On Feeling Better

I have been feeling pretty burnt out lately and I know why.

I have not been practicing good self-care. I spend too much time on my phone, doom-scrolling through the news then back again through the same news feed, hoping that the stories have changed, when they haven’t. Playing endless games of online solitaire.

I haven’t been spending enough time with friends. Most days, the only people I spend time with are my husband – who is doing his own avoidance, playing endless crossword puzzles on his phone with the TV on in the background – and the one other woman in my office who is there every day. It’s a big office and she is mostly located at the other end of the office or on the other floor and I even forget she’s there. The highlight of my morning is when the baristas at the Starbucks near my office where I pick up my morning iced tea recognize me when I walk in the door and greet me by name. I don’t want the iced tea – I know I’m paying more for the cup than the contents – I just want someone to recognize me.

I haven’t been eating well. I bought a lot of fresh vegetables because I knew I needed to eat better and they are rotting in the fridge while we make nothing but variations on pasta, with different sauces. And accompany it with wine.

My sleep cycles are off. I don’t fall asleep until late at night and the cat wakes me up before I get my full contingent. I can’t lull her back to sleep. She’s anxious, has separation anxiety because my husband – who has become increasingly agoraphobic over the last year and rarely leaves the house – went with me to visit my mother for two weeks. The only person who can calm her is my husband who sleeps like a rock through her screaming. And even if he lulls her, the second I turn over in bed, she starts again.

It’s too hot to exercise outdoors and my house is too full of stuff. There’s only one place that’s large enough to do yoga and that’s right in front of the TV… which my husband puts on from 6 am until midnight.

Yesterday I confided in my boss that I’m on the verge of major burnout. He suggested that I take some time off. But next week one of my employees is on vacation and the following two weeks another is. I’m confident that I can cover next week. The two following weeks are nagging at me – that employee has a critical role following up with people and I’m worried that I will be stuck doing what he does. After that, I can take time off.

We were planning to go on vacation with my sister in law, another week at the lake, but now she says she can only get away for a long weekend and I don’t want to spend another week at the lake with my husband, driving all the time. And she can’t go until late October anyway. So maybe we’ll take a vacation just the two of us. One of my colleagues is going to the Cape on his vacation and that sounds wonderful.

I thought maybe I’d try to do a day out tomorrow – take the train up the Hudson, go to Storm King. Or even just take the ferry out to the Rockaways. But it’s supposed to storm all day tomorrow. And my husband melts in the rain.

My meditation has been inconsistent lately. Inconsistent in regularity, that is, not inconsistent in results. If I practice every day – even if I’m not perfect each time I meditate – then I am getting results. If I don’t meditate – and for the last month, I have gone days between meditating – then I am not getting results and I feel it. And I haven’t been writing as often.

This morning I woke up to an asthma attack. I haven’t had one of those in years, can’t even tell you where my inhaler is (oops). I’m a little better now but there’s an air quality alert on and I don’t think I should go to work… but my laptop is at work… so I guess I’m having an enforced sick day today. Except for the meetings I need to dial into.

This feeds into my theory that stress is a result of the choices you make. Yes, there are things outside my control. I can’t control my husband or what is or isn’t safe to do because of Covid. I can’t control the weather and how my body reacts to that weather. I can’t control my SIL’s schedule or the decisions she makes, or when my employees take vacation. To some extent, I can’t control my emotional weather patterns: some days I’m going to feel better than on others. I can’t expect to feel good all the time.

I can control my actions. I can control what I choose to consume. I can control how I spend my time, how much time I spend on my phone. I can control what time I go to bed and what time I get up. I can control what I do when I get up – whether I reach, first thing, for my meditation app or my news feed.

When I think about the things that I can control, when I take small steps to control them, my stress decreases.

And I start to feel better.

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