Are You Habitually Upset In Your Thirties?

The other day, I woke up in a great mood.

I had just finished working the Comic Book Convention (Comic Con) and was tired but satisfied. After the last day of work, I had an amazing, celebratory-style dinner until late, and then I went home and knocked out hard. I slept for almost 14 hours. When I woke up I felt happily rested, but was shocked to see that it was 2:40pm! A sleep record!

I had great dreams during that record sleep, though, one after another, leaving me giddy and feeling fresh. My mood lasted most of the day, until a weird, upset feeling filled my stomach. I couldn’t trace the uncomfortable sensation at first, but I wouldn’t let it persist without thinking it through. Lately I’ve been trying to not let upset feelings hinder my mood without tracking their source. Sometimes I know the origin right away, and other times it surprises me.

It took me awhile to locate the source of my mood spoiler, and then I realized. It was so silly. My bad mood came from the fact that I didn’t want to go to the gym.

Because I woke up so late, I worked and did errands until way later in the day than usual, and left the gym for last. But my body was tensing up about it, not wanting to go running in the dark, and just wanting to chill out on the couch since it was already 9pm.

I laughed in realization, but the laughter did not shake the feeling. Sometimes even when I can place my distress, I can’t shake the storm clouds. But I went to the gym anyway- running around the neighborhood in the dark until I got to the door of my fitness center. I goaded myself out of the house with promises of exciting music, guilty pleasure 90s tunes and some David Bowie. When I got back home, I felt better, but a habitual mild tension remained.

The next day, a similarly uncomfortable feeling raced through my body all day. I looked around for where the feeling came from and it took me a few hours to place: I was dreading a new client that I hadn’t met yet and a show I’d never worked before. Sometimes I get weirdly stressed before work with a totally new client, even though I’ve been working in this field for at least 13 years. Force of habit.

Nothing was really wrong in both scenarios mentioned above. Usually nothing in particular is wrong. My body isn’t warning me of imminent danger or forecasting bad omens ahead. There’s just a habit in place of getting uncomfortable about things I don’t want to do, or worrying about run of the mill things that happen all the time.

So go ahead and take your upset feelings seriously, but see if you can trace them before they sweep you away. Take habitual discomfort with a grain of salt and see whether your stress is a rerun, repeating time after time and leading you to think something is seriously wrong. It pays to take a breath and remind yourself that most things are okay and you’re allowed to not worry all the time. In fact, the worry you may be facing down may not be helping you with anything, but instead hindering you from enjoying the current moment and looking forward to the future.

Sometimes I lay down after work in my jacket and don’t want to go running in the rain- but his day I dragged myself up and out and had a good run anyway.  After all, I love running!

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First Thing in the Morning in Your Thirties

For most of my life, I never really had a morning ritual. Well- I never had a morning ritual that went much beyond putting on my makeup and getting my hair into some sort of acceptable outside-world style.

Then, as I went through my twenties, I started adding new parts to my morning ritual. I got into making green juices in the morning, and then- even better- I got into making green smoothies. I purchased a french press and started making my own coffee every day as well. Lots of liquids. And then I figured out a way to style my hair even quicker than before (by forsaking straightening my crazy waves into heat-damaging oblivion every single day).

Yet even when I had a handle on my morning routine, it always felt like a means to an end. I got nothing super important done in the morning. I usually saved that stuff until the afternoon, when something more pressing usually came up and interrupted it anyway (like lunchtime. Or drinks out. Or a new bunch of emails to return. You know, the important stuff…)

This summer, I hit a wall. I was sick of the days passing me by while some of the most important things I wanted to do daily remained undone. So I started a ‘most important things on my list are the first ones’ habit. And it really started to work.

I’d get up, start some coffee, eat an apple, and meditate (which is very important to me). Then I’d put on my gym clothes and go running or to the gym (also very important). Then I’d come back, make a smoothie, and tackle my to do list or go to work. In this way, I was meditating daily and also getting to the gym before interruptions took over. The first thing in the morning habit really worked. Even though I’m a night owl.

The hardest part has been expanding my morning ritual into other important tasks. It was easy to meditate and run and then get through a to-do list of smaller items like ‘wash dishes. email so-and-so. send invoice.’ It was much harder to meditate and run and   then tackle larger and more important to dos like ‘rewrite resume. practice presentations. watch videos and research new job prospects.’ I was just talking to my friend Janna about this; For whatever reason, the reallly important tasks that could further our lives and careers have been getting pushed by the wayside and out of our days entirely. And this has been happening for a while… kind of sort of like always. Especially on work days where there’s not much time left in the day to tackle tasks other than getting to work.

Our new idea has been to start using the ‘first thing in the morning’ ritual to include these big important tasks right away…and I think it’s best to only focus on one Very Important Task daily.

So to recap, instead of trying to kill a whole to-do list, I’m going to prioritize one big important task a day and only try to do that, starting in the morning. First, I’m still going to start my coffee and have an apple and meditate. Then I’m going to work on the chosen task for an allotted period of time. Only THEN will I tackle the other items.

I think choosing only one large item a day to work on first thing in the morning is helpful. When there’s only one thing to think about, it’s easier to stay focused and not accomplish absolutely zero big important tasks in a day.

What do you think? Do morning rituals help you? How do you accomplish the really big important tasks and not let the days pass you by?

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