How to Work When You Are Sick, Sad, or Tired

Somedays, you’re just not feeling it. Here’s my list of how I keep going.

  1.  Plan a time to go back to bed. Make it 8:00, ridiculously early. This does a couple of great things. It gives you something to look forward to. Yay, sleep! It reduces the risk or procrastination because you know you have fewer hours to get your work done. Finally, it lets your body heal. Rest is often the best cure.
  2. Stay off social media. This is not the day to look for external validation.

  3. Make a Top Three List. If you only could accomplish three things today, what should those things be?
  4. Make a Sick List. Once, when I had a terrible cold, I needed to be at work, but I could not focus. I made of list of everything I had to do in order to survive.  This list included basic, self-care things like “make tea” and the bare minimum required for a functional work day. When I was home with small children, the list included games I could play on the floor and really long movies. Then, I kept that list for future reference so I never had to remember how to function on a sick day. I pull out this list anytime I am feeling under the weather. It has helped me be a functional human being more times than I can count.
  5. Turn on email and voicemail away notifications. Just meet important deadlines. Everything else can wait.
  6. Give yourself the grace to try again tomorrow.

 

 

*photo by Siebe Warmoeskerken

7 Tips for Dealing With Stress and Overwhelm

Overwhelm

I just finishing one of the most intense work periods I’ve ever had. I was up working until 3:00 A.M. more days than I could count. I had three huge projects going simultaneously. When life gets like that, I don’t function.  I shut down, I Netflix (while “working” of course), I bury my head in the sand and hope it all goes away.

Instead of positive mantras, I could only repeat, “I’m drowning, I’m drowning, I’m drowning.” Not exactly the picture of mental health.

The projects still aren’t finished, but I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons about how to get through a crazy season. Here’s what made my life livable and actually productive.

Plan Before You Start

Taking 30 minutes to plan the day when you have too much to do already may feel overwhelming, but it will absolutely save your sanity. Plan the day. Plan the top three must-do tasks for the day. Planning makes the rest of the day fall into place and gives a sense of control.

Looking Forward

Before you finish your daily plan, write down what you have to look forward to today. Whether it’s a good book, a long run, dinner with friends, or making chocolate chip cookies, when you write down what you have to look forward to, it makes the work enjoyable, too.

Cancel Out the Noise

As an introvert, I am easily overwhelmed by background noise. Canceling out noise means a few different things. It may mean literally cutting down on the noise with noise canceling headphones.

But it can also mean cutting out distractions. I just took Facebook, Twitter, and Netflix off my phone (again, again.) They were causing me to lose sleep and valuable daylight working hours.

Whatever “noise” means to you, get rid of it.

Walk It Out

No matter how busy you are, exercise makes everything else possible. Schedule in your daily workout and make it non-negotiable. If you like to walk or run, you can use this time to pray, doubling the stress-reducing benefits. If you only have five minutes, do a quick high-intensity workout.

Working out improves your mood, making it possible to work for a long stretch without crying because the printer ate your taxes. It improves your focus, making your work more efficient. It improves your stamina, which means you can work longer if you need to. Your daily workout makes the rest of the day possible.

Pomodoro Technique

Italian for tomato, the pomodoro technique is named after kitchen timers. This technique is what allowed me to quit my job, work for myself, and change my whole life.

Set a timer for 25 minutes. Work without stopping. When the timer goes off, take 5-minute break. Repeat. After a few sessions take a 15-minute break. I use the Be Focused app or Tomato Timer and I love them. However, you can just use your kitchen timer and change your whole life, too.

Triage

You can’t do everything. In fact, you can only do one thing at a time. What’s the most important thing you need to get done today? Do that thing. Repeat.

Sleep Talk Down Video

Tonight, go to sleep with a SLEEP TALK DOWN VIDEO. These stupid things have saved my life. When I can’t sleep, but put in headphones, turn off my phone display, and just listen myself to sleep. I’m not kidding. Life Changing.

 

When you find yourself overwhelmed, plan, move, and then rest. Busy seasons don’t last forever. Find what works for you to make it through.

*photo by Samantha Sophia

Only You

only you

Remember what only you can do.

You are the only one who can feed your body healthy food.

You are the only one who can love your family the way you want them to be loved.

You are the only one who can say THANK YOU for the gifts you’ve been given.

You are the only one who can exercise your body.

You are the only one who can exercise your mind.

You are the only one who can give you enough rest.

You are the only one who can decide what you want to learn.

YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN CREATE YOUR ART.

Spend your time doing what only you can do. That’s what the world needs more of.

 

Change Agents

Tiny joys.
Tiny joys.

Let’s be change agents in the world around us. The world sure needs some good, and we say we want to help. Like drops of rain carving the Grand Canyon, I believe in the power of small change. Here’s ten ways to be a force for good in the world right this very second. Choose one. Act immediately.

  1. Hug the people in your house. They’re already there. They go out into the world everyday to share the love you give to them. It’s love, exponential.
  2. Love the people in your town. If your neighborhood is changing, go meet someone new.
  3. Don’t watch the news. Someone will be dying to tell you what’s going on, anyway. Let them have the joy of being in the know. You can have the joy of being present in your own life.
  4. Ask your neighbors to keep on eye on things when you go out of town. It engenders trust. It’s an easy excuse to go meet them.
  5. Take a deep breath. You’re no good to anybody when you’re too stressed out to function.
  6. Give a kind word to somone behind the counter. They’re bored and underpaid and it’s doesn’t cost you anything to spare a good word.
  7. Use the artistic gifts you were given. Make seomthing. Share it online. It encourages other people to use their gifts.
  8. Shop local. Buy Christmas presents from a local retailer. Use the local tags on Etsy.
  9. Clean  something. It’s a little of acedia combat and broken window theory. Put your hands to work and make something shiny. I don’t know why it helps, but it always does.
  10. Text someone and tell them why they’re awesome.

 

photo by David Schap

Nobody Does It Alone

 

cowgirl on horse

Why is asking for help so difficult?

We have this interesting dichotomy in Western culture. We think we are a village, here to help one another. We get sad when we hear about people dying alone, unnoticed, in their apartments.

But we also value the independent, the iconoclast, the lonesome cowboy, the independent woman. We sing Power Ballads about being alone, and we brag about our bootstraps, and we praise the person who did it all-by-themselves.

We become three-year-olds: “I do it myself.”

I want to challenge that idea, that we’re all alone in this. No one does it alone, not really.

Bill Gates had Paul Allen. Lin-Manuel Miranda had Alex Lacamoire. Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak. F. Scott Fitgerald had Zelda. No one is a solitary, brilliant expert.

“No one-not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses-ever makes it alone.” – Gladwell

It’s true with our creativity. It’s true with our businesses.  It’s also true with our mental health.

When it comes to our mental health, we’re not all alone in this. In fact, we simply can’t be all alone in this. We all need help because we weren’t meant to go it alone.
Help can come in a variety of forms.

  • Medication
  • Talk therapy
  • Rest
  • Physical activity
  • Walking meditation
  • Actual meditation
  • Prayer
  • Friends
  • Eating well

Whether it’s your art, your hustle, or your mental well-being, don’t keep trying to make it on your own. Find smart people. Surround yourself with them. (The internet makes this easier.)

Ask for help. Help others along the way.

 

Knowledge Procrastination

books

Do you have a passion? Do you know everything there is to know about that thing? Here’s why that might be a big mistake.

Knowing EVERYTHING there is to know about writing, building a platform, and the publishing industry does not make you a writer. Writing makes you a writer.

Don’t let getting help stop you from doing the work. Continuing education should be extra, only done after your work is done for the day. As Ramit Sethi says, “Don’t keep paying other people as a way of delegating decisions.”

Knowledge Procrastination

Knowledge procrastination feels productive because you are learning skills that may eventually help you in your craft. The problem is that often we never get around to actually practicing the craft itself. If your goal was to make a million dollars, but you just read personal finance books and never actually sold or bought anything, you will never reach that goal. But, if after reading a book you implement just one idea, you will have learned something much more valuable about how to get closer to that million dollar goal.

The same thing is true with writing or any art form. You can get that MFA. You can take another course. You can hire another coach. But unless you sit down, face your fear, and do the work, you are just paying for someone to help you procrastinate.

Shadow Careers

That’s right. Getting an MFA might be a valuable experience. But it also might be a three-year-put-off-the-terror project. If you should be writing, but you use your MFA to get a teaching job so you can teach other people how to write instead, you are indulging in a shadow career. Shadow careers, as defined by Steven Pressfield, are careers that are close to what you want, but not IT.

Sometimes, when we’re terrified of embracing our true calling, we’ll pursue a shadow calling instead. The shadow career is a metaphor for our real career. Its shape is similar, its contours feel tantalizingly the same. But a shadow career entails no real risk. If we fail at a shadow career, the consequences are meaningless to us.

Are you pursuing a shadow career?

Are you getting your Ph.D. in Elizabethan Studies because you’re afraid to write the tragedies and comedies you know you have inside you? Are you living the drugs-and-booze half of the musician’s life, without actually writing the music? Are you working in a support capacity for an innovator because you’re afraid to risk being an innovator yourself?

An actor who just does set design. An artist who does advertising. A writer who does marketing. A poet who teaches poetry, but never gets around to writing her own.

Don’t let GETTING CLOSE TO THE THING stop you from doing the thing.

Similarly, don’t let paying for knowledge about the thing make you believe that you are actually doing the thing.

Just do the thing.

Three Ways to Make Space

make-space

A busy and cluttered mind will never have a chance to become creative. Being overly busy, overly burdened, and completely frazzled had been a near-constant state for me. I found, however, that when I had too much going on, my writing and creativity suffered. I made less money because I was too busy to plan ahead. My family suffered because I was not present with them. My heart suffered because it didn’t have enough room to breathe. I had to make a change.

Here are three ways I found to create space. Continue reading Three Ways to Make Space

What Will People Say?

standing apart from the crowd

Let’s talk about what happens when you create a thing and put your art out there into the world.

When you put something out into the world, people will react.

They will ignore.

They will criticize or praise.

They will act jealously or generously.

They will be inspired to create something of their own or mindlessly click (and click away).

None of this has anything to do with you.

It is not your concern how people react. Their reaction is their own, not yours.

Your only job is to create.

Let people bring to it what they want. Your work is done.

You become your art’s lawyer, or its babysitter, or maybe its secret service agent. THAT is what’s making you tired. – Glennon Doyle Melton

Do the work. Don’t worry about the rest.

Envy is a Budget Killer

After a dinner with friends hearing about their Disney vacation, I went home and immediately began looking up travel agents, researching hotel rooms, and studying my calendar for a good week to make this trip. I am currently getting out of debt, and while a Disney vacation sounds like a blast, it is the last thing I should be considering based on my priorities. After a few days of “research” — longingly gazing at images of spa treatments and smiling families — I realized I had fallen into the envy trap.

The envy trap happens when you forget about your budget priorities and start living someone else’s dream. Read more over at the Billfold…