Are You One of the 9 to 11% of Americans Who…?

…would report feeling “daily worry and stress without a lot of happiness and enjoyment” in your life? Because according to the long-standing Gallup “U.S. Mood” Poll, 9 to 11 percent of Americans feel that way. Apparently and not surprisingly, the numbers were even higher immediately following the 2016 election, reaching a four-year high of 13.1%.

Personally, I fall into that depressing bucket now. But I’m also dealing with a lot of stress – fights with my boyfriend, anxiety about my career not moving forward fast enough (I’m 35), drinking too much to deal with the stress of uncertainty, and the general fear of Trump and losing access to Obamacare.

I used to be a lot more excited about life and my career in my twenties. The upside of the fact that I’m less happy now is that the happiness in my twenties made me somewhat dreamy and complacent, and so I wasn’t working as hard as I should have at my writing. Now, the fire is lit under my a** and I have been writing a ton more to deal with the anger at myself for not being further ahead.

While I don’t always experience daily stress and worries, because I do have amazing days where I feel recharged and refreshed, I do think I’d put myself in the 9 – 11% bucket of Americans who are struggling to find fulfillment.

So, what do you do if, like me, you realize that you would put yourself in that bucket?

Well, for me it’s all about testing variables to improve. Experimenting with your life. Making small changes and tweaks to see if you feel happier or more fulfilled from them.

Here are some things I’ve done and/or plan to do in the future:

  • Really analyzing my interactions with people to see if they uplift me
  • Trying natural anxiety relief supplements, like Omega 3 pills (heavy on the EPA and less on DHA)
  • Spending less time staring at my phone in public places
  • Writing EVERY DAY to push my career forward
  • Exercising at least once a week (wasn’t doing that before, d’oh!)

Would you put yourself in the 9-11% bucket, and if so, how do you plan to change it?

Fear of Loss in Relationships

When it comes to sustaining peaceful romantic relationships, I’m not the best. I try really hard, but I have bad anxiety, and that makes me fear the worst. My brain can get caught in a negative thought loop pretty quickly — “Will this last?” “Does he love me enough?” “What if he learns more about me and doesn’t want to be with me anymore?” Or worst, I place too much emphasis on the micro-moments of the relationship (like, what does it mean that he normally texts me around this time, but today he didn’t?) that I forget about to be present.  GAH! It’s enough to drive anyone insane.

So, basically, I’m terrified of losing, to the point where I may self-sabotage myself to subconsciously have the relationship end. Stupid, right?

I’m not sure how to get rid of this nagging feeling, other than the normal things, like going to therapy and obsessively googling self-help websites for fixes. I’ve read a lot of Buddhist teachings about how you need to recognize that you can’t be attached to anything forever. And by truly accepting that, you won’t suffer. But still, it’s hard to not feel deep attachment to someone you love.

I just know that I can’t act from that place of fear – from the fear of the relationship ending at any point. I have to remind myself that acting out of fear is destined to cause problems in any relationship I may have, because I’m not present.

One mind trick that helps me when I’m feeling anxious about my relationship is to think about the absolute worst case scenario. And when I think about how it’s not life or death, I know I will be okay.

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To Have Resolutions or Not?

Happy New Year, everyone! Are you still feeling that spark of fresh excitement at the prospect of new possibilities? I am. While I had a rough January 1st, the days since have been really good. I feel refreshed and stronger.

During the final weeks of 2016, I was having a ridiculous amount of anxiety which culminated in my first full-blown panic attack. I thought I’d had panic attacks before, but this was unlike anything I’d experienced before. I got weak, my eyesight started blurring, and my heart raced. I thought I was going to pass out. I ended up going to urgent care that day because I didn’t want to pass out alone in my studio apartment. It was terrifying and scary, and I realized I never wanted to go back to that place again.

Over the holidays, I realized that I needed to make changes in my life. Specifically, I needed to carve out more alone time and spend more time writing my scripts (the process of which I’ve now termed “taking my medicine”). Since 2017 started, I’ve spent time writing every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. But that consistency is powerful. I will keep it up.

So, while I didn’t really make official ‘resolutions’ this year, I did realize that something had to change from the path I had been on. I had to lower my anxiety by focusing on my work – my writing. The anxiety was telling me that I was wasting away when I wasn’t writing.

In lieu of resolutions, I really like the idea of simply having a word or mantra for the year. For me, in 2017, my word is “warrior.” Warrior for myself and for my needs. Because the most important relationship that any of us will ever have is with ourselves.

To a beautiful New Year.

When Self-Care Doesn’t Work

Last week for about the whole week, I had really, really bad anxiety. Like ‘a bubble bath and bottle of wine’ isn’t gonna help this kind of anxiety. It was strong and I didn’t feel like myself – this icky feeling possessed my brain (not Exorcist style in my body though, thank God!) in what felt like an unshakeable way. I’m not sure exactly what sparked it, but probably lots of little things that kind of exploded into a ball of overwhelm.

I tried everything. Watching my shows on Netflix, eating ridiculous amounts of pizza, drinking wine, reading cheesy magazines and books, taking walks – but nothing worked. My brain kept circling the same thoughts over and over again. Why didn’t I have more plans on Labor Day weekend? Am I going to live in this tiny studio apartment my whole life? Will I get get married and have kids? 

Those thoughts just kept repeating and repeating in my head, and I couldn’t shut them down.

I started getting angry at the idea of ‘self-care’ because it sure didn’t seem to be working for me.

So what do you do in these situations? Obviously, there’s medication, which I believe can be very helpful if you need it. But aside from that, what’s the biggest way to deal with moments like this? Now that I’m a little out of the anxiety fugue state, there’s one thing I know that works.

Riding it out. Accept that your (anxiety/loneliness/depression/fear/anger) may be PART of your life experience, but it’s not ALL of your life experience. It will pass.

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Social Media and sometimes FOMO in your Thirties

I have a love/dislike (hate is too strong a word) relationship with Social Media. There are many reasons for this, some simply to do with concentrating on better ways to spend my time. But the biggest reason for my discomfort with social media is that it can occasionally make me feel really bad about myself.

The badness I feel from social media is a strange type of vexation- it comes and goes. When I go through social media ‘feel good’ periods, I can actually remain in a peaceful fun stretch for quite awhile. I understand the points of connection and sharing that are at the core of Facebook or Snapchat. I even feel connected. I feel looped in. I enjoy sharing. I enjoy commenting. I feel like An Important Part of Something Big. And I actually really like social media at these times.

But then there are the FOMO periods. These periods can happen at two very opposite times for me: 1.During times when I’m using social media a lot. 2. During times when I’m using social media not a lot ..but am thinking about it.

FOMO, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, stands for Fear of Missing Out, and I think social media taps into this inner fear more than anything else I’ve ever known. FOMO occurs from social media because people are sharing the polished, highlight reels of their lives and not necessarily what’s actually happening- so everything looks pretty good from an outsiders view. People rarely share worries about their relationships, career fears, family drama, fallouts with friends, financial struggles and the like. Social Media is full of platitudes, photos of cute kids, congratulations on new jobs, sunny visits to the beach, diamond engagement rings, delicious food with friends, and more happy times.

Honestly, that’s okay. That’s what social media is here to do for the most part- enable people to share great parts of their lives. Super depressing happenings usually come off as weird on a news feed and people understand that. I don’t necessarily want to read about tons of negative happenings either.

Yet, even being aware of the highlight reel nature of the beast can’t stop FOMO from coming. There’s a certain discouragement I can feel when scrolling a Facebook feed, especially if I’m already feeling not so great. I can get extra down on myself. Why am I not as happy as I can be right now? My friends seem so happy. Everyone is so busy doing social things- they’re all together- am I being antisocial? Oh god, I don’t use Snapchat enough. Everyone is having fun. Why can’t I get into Instagram? Why don’t I have 6 pack abs? I need to take gym selfies or no one will know I went to the gym! I need to use social media or no one will know I exist!! IF I DONT WRITE ABOUT IT ON SOCIAL MEDIA, DID IT EVEN REALLY HAPPEN??

Even though my mind knows most of these thoughts are extremely silly, the feelings come anyway. I’m bombarded with feels as I’m bombarded with feeds. Some of these thoughts are a mild exaggeration, but you may recognize others in yourself.

Some people don’t go through FOMO at all- I have a few extremely extroverted friends who remain in love with their Snapchat stories and Facebook feeds, and never seem jealous or sad about the whole thing. But this post is for the people who do have this kind of anxiety, or even occasionally do. You’re not alone. And you’re not missing out either.

I don’t have an answer for social media induced FOMO except to take breaks from the newsfeed and stories from time to time. But in my moments of greatest clarity I know that the only fear of missing out I should have is of the present moment. And the most important place to be, no matter what others are up to, is always where I am now.

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How Tracking Money Is Like Weighing Yourself

Recently, I’ve gotten in the habit of tracking every single dollar I spend. Jane, in her last money post, Saving Money Like You’re In the Depression Era, just wrote about tracking all of her money, bit by bit. As we’ve always suspected, Jane and I must have a psychic connection because I had just started doing the same thing with my money.

The reason it’s amazing that we both started tracking money at the same time is because we have been adamant about NOT tracking money in the past. It made both of us extremely nervous to track money- we always felt like we were frugal enough and that tracking every dollar stopped us from enjoying the tiny indulgences in life.

I began tracking money because I realized that my dollars were disappearing faster than I’d like. I’m an extremely frugal person, so money mysteriously disappearing irritated me greatly. Since I don’t make a budget from month to month, I rely on my frugality alone to keep me in check. Since that didn’t seem to be working anymore, I went over my credit card statements and was amazed to see that so many little tiny $4.00 or $6.00 purchases had added up. In some cases tiny purchases had added up to hundreds of dollars!

I had attempted to track my spending a few times in the past (giving up after maybe 2 days) and those times I’d used pen and paper to write down whenever I bought something. That wasn’t the best option for me because I’d lose the paper I wrote the expenditures on, so this time I downloaded two money tracking apps- things are easier to keep control of electronically. After playing with both apps, I really started using and enjoying this one called Goodbudget. It’s free in the App Store (and probably the Android Google Play store too). The app is great because it’s simple and it allows me to make categories of spending so I can see where I’m spending the bulk of my money. Whenever I buy something that doesn’t fit into my previous categories, I simply add a new category.

With my trusty new money tracking app, Goodbudget, I’ve succeeded in tracking every dollar of my money for a few weeks now. That’s a record for me! And what’s really interesting is that I spend less money because I’m more aware of my money being spent..and it kind of bothers me to see the amount of money I’m spending go up uncomfortably high right in front of my face. So I question some tiny purchases (a latte here or there, a new shirt, however affordable), that I would’ve otherwise barely thought twice about if I hadn’t been keeping my monthly expenditure right in front of me. Now I know how quickly small costs can add up.

I always hated weighing myself too, because the scale made me nervous and anxious in the past, but I’ve found that it really does help me to have a number in front of my face to keep me accountable.

If you haven’t tried budgeting apps- even if just to write down all your purchases the way I have- I recommend giving one of them (such as Goodbudget) a try. Even if you’re frugal, you may be spending more money than you realize. And when you stop spending money mindlessly on things, you’ll have more of it to spend on the tiny luxuries you actually love.

 

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Working Easy In Your Thirties

Working Easy In Your Thirties

Everyone talks about working hard, but wouldn’t it be better to work easy?

I hate the idea that anything worth doing is hard to do- I think it puts us in the wrong state of mind to get great things done. The hard work mindset is based in tension and negativity. When I do ‘hard work’ I tense up and ‘buckle down.’ The anxiety that comes from this kind of work hard mindset is palpable.

Sometimes, when I allow myself to stay loose and take it easy, I actually get the most done. Occasionally, I will take a day off from my to do list, and plan nothing. It took effort to let go of my tension filled mile long to do list, but I managed somehow. I was talking to Jane about this a little while back and I remember telling her, “It’s crazy. On these ‘days off’ where I’ve made no plans except to relax, I end up getting a ridiculous amount done anyway. It’s weird- it’s almost effortless.” She then asked me how that happened and I didn’t know at the time.

But I know now.

It’s “working easy” – starting from a relaxed place and allowing things instead of forcing them.

Don’t get me wrong, “working hard” will also produce results. That’s why the idea of hard work is so prevalent. We feel we need to stress out and tense up and do difficult work in order to get things done. But what if we could get all the same things done anyway while not working hard at all? Wouldn’t that be nice?

It’s not just nice, it’s doable. We don’t have to stress out and exert so much painful effort in order to get things done. I promise. Start from an easy place. Let go of hard work. Go from there. And magic will occur.

I’m practicing this in Japan right now. I barely have an itinerary- I’ve just decided to relax and see what I see. And I’ve seen so much more than I could have planned, without much effort. I could be anxious and still see things, but it’s not necessary to stress out in order to see the world. It even works with this blog- I’m blissfully writing on the train from Kyoto to Osaka right now. It’s pretty chill. But it could have also been a tension filled item to check off my list.

Give it a try. Work easy. And see what happens.

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