How to chill the eff out: 3 lessons from a workaholic
I left my full-time job in search of something more fulfilling. When I found this, I realised I was gaining something I’ve never really had before.
Time. More time to be. More time to do whatever I wanted to do.
And that was terrifying.
For the last four years, I had been working at a pace that can be likened to the Road Runner. Always on, always working a million miles an hour. Balancing Uni, full-time work and maintaining some level of personal life. Pushing myself to the limit, and then, upon finding it, skipping over it with my 5th coffee of the day in hand. When one task was completed, I was always anxious to start another.
I lived in this constant state of stress and ‘busy-ness’, because that was how I believed life was meant to be like. We see it everywhere, in TV shows, movies, even on Instagram.
People who are successful because they ‘hustle’, they work tirelessly and constantly.
Even on a personal level, my mum has always had to keep busy. From working three jobs to maintaining the house. For a good couple of years, it was impossible to ask her to sit down for a movie. She would sit down at first, but then promptly get up, make her 4th cup of coffee for that afternoon, and then decide she needed to mow the lawn.
I thought this was what all successful and happy people were doing. if you’re not run off your feet are you really working hard enough? We are taught time and time again that our value to society is our work, so working hard = more value, right?
Then, I decided to flip that idea on its head, or more so my body and my exhausted mind did. I shifted. I wanted to change. I wanted ease and grace in my life.
So, here are the three lessons I learned (sometimes the hard way) to finding a bit of time for me in my own life.
Lesson #1: It's hard to quit a bad habit
When I found myself with regular extra free days. I almost instantly reverted back to my full-time stressed out ways. Because I couldn’t just fill these days doing whatever I wanted to do, right? My partner couldn’t come home from working his full-time job and find me vegged out on the couch in the exact same position he left me in, only surrounded by empty chip packets.
I had to do something. Valuable things. It wasn’t enough to take each day as it comes and go with the flow. No, I had to plan this shit out.
So I did. For the first few months of this new-found freedom, I had curated to-do lists for each of my free days. Ranging from freelancing work to house chores. Each day was filled with stuff I needed to do in order to feel accomplished that day. I stuck to it.
But along the way, I realised a few things.
One being that my small house can be cleaned in less than an hour.
Two that I am really not a good at sewing, so my decision to make my dog a pair of leg warmers (she has bald back legs due to allergies, they grow back in winter), out of a pair of old leggings was the biggest waste of time for a comical result.
And three, that, despite all this extra time, I wasn’t doing anything I actually said I wanted to do when I left my job.
I was filling my days with things I thought were valuable to some little critic in my mind telling me that I had to do all these things to maintain my value.
Upholding this status was becoming exhausting and stressful.
This is how I came to lesson #2: Find your passions, and make them a priority.
When I realised the third thing, I did a little exercise in the form of a questionnaire.
Q: What do I love doing but I am not doing at all?
A: Writing, poetry in particular.
Q: What do I love doing but I am not doing enough of?
A: Yoga, baking, and walking my dog.
Those two simple questions narrowed down four key areas of my life that I could focus my free time on. So I made myself a daily routine, where I walk my dog and do yoga in the morning, and I also started a blog where I will be writing one poem a day for 100 days. And I bake, while still satisfying my desire to learn, as I work my way through a cultural baking book.
Lesson #3: Don't sweat the small stuff. It's okay to have a lazy day once in a while.
Instead of being busy for the sake of being busy. I am now enjoying allowing more ease into my life. The pressure is gone and I am now working towards my own values in life, for me and by me. If the day didn’t go to plan, or I decided to screw it all and binge watch a TV show instead, I still feel okay.
I no longer carry a sense of shame. I shrug it off, do what I want to do, and feel much better for it.
The best part of this new found routine is that is has given me more space mentally and physically, so I sleep better, work better and just feel better overall. Hmm, who knew taking time for yourself, finding ease, and fulfilling your own passions could make you better at, well, all other aspects of your life? No one tells you that.
And BTW, my mum is also letting some ease into her life. Most nights when I call her she’s on the couch watching TV enjoying her favourite shows. Go Mum.
Now, I’m not telling you to go ‘Yeah fuck it’ and quit your job and go shirk all responsibilities, I am just asking you to be mindful with your time.
Do something entirely for yourself at least once a day, and avoid getting too caught up in what other people, or the world, tells you that you should be doing.
Trust me, you will feel all the better for it.