Today I feel like a puzzle that’s missing all its corner pieces. I feel a sense of completion, but not a sense of success.
Mondays are always rough for me.
I spend all day on the computer in my apartment doing mind-numbing work that doesn’t have an end point. I begin my week with a day of aimlessness and no matter how much I achieve, I still feel like I missed the mark.
Mondays make for a very grumpy Emily.
Last year, it used to be that I worked like this every day. Loose projects with vague timelines or unpredictable levels of work. I would clock five, or maybe six hours if I was lucky, because I stopped the clock each time I stood up to take lunch or head to the bathroom. Most days were that: at least five hours of time spent glued to my desk chair.
It was so difficult to see five hours on my timer app, because I’ve been taught that eight hours is a normal workday. I would extend my working hours earlier into the day and later into the night, so that I was working all day, every day in hopes of achieving that golden "8 hour day". I would eat lunch in front of my computer, spend Friday nights on my laptop while movies played in the background, and I've even hopped on to complete some work while guests are over.
And even though things have changed greatly in the past year (hello, office space and engaging work), I’m still doing a lot of work from home. All day on Monday + two or three evenings a week, and sometimes weekends, I’m in work mode.
There’s never an end, especially since these past few months have been a financial rollercoaster. Work is the only thing I have that I can half-control, so I dive in like it’s my safe place. Because it totally is.
When I’m working, I don’t have to look at the messy apartment, or the tragic comedy in our bank account, or even worry about taking care of myself. I become an actual robot, programmed to make money. I forget to drink, to eat. To go outside and see the sun.
I know it’s not okay, but I’m never sure how to disentangle myself from something that, in the long run, will take us to a more secure and stable financial place. If I step back and look at the loans and debts we have, I panic thinking about how I’m not doing anything to alleviate them.
How can I chill out when there is no chill to be had?
I’m going to switch gears here and talk about what tiny adjustments I’ve discovered that help me, and I hope if you work from home or struggle with drawing a similar line, maybe you can find some solace here.
I also am getting worked up just writing about my effed-up relationship with work and I’m not about to add a mini breakdown to my Monday.
A few ways I’ve learned to be softer with myself
I try to do these things every day, but I'm not perfect. Be gentle with your sweet self if you miss one or two.
Drink water. As much as you possibly can, until walking to the restroom becomes a significant part of your pedometer steps for the day. I used to employ this tactic at a job that docked your vacation time if you clocked in more than two minutes late - they policed everything, but they couldn’t say anything about how often I went to the bathroom. Not only does it make you feel better, but it’s a built-in reminder to get up and move around.
Dress up. Take the time to put on a little makeup or wear pants while you work. It will make you feel a little more of a part of society. Do not wake up and pull on the same dress you have worn for three days straight because you haven’t done anything in it to warrant washing it. It will not make you happy. On this same note, I was on a good run for a while where I painted my nails with an absurdly pink + sparkly nail polish and it was a nice little treat each time I looked at my hands.
Do not drink all the coffee. I’m so, so sorry. Maybe it truly does work for you, but I found that coffee was messing with my moods, my appetite, my sleep, my water intake. If you feel like maybe life could be better without it, try giving it up for a couple weeks. The first week will hurt like hell physically and emotionally, but now that I’ve been off the daily grind (heh), I’ve been able to enjoy coffee once a week without too much disruption. Tea exists, and it is delicious.
Eat something you like and that you feel good about fueling yourself with. When you’re in a rut or are consumed by a project, it’s so easy to just eat whatever you see first when you remember to take a lunch break. Prep a salad and cut up some fruit before you start your day so you have no excuses. Here too, be sure you eat something for breakfast. Even just a few bites of oatmeal can have an immensely positive impact on my day.
Have a good desk setup. A comfortable chair and ergonomic keyboard are all well and good, but I’m talking a little more about emotional support than tech support. If you’re going to be camped out at your desk, make it a fully functional self-care command station: have your favorite lotion on hand to remind you to moisturize, have a desk chapstick that you love, maybe add some candles and matches or essential oils. Hang up a picture or a print that doesn’t stress you out or make you unproductively desperate for life beyond your four walls. Something calming, something sweet.
But ultimately, the biggest way to help yourself is to set goals.
Most of my worst days come from things not going according to a plan that I never had in the first place. If I don’t set down goals, then I never meet them - and that makes me experience failure and inadequacy on a daily basis (on top of the failure and inadequacy that’s just built in to humans that we’re all constantly fighting).
Make them achievable, reasonable, with a clear stopping point so you don't self-sabotage and just try to get one more spreadsheet done.
This Monday is done and over with (thank God), but I think that next week I’ll have to really focus on setting down concrete goals for the day. From there, I know I need to take a little time to plan out my week more in-depth.
Oh, and don’t forget the weekends - a little structure can go a long way. I keep getting caught up in the week and then land into my Saturdays like a baby bird who’s first flight out of the nest ended up with her just lying dazed in the yard below. Before I know it, the weekend is gone (oops, I worked all weekend again), and it’s crappy Monday again.
Between today’s post and yesterday’s post, I’m seeing a desperate need for a little more structure in my life.
I suppose that structure can be soft, too.
Being gentle with yourself isn’t always just feeding yourself coconut macaroons and curling up in the closest soft blanket while you watch 30 Rock for the eighteenth time. Being gentle with yourself can also mean setting achievable goals and adhering to reasonable timelines. It can also mean that sometimes you say no to watching Liz Lemon’s shenanigans.
Although I will say, I’m in pretty desperate need of a girls wine & binge-watching day. Someone come paint my nails for me and tell me I’m doing okay.
I’m off to bed, and with any luck I’ll get up a little early in time to eat some ultra-nutty, wildly fibrous oatmeal while I doodle down a few achievable goals for my Tuesday-Friday. And if you have some weekend planning suggestions, I’m ready to listen.