No matter how much you love your life, it can still be beneficial to get away. When things are hard and you’re feeling the stress? Take a breath, get some air, and come back with a clearer head. This won’t always work- sometimes problems are bigger than a bit of time away, and this isn’t an excuse to run away. This is time to think about the problem, come up with a solution or at least a general direction to head towards, and then tackle it with some sort of plan, however loose.
Right now, I’m sitting in a San Diego coffee & waffle joint. While the two baristas dance around making espressos and Nutella carb goodness, I’m contemplating what direction I’m going to take when I return home from vacation on Tuesday. Several factors have changed in my life, leading me to two options: I can keep on pushing through, exhausting myself in the process, and with no clear end to the bad bits and no realistic points of hope for change. I can struggle and wait it out. Or, I can leave my safety net and jump. I can hit restart on my life and wipe away the saved cookies and caches I don’t want to face, let everything shut down and then kick start back into existence, and hope that the hard restart works and makes everything feel fresh and new- but this also leaves a chance that it will instead implode the hard drive and leave me worse off than I am now.
So what’s a girl to do?
I’ve felt, for a very long time, that happiness is an active choice. Sure, there are caveats- sometimes things are hard and sometimes mental illness makes this a gray space, but generally speaking, you’re not going to be happy just because. You have to actively choose to be happy and look for the good in things. I’ve found this harder and harder over the past year as things that have hurt me have continued to fester under the surface and join with new wrongs and hardships until I feel like I’m in the midst of a shit volcano just waiting to bury me. The pressure has been building for months now, and when I hopped on a plane to come visit my sister, I was stressed, depressed and feeling completely and utterly lost. I felt like the choices I’d made so proudly, the things I’ve worked so hard for, have been for nothing. That for reasons beyond anything I can control I made the wrong choices.
I can’t say those feelings have completely gone away. The desire to not return to my life is strong- to simply run away and start over somewhere completely new and without any baggage or prior responsibilities. It’s the adult thing to do though, and it’s the cowardly thing to do. Since I can’t force the externally controlled issues away and have to endure them, I have to find a way to endure. I’m still sad I have to return to everything- that I have to face it and try to find a solution that I haven’t already tried (how many options are there?). But I do. So, here’s how I’m coping and here’s how I’m going to hop on that plane and make it back without losing myself entirely when I land back home.
- Take each day one at a time. This is hard. I like to think I don’t hold grudges, and while there are lots of things I can forgive, I have a hard time forgetting- so when new and similar wrongs occur, I feel the weight of the old ones slip back in. But I’m going to keep trying to start each day as fresh as possible, and see if I can trick my brain into letting it all go- stressing about it doesn’t make things easier and it certainly doesn’t make me any happier.
- Remember the good things. I’m going to cling to happy thoughts and try to stay hopeful. I’m going to think about the fun and amazing things I’ve been doing in San Diego-the coffee shops, the museums in Balboa Park, the hikes in Torrey Pines, learning to use the trolley, watching surfers at the beaches, walking my Apple Watch into confusion about my activity, bonding with my sister, and remembering that things aren’t bad all around- just in my immediate vicinity back home. I just need to pop the bubble that’s keeping them there.
- Putting off worrying about it until I get home. This may be something I end up regretting the morning I get back, but in the long run, I think it’s going to be the most beneficial. I’ve avoided checking my work e-mail while I’ve been on vacation. I’ve avoided thinking about work and all the things I have to do when I get back. I’ve stopped thinking about my other worries and tried to live in the moments here, or in the creative writing group I’ve been using as a stress reliever. I’ve been walking the beach with a playlist blasting through my headphones and pretending I’m in a movie sequence to clear my head- focusing on my breath and the music and my steps (it’s seriously therapeutic if you have a beautiful place to walk). Sure, this means Wednesday morning is going to have everything hit me like a train, but I’ll be able to remember that no one died while I was away and not constantly working. I’ll be able to remember that it’s okay to take a step back and not obsess and that it’s more than okay- it’s good for me. My productivity will improve because I won’t be worn down and feeling lambasted by myself for the things I reasonably haven’t completed or worked on. It’s like a soft reset- I can look at things fresh and have a mini restart without upending my entire life.
How do you deal with stress that’s been building for long periods and finally got the best of you? How do you get back to being your best self after feeling like you’re becoming your worst?