Hello, hello, friends! Today, I want to take the opportunity to talk about some major [and not-so-major] changes I have been making in my life to contribute to my overall health, well-being and happiness. I emphasize happiness because, last semester, I really do believe I put my health [mental, emotional and physical] on the back-burner. I focused so hard on juggling school and blogging and clients and it just became… overwhelming. Extremely overwhelming. I didn’t have a solid routine, I was constantly trying to make things work one day at a time, I wasn’t disciplined enough to make decisions that would benefit me in the long-run. My time management, for the first time in my life, was completely off-kilter. This year, I am trying to focus on making decisions that help my productivity so that I can feel less stressed out and more… happy.
The Effects of Stress in 2019
When I went home for winter break, my family could just tell: I wasn’t okay. I gained nearly 20 pounds last semester alone; the dark circles under my eyes were a dead giveaway that I was struggling. Everyone says law school is hard, but they don’t really tell you why. Sure, the coursework is difficult; but what everyone fails to mention are the sleepless nights, the constant feeling of competition [oh, the curve], and the seemingly continuous thoughts of “I’m not good enough” and “I can’t do this.” This semester, though, I feel so much more confident in myself and I am starting to find my footing again when it comes to my zest for life and excitement for the future — two things that I really felt like I’d lost a grip on.
Part of the reason why, I think, I was so unhappy last semester was because I always felt like I was behind. One night of missed readings multiplies your to-do list; once I fell behind, it felt like I could never catch up. Relaxing was taunted with the feeling of guilt; should I really be resting if I haven’t finished my readings? The sheer exhaustion of feeling like I wasn’t doing enough even though I was constantly doing something was a feeling I could never shake. Add contracted blogging engagements, running social media for clients, a significant other and a 7-month old puppy into the mix and you’ve got… a long day. A long, long day.
It got to a point where I was eating a full size of Hot Cheetos for dinner because I couldn’t find the will or the desire to get up and cook dinner for myself; I found myself desperately needing a break, and subsequently binging YT because it was such a distraction. My life was so drastically unbalanced and at the end of last year, I made a decision not out of desire alone, but because of necessity. I need to change.
Changes I’m Making in 2020
For the record, I’ve been making these changes since the beginning of January. And wow, we’re nearly three weeks into school and I actually feel so amazing about the progress I have been making in my physical and mental health. I’ve been sharing quite a few of these changes over on Instagram, but I thought I’d write them out here in one place cohesively. Sure, of course I’d love for you all to take some tips and apply them to your life, but this piece also serves as an accountability piece for me; writing my goals in permanent marker [hey, isn’t that what publishing on the Internet is, anyway?] makes me feel all the more committed to them.
First and foremost, a lot of my inspiration for these changes stems from my recent read: The Sweet Spot by Christine Carter, PHD. You guys… this book is amazing! [Buy it here] And I’m sorry that I’ve been talking about it so much, but seriously, it’s a must-read. The book focuses on finding “the sweet spot” between work and life balance to avoid burnout and find joy in the busy and the slow moments of life. I have thoroughly enjoyed this read, and I highly recommend that you invest your time in this one, too.
First Thing in the Morning
First thing’s first, let’s address the beginning of the day. Last semester, I’d hit snooze until around 7am, when I’d then get up and start getting ready for the day. I would put my makeup on [full glam, lashes and all], eat breakfast, and then I was out the door. Granted, last semester I did have an 8am twice a week and my other classes began at 9:45am, so there wasn’t as much time as I have this semester. But, nonetheless, I was waking up and immediately getting ready rather than taking some time for myself; now, I wake up four hours before I begin class [thank GOD for 10ams]. I immediately take my Paisley gal out for a run to the waterfront and back, which is approximately 2 miles, and it’s amazing.
Not only does Paisley really enjoy this installment, but I do, too. I find that waking up and doing this straight away means that I automatically hit my 300kcal burn goal for the day — any additional workouts I do on top of that just add on. This means that I’m not stressed about meeting that number throughout the day, which is really nice! Additionally, being out in the sun and the fresh air in the morning is invigorating; watching the sunset from the pier in silence with Paisley in the morning is just the perfect start to my day.
No Makeup, No Time Crunches
When originally evaluating my schedule and the things I want to change about it at the beginning of this year, I found that I spent a lot of time and energy worrying about my beauty routine. Does anyone else base when they work out around when you’ve washed your hair last? Lol. “I can’t go for a run today, I just washed my hair,” and “if I go to the gym now, I can’t shower before class because I won’t have time, ” hindered me all the time. I cared so much about if my hair was slightly sweaty or if I felt “gross” rather than prioritizing my health.
And so, I just stopped. I stopped showering before class; I stopped spending 30 minutes on my makeup and doing my hair. It feels so liberating to know that I am giving up something that didn’t really add anything so valuable to my day and gaining time in an area that I can truly feel amazing about committing my time to. It’s a great feeling, and I would recommend you try it out, too! This may look different for you; it may be a totally different activity, like staying up late to binge reality TV or something. Recognize the areas of your life that you wouldn’t necessarily miss if they left your routine and try cutting it out for a single day. You may be surprised by the amount of time you’ve gained.
Turn Off Your Push Notifications
When I commit to doing something this semester, I want to fully commit. If I’m studying, I don’t want to take a (what I thought was) 10 minute break (but was really 32 minutes); if I’m spending time with my loved ones, I don’t want to be scrolling through Instagram. When I’m eating dinner, I don’t want to eat over an open casebook. I want to fully commit to whatever it is I am doing.
And so, that requires some mindfulness. I am naturally a multitasker, and a pretty good one, at that. Hello, Virgo and Type A poster child here. Implementing this change in my life specifically requires me to actively choose not to check Instagram, or to get up and clean the kitchen, or to respond to an email about a brand collaboration. In the age of push notifications and watches, computers and phones that tell you the exact moment you receive a like, message or reminder, it can be difficult to not be distracted by all of the popups on your screen.
Since I do most of my work on my computer and am wearing my watch most of the time, I decided to take the time and turn off all of my push notifications. Yep — all of them. Messages, emails, reminders, all of it. It’s weird checking my inbox and seeing so many new messages now, rather than checking them right away and clearing my inbox as it filled, but let me tell you: this actually saves so much time for me! There were so many small moments throughout my day that were dictated by push notifications.
Less Negative Content
Okay, so maybe this one is hyper-specific to me, but my guilty pleasure is… watching YT drama videos. Yeah, you know the ones: the ones that call out beauty gurus for lackluster launches, hairy lipsticks, undisclosed native advertisements, all of that. I found that, towards the end of the year, I was consuming more of the drama videos than I was actually consuming of the creators themselves! How does that make any sense?! Lol. Drama is, admittedly, so entertaining. But is it worth compromising your optimism?
I want to consume content that is uplifting, positive, kind and motivational; not content that condemns others. To be honest, I love these channels because I truly do feel as if they hold the creators accountable for sneaky moves, but at the end of the day: do I need to consume this type of shock-value content all day everyday? No. Especially when it permeates my perception of others, encourages cynicism, and leaves me feeling distrustful and doubtful of the integrity of others.
And so, I’ve replaced that content with content that does the opposite: content that educates, uplifts, encourages and influences positively. Changing the content we consume heavily changes are mood and perceptions of our day, and this is just one small shift I can make to feel happier in my life.
This one is the absolute hardest for me to implement into my life, and has always been something I have struggled with. I am a self-proclaimed aspiring over-achiever, and so I’m always looking for opportunities to amp up my resume, expand my education, gain clientele, build brand relationships, etc. Last year was the year I began my blog, which skyrocketed in success in just a few short months. By October, I had a sponsored post going up three times a week; I was constantly creating for brands like Skittles, Olay, Renuzit and Dior. It was a dream come true, honestly.
However, my plate was so full and I was stretched so thin; shooting for a brand campaign meant skipping my homework for that night, and writing a blog post took precedent over reviewing my notes and writing my outlines. I don’t want to have to choose; I love both of these things, school and my blog, and so that just isn’t an option to me. This is my creative outlet, my passion, my hobby. Cutting it out completely wasn’t an option; especially because I had contractual obligations to complete and money on the line.
Cut Back Slowly
So, I have resolved this by limiting myself: one collaboration per month. Once I have said yes to one, I must say no to all others; in the future, I’d like to add more, but for the time being, one is my limit. Once I can successfully master handling one collaboration, I can add one more. Then one more. But if I ever feel stressed about completing a campaign, we’re back to one.
This goes for several aspects of my life, actually: designing media kits for clients, managing social media for clients, designing graphics, extracurricular activities at school… I have to learn how to say no. Because no, I can’t handle it all. Not without compromising my priorities. And so I must say no.
I would love to know the changes you all are making this year — whether they be big or small, common or not. Let me know! And be sure to follow along as I post more updates and tips over on Instagram @jadeoftrades_.