By: Shayla Lee
I often get asked “How do you keep it all together so well?.” and I usually answer the question with an awkward laugh and say “I don’t know, I just do it.”
The truth is, I don’t keep it all together.
In all honesty, it takes a lot for me to keep my head above water and manage everything I’m doing. Although I know I’m doing the best that I can, I often think about how I could be doing more, I could be doing better, I could have done this differently, I’m behind on this article, I didn’t do this correctly, etc. I’m doing the best I can but lately, I have felt I’m not doing enough.
I may be keeping it together on the surface but there are other aspects of my life that are a complete mess. It usually looks like a bomb went off in my house and car but I just don’t care about cleaning it until I’m super overwhelmed with work. Until I’m stressed out or anxious, the mess doesn’t bother me at all but when I’m in a busy state I want to be in a clean area but I won’t have time to clean it because I have a million other things to do. It’s a vicious cycle but I’m trying to get better. I have a little whiteboard by my sink with a tally of how many days I have done my dishes and cleaned in a row. Some weeks I suck (like this week) but others I am really good at doing it. Sometimes during the bad weeks, my roommate will do my dishes for me and I will cry.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month which is something very near and dear to my heart. Mental health is something that I and many of my family members and friends have struggled with and I have been working hard over the past few months to improve my own mental health. I want to share a few things that have really helped me. Hopefully, they can help you too.
1. Seeing a therapist
I recently read a great article written by the Australian blogger Tully Smith about her experience with anxiety. In the article, she explained that finding a therapist that you connect with can be really hard and often doesn’t happen on the first try. If you don’t click with a therapist when you meet them, don’t give up on finding someone else who will help you reach your goals. I believe there is the right therapist out there for everyone, it just takes some research and trial and error.
I spent a fair bit of time researching different therapists in Vancouver before finding mine and luckily, I connected with her right away. I have really enjoyed our sessions together and therapy is something that I am excited to go to. Every time I leave I have much more clarity and I feel empowered.
Having a professional offer insight and an outside perspective to challenges you are facing in your life is so helpful. One misconception about therapy is that you have to go all the time. Whether you see a therapist once a week or on a less frequent basis like I do, it can still have a positive impact on your life.
2. Running away from my thoughts
Exercise has been an absolute godsend to me. Last November I bought a membership at the gym across from my work and I go every day at 5. Now that the weather is getting nicer, I can run outside which is pure bliss. I found a running path in a forest with a creek and it amazes me every day. I utilize my run as a way to clear my mind and to release any stress from the day. At this point it doesn’t feel like exercise, running feels like part of my schedule and I look forward to going each day.
Besides going plant-based a few years ago, implementing meditation into my day has been one of the best things I have ever done for my mind and body. Each night before I go to bed, I meditate. Sometimes it’s for 10 minutes other times it’s for 40, it all depends on how I’m feeling. Meditation helps me fall asleep faster, I can clear my mind, and it helps me calm down if I’m feeling anxious. Meditation is definitely one of the best parts of my day and I think everyone could benefit from it.
4. Turning work off
Turning work off was something I really struggled with for the first couple months of having this blog and honestly, I am still struggling with it. There is always an email to respond to, an article to write, people to connect with, changes that could be made to the website… the list could go on forever.
The anxious thoughts that plagued me ranged from “I want to stay on top of my emails to show people I take my blog seriously” to “If I don’t answer an email immediately the person will never want to work with me again.” After bringing my thoughts up to my therapist, she asked me a few simple questions that made me re-evaluate everything.
Therapist: “What do you think the appropriate length of time is for someone to respond to an email?”
Me: “Probably 1-3 business days unless it’s urgent”
Therapist: “What is the worst that will happen if you don’t answer an email immediately?”
Me: “The person might send me a follow-up email if I don’t answer within 24 hours”
Therapist: “Would you expect someone else to immediately respond to an email from you?”
Me: “Because I wouldn’t expect them to be living on their email.”
BOOM. This affirmed to me that I have the right to a personal life too and it’s okay to take breaks once in awhile. Other people probably won’t expect me to respond right away and they will understand that I’m living my own life too.
I’ve been getting better at giving myself breaks. I turn off my email for a few hours on Friday nights and sometimes Saturday nights too. My amazingly supportive friend Shayna helped me take a 4-day break when I went to Coachella and changed my email password so I couldn’t get into it. You know what? The first day of not being able to check it felt weird but by Sunday it never crossed my mind. After the festival, I felt refreshed and ready to get back to work again.
I’m proud of myself for valuing my work so much but at the same time, I need to remind myself that I’m a person too and the world won’t end if I don’t use my email for a few hours.
5. Quieting my mind
Whether it’s a bath, doing a face mask, or going for a massage, I try to do little things to give my mind a break once in awhile. I always feel refreshed afterward and I can use it as a time to not think about work.
Something else that has really helped my mind is reiki. Although I was initially skeptical, I decided to give it a go and I fell in love with it. After each appointment I feel lighter and more clear for about a week.
Disclaimer: I think most people would assume this, but I would not suggest buying cheap reiki coupons from Groupon. If you’re like me, you will end up at a random lady’s house on a Saturday morning as she runs a fridge magnet on your back for three seconds getting rid of your ‘unsupported feelings’ and will do bogus reiki while you lay in a reclining patio chair in her kitchen. Spend the money and see someone who knows what they are doing, I promise you it’s worth it.
6. Having alone time
Don’t get me wrong, I love people, but as an introvert and an empath, I need my time alone. Being around people all the time is EXHAUSTING. If I don’t have time to myself I turn into a monster – it’s almost as bad as when I’m hungry. If you’re not an introvert you probably won’t understand how soul-sucking being around people can be – especially when you are around people you don’t have a connection with.
Introverts don’t hate people, we just need time to recharge. I make an effort to have at least an afternoon to myself each week to get myself ready for the week ahead. If you are an introvert, it is easy to feel guilty for having to say no to spending time with people. Just remember that you are focusing on your mental health and you shouldn’t feel guilty for that.
Also, IF YOU’RE AN EXTROVERT, DON’T EVER TELL AN INTROVERT THAT THEY ARE A LOSER FOR NEEDING TO HAVE TIME ALONE. THIS IS LITERALLY HOW OUR BRAINS ARE WIRED AND WE NEED IT TO FUNCTION.
7. Spending time with inspiring people
This may sound harsh but if I don’t vibe with you I won’t waste my energy on you. After spending time with people in your life you should feel empowered and inspired; not drained.
Many of the people who inspire me most don’t live near me so I make an effort to call them once in awhile to catch up. Every time the call ends I feel so much happier and more creative. When I’m spending time with friends I make an effort to put away my phone and have a meaningful connection with the person I’m spending time with. What is the point of spending time with someone if you (or they) are on their phone the entire time? Don’t waste your time and energy on people who can’t have a conversation with you without looking at their phone. Cut. the. negative. energy. out.
Would I really have a website centered around music if music didn’t help me? Whether I’m feeling sad, angry, or anxious, music always provides an escape and helps to boost my mood. I live on my Spotify and I wear my headphones EVERYWHERE. I honestly don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have music.
And there you have it: a little bit of insight into what has been helping me and my mental health. I too have good days and bad days. On the good days, I feel as if I can change the world. On bad days I want to give up and quit everything. When I feel like I’ve hit a wall it’s usually because I’m emotionally exhausted and after I sleep I feel way better. Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I often have existential crisis’ around 1-2 am and I always tweet about it. I’m a new person again in the morning.
As the last part of this, if you’re reading this, I want to tell you to keep working hard and doing what you’re doing. When you believe in your work and in yourself, the universe is all yours. It’s also okay to not feel okay sometimes but it’s important to talk to someone about it and get help. I don’t care if I’m close to you or if I’ve never met you, I am always here if you need someone to talk to. Message me, email me, call me, I don’t care. You are beautiful and you are loved. Take care of yourself 💗