Do you ever experience total and complete mental overload and exhaustion? I do. After writing for 4 months I needed to recharge, so I took a break from the blog. I have discovered, and friends and coworkers have also pointed out, that I have a tendency to wear myself paper thin. I’m extremely ADHD, and if I’m not actively doing something that makes me feel accomplished, I feel lazy and useless. When I’m trying to relax and watch TV I still have to be doing something like playing minesweeper, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, or writing. What is interesting is that when I’m watching TV, I’m not watching it at all; it’s just background noise while I’m focused on a different task.
The constant ‘on the go’ mentality affects me in all aspects, as I find myself repeating the behavior at work too. In my downtime I can’t just sit, relax, and enjoy the break between tasks; I’m checking reports, researching different coaching techniques, auditing paperwork, and taking on difficult customer issues. When I run out of things to do, I walk around the branch looking for more work. I even have trouble relaxing on my lunch break. I don’t live close enough to work to go home, so I find myself sitting in the break room for 15-20 minutes, eating quickly, and then getting right back to work. Every now and then I can take my full hour, but that’s usually on days when I’ve finally come to a breaking point and need the extra time.
I also have a need to always stand out from the crowd. I join clubs, volunteer, become a board member or a chair for a network, and even mentor other team members at work. I have to be involved in anything I possibly can to make a name for myself and I often feel like I’m not doing enough, until someone slaps me upside the head with a dose of reality and shows me just how crazy I am for doing all these things.
After I get off work my routine doesn’t slow down- I work out, go to the grocery store (I’m one of those weird people who goes to the grocery store about every other day), cook, and then have about an hour to relax before going to bed. Every day the cycle continues. Add work events and hanging out with friends in the mix, and how can I possibly find time to relax? Worse is that I don’t know how. If I’m not constantly booked with things to do, I feel inadequate.
When I started my blog, it was a mental outlet. A place where I could journal my thoughts, putting them out there in the world to show that even though many people won’t come out and say what’s truly going on in their lives and in their minds, we all have experienced similar things. It doesn’t matter how different two people are, they can still relate on even the smallest interests or experiences. As I open up to the world, people are opening up to me in return, even people I have never met before, and it is amazing. I’m finding out that more and more people are touched in some form or fashion by lack of self-confidence or self-worth, anxiety, and even depression, whether it is them personally or a close friend or family member.
I went on a solo trip to Ireland March 12th-21st, and this trip put a lot of things in perspective for me. My next blog will include the details of my trip but for all intents and purposes of this blog, the experience forced me way out of my comfort zone and in return I learned a lot about myself. I left the U.S. with feelings of anticipation, fear, excitement, and nervousness and returned with a new-found confidence and understanding of myself.
One of the first things I learned was how to come out of my shell. When you go to a place where you don’t know anyone, you do one of two things. One choice is to blend in with the crowd and disappear into the corner somewhere, making yourself a spectator in your own life experiences. Yeah, you may witness some cool things and overhear some interesting conversations, but where is your personal experience? The other choice, and the best choice in my opinion, is you put yourself out there and make new acquaintances. You listen, observe (in a non-creepy way), and find common ground with those around you to strike up a conversation. Like I stated before, it’s amazing what you can have in common with people you have never met in your life, and what you can learn from these strangers.
The second lesson I learned was how to be even more self-sufficient. Going to a brand-new country, I wasn’t familiar with how to get around in the city, the bus route, or where the best places to go were. This took time, research, and a lot of preparation to ensure I would return with no regrets for missing experiences. Those who know me know that I usually just wing-it when I travel, but this time I planned ahead, booking tours, my stay, researching the best restaurants and sights to see, and even studied maps to familiarize myself with the lay of the land. I was pretty proud of myself. I was fortunate enough to stay with amazing people that helped show me how to get around when needed, and also show me how to take the bus and/or walk around the cities I visited. I am forever grateful for this lesson and for the people I stayed with in Dublin and Derry.
The last, and probably the most important thing, I learned was that I need to set aside more time to relax. After going pretty much non-stop for 6 days, I arrived in Northern Ireland, Derry County. I was exhausted from my travels thus far, and by the time I got into the city and settled into the cute townhome where I was staying, it was dark outside. I didn’t know enough about the safety of the city to go out exploring on foot by myself, in the dark, so I decided to stay in and rest. As I tried to wind down and relax, I felt like I was wasting my trip. I had this overwhelming need to get out and do something, but I was so exhausted and couldn’t bring myself to go out. I felt uneasy and like a failure, but why? Why couldn’t I just be OK with giving myself this night of relaxation? I had all day the next day to explore, wasn’t that enough? This was a hard realization and a big wake-up call. I knew I had to learn to be OK with taking time for myself to reset and recharge.
So, that’s where I’ve been the last month since returning to Austin on March 21st; forcing myself to take a break and focus on being able to relax and not feel like I need to be doing something productive 24/7. I have been working out less (I was basically doing two-a-days before), trying to only make plans on the weekends so I can relax during the week, taking my full hour lunch at work to relax, and not feeling a need to volunteer myself for too many extra-curricular activities. I think I’ve found that healthy balance, but it takes 21 days to build a habit, so hopefully I can keep this up.
I’m back, Austin! Still single, still a work in progress, and still looking for Mr. Right.