.

The first step is to make three columns. The first list, write out every fear you have associated with a particular situation. For example, if that’s going on a vacation to get away from a hectic schedule, you might fear the unknown of what could go wrong on the trip, or you fear getting so far behind in your work that you risk failure.

Now you list what you could do to prevent these fears from happening. In this case, you could research ahead of time your travel plans and prepare accordingly, and you could let others know of your plans and work ahead to get major assignments out of the way before you go.

Inevitably, there are some things you can’t control. Life is unpredictable, and no matter how much you plan and prepare, things can fall through. The third column then is listing how to repair the damages if your fears were to happen. So maybe your luggage is lost or a flight canceled. You can always readjust your schedule and make do with what you have. If something arises with your work or schooling, talk with those involved and work something out. Either way, no matter what happens, it’s not the end of the world. Admittedly, that’s easier said than believed.

But here’s another thought to think and write about. What would happen six months, a year, even three years down the road if you did not choose to partake in these opportunities? If you let your fears get the best of you, what effects will that have? If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably be working your tail off until you implode. You’ll fall into unhealthy, harmful behaviors, relying upon stimulants to get you through the day. You’ll regret not giving yourself some relief. You might find that you had less work to do than you realized, and then fall into depression for overthinking it all. Which, trust me, I’ve been through this pattern too many times to count.

Self-awareness and reflection is so powerful. Being able to look objectively at even a snapshot of our racing thoughts really can change your perspective. When we allow those thoughts to just continue buzzing through without questioning them, they can truly run our lives. They can isolate us into what we see as safe, comfortable status quos that, in reality, hold us back from truly living.

A single list probably won’t change your life. If you have specific fears, you probably will continue facing those even after listing and rationalizing them. But at least you’re becoming an active voice above your anxiety. You’re not entirely allowing it control. You’re making progress in the right direction. Hopefully you’ll realize your mental strength is far greater than you ever imagined.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

The Occasional Slacker

If you’re a go-getter like me, any sort of procrastination feels like failure…

98% of the time, I’m the kind of person working way ahead of schedule. I’m completing tasks I don’t actually need to finish for a few weeks, but I just feel compelled to do them anyway. I’ve always been that type of person, always on the ball, always trying to make my time productive.

Except, that 2% of the time not accounted for, that’s when I feel beyond guilty. Defeated. Angry and frustrated with myself. Uninspired and unmotivated. There is that rare time when I come across a particular assignment that I just have no willpower to get done. Even when I never plan to procrastinate, which using that term could have many various definitions depending on the person, I have just a random paper or responsibility that I leave up as a window or tab on my computer and just ignore. And end up doing anything else BUT that.

It’s a habit that I luckily don’t fall into very often, but it does inevitably happen. Right now as I’m writing this, it’s a memo for media law and ethics. I have multiple tabs open in my browser for resources to cite and emails from an online database with more information, and yet there the document sits, little progress made, due in a few days. And here I am, writing a blog post instead!

I almost feel like I’m going against my own nature, like some unknown force is blocking my usual urgency to get things done. I’ve never been one to understand those who always write papers the day before they’re due or barely glancing at a textbook minutes before a test is handed out. I’ve had to work my tail off throughout my education, and while it can be exhausting at times, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished thus far.

Until I get to that one little snag in the production that I just hone in and focus on, use it as ammunition to shame my abilities or lack thereof. But regardless of the scenario, we all come to points where we face a roadblock, a random halt in our creativity that can come up out of the blue. The world still expects us to keep truckin’ along as per usual, but we just…can’t, or don’t know how. It’s not that we don’t realize we have lots of people and resources that we could fall back on and ask questions to, we just mentally are at a place where our brain randomly decides that a basic task is too much.

This can apply to so much more than classwork. How about making yearly doctor and dentist appointments? How about applying and interviewing for jobs? Heck, sometimes making a meal that isn’t just cereal feels like a task only a MasterChef contestant can pull off. Our perception of how we view the difficulty of everyday occurrences that skew from reality is appalling.

Wouldn’t it be great to flip a switch and suddenly have the clarity and ambition to do what feels impossible? Or have it already done for us overnight, like secret elves just pulling our lives together? Alas, it’s not how the world works. We are the ones to ultimately hold ourselves accountable. Sure, you could easily neglect certain things that stress you out, but what are the repercussions of those decisions? We all know the answer to those questions as it pertains to our lives, but even then, it might not get you into gear.

What I typically do is still try to be productive, even if one task sits on my to-do list for longer than I’d like, but I still am crossing other things off. It’s a satisfying feeling, and sometimes that’s the only nudge you need to want to cross everything off. Also, your well-being should always, without a doubt, come first. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, that’s what is most important. You can’t do a single thing if you always leave your energy tank on empty.

Keep that one nagging task at the forefront of your mind, regardless of how simple it is to shove it aside. Think of what a relief it will be to get it done. Maybe that means going to a different location to do so, or doing some self-care activities first before you dive in, or taking frequent breaks to prevent getting hung up on tricky spots, or all of the above. It’s whatever you know works best for you.

If you don’t feel it right now, here’s a quick reminder that yes, you are strong and capable of overcoming the obstacles that plague you. You will trudge forward past this point and look back satisfied knowing that you made it. Life is all about the highs and lows, bouncing back and forth in a constant game of pinball. But if I can do it, then you and everyone else can, too.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie