I was catching up with a friend after the holiday craziness yesterday. We were talking about how excited she was for an upcoming trip to Mexico with her friends, and how great it will be to take a break. Separate from the constant pressures of work and meeting deadlines and living in a place that spends about 5 months knee deep in snow, the constant state of “ugh” omnipresent and looming like the antidote to enthusiasm is enough to make a week at the beach sound twice as beautiful, and twice as necessary. But why? Everything, realistically, is going according to plan. Good job, good supports in place, mindful choices towards being healthy and having your shit together, and yet somehow, something just isn’t quite right.
She asked if I’d read a recent Buzzfeed article called “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation” and it hit a grand slam home run. Anne Helen Peterson hit the nail on the head with this piece, and I was so floored by what she had to say about the system that raised us and what got us here.
Our whole system growing up was grooming us towards being valuable members of the workplace. School was a precursor to more school as a precursor to a good job and the pressure to perform across all of these domains. Creativity stunted and slammed down into an empirical humdrum of cause and effect. The eternal dilemma of working for experience and needing experience to work, the soul-crushing debt, the constant feeling that the world was becoming less and less accessible with a growing to-do list. The pressure to vindicate oneself through an active social media presence and keeping up appearances. She also captures a stunning portrait of our participation in crashing industries and our debilitating sense of losing time that could better be spent working. And this isn’t even taking into account that jobs in the field of ABA inherently have a higher than average rate of burnout!
Self-care has been getting a bad rap lately mostly because of the bonus pressure to spend $12 on a gourmet bath bomb and put the right snapchat filter on to go with your face mask and announce to the world that “I AM TAKING CARE OF MYSELF”, but what does self-care actually mean? How do we implement negative reinforcement to take away the stress and increase our good feelings rather than adding to the pressure?
This article beautifully summed up that we are working so, so hard across so many domains, and need to reinforce the response effort in proportion to the work we give. Self-care, like any reinforcer, is highly subjective, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to feelings of stress and exhaustion. I so ardently encourage you to take a step back, reflect, and set yourself up a combination of antecedent strategies and a reinforcement hierarchy to help make this mess of #adulting seem a little less daunting. Need some ideas? Here’s some of the stuff that works for me.
SEE WHAT’S COMING.
Much like using a visual schedule with a client to give them some predictability, I am a huge slave to a good to-do list and well laid out calendar to keep an eye on what I’ve done and what’s ahead. I love bullet journaling because the legend allows you to track things that are in progress, things that have moved, and things you’ve completed, and I like the flexibility that comes with that. I also enjoy the creative opportunities to really personalize things and make it pretty, and like taking the time to actually set things up the way I like it. Journalling also gives you opportunities to practice a little bit of mindfulness over the content you curate. I like to leave notes on personal victories, little challenges, and things I’m grateful for to try to reframe things with a little positivity. Too much response effort? A calendar, a nice pen, and some dope stickers will do the job just fine. They don’t call us the sticker generation for nothing ☺
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.
I know, I know, Chipotle is more convenient than cooking your own stuff but eat a vegetable and drink some water. Hydrate. Eat things that are good for your body. That said, if your body says you need a pizza today, eat the damn pizza. Life is short, you know what you need.
CONTINUE TO LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.
Move, boo. I don’t care if it’s jiu-jitsu, yoga, Zumba, having a solo dance party while you clean your room, or grunting like an overstimulated Olympian while deadlifting the equivalent weight of three of you, move your bod. You’ll eat better and sleep better, and I seriously believe there are few things quite s cathartic as the rush of endorphins and noodle arms that can’t wrestle off your sports bra after a good workout.
DECLUTTER YOUR ROOM, DECLUTTER YOUR MIND.
I hate that this works as much as I hate laundry but real talk, pick up your crap. Shoutout to a former roommate’s mom for this one, Sue knows what she’s talking about.
MAKE BED YOUR FRIEND.
I know there’s not enough hours in a day and there’s some handy dandy apps out there to help you hack your REM cycle into feeling like you’ve slept more than you actually have, but in the immortal words of Samuel L. Jackson’s bestselling book, “GO THE F*** TO SLEEP”. Seriously. Your bed should not be your office. Your bed should be your relaxing, work-free, environment, and there’s a tonne of studies to back this up. Scroll less, snooze more. Sleep debt is real and your body won’t thank you for it.
DUDE, YOU’RE ALLOWED TO SAY NO.
Remember my last blog about The Jar? I still have a nasty habit of biting off a little more than I can chew and stubbornly asserting that no, I got this. You don’t have to say yes to everything. Going above and beyond is great until you’re pulling way more than your own weight. Don’t want to go on that date? Say no. Don’t want to go to the party? Say no. Don’t want to work overtime? Say no. Don’t want to upgrade to a combo? Say no. Leap at opportunities, but check yourself before you wreck yourself. Set realistic expectations, and live by them. They’ll get over it.
BUT STILL SAY YES SOMETIMES.
Be where the people are, hermiting isn’t the solution either. If you’re an introvert like me and balk at an excess of social interaction, that’s cool, but we still need some exposure to peopling too. Experience cool things, you deserve a little adventure too. Set tiny things to look forward to, like Wednesdays as hazelnut coffee day.
BUY A PLANT.
DON’T BE ASHAMED TO LIKE THE SHIT YOU LIKE.
Real talk, I am a sucker for things that smell nice. I love candles and my little aromatherapy diffuser thing dutifully poofing away beside me while I read a historical fiction novel or, my most recent discovery, binging Ru Paul’s Drag Race and crocheting small bunnies. I, personally, love bath bombs and face masks and lotions and all that stuff but it’s not for everybody. Find your thing, start a new hobby, become an expert on something ridiculous. I have a friend who watches 4 hour episodes of a bunch of people playing dungeons and dragons. I have another who is always out seeing live shows. I know people who have a regular meet-up for trivia night. Whatever your beautiful idiosyncratic happy place is, embrace your perfect flavour of whimsy and do it well, often, and with all your heart.
It feels crazy stupid impossible until it’s done, guys. Keep up your hustle, we’re right there with ya. Comment below for what works for you!