Writer’s block, stress, and recovery

The following post will not be about personal finance. We will be back on topic after this.

I’ve never really minded people using the term “I feel stressed”, “I am stressed”, etc. to describe a busy period in their life. I can tell the distinction between feeling stressed and having stress as an actual illness, as I’ve seen it firsthand. Over my final semester of my bachelor’s degree, I have experienced the latter, which made it difficult for me to focus on anything else than “putting out fires” constantly. Hence why it has been quieter than usual around here.

TL;DR – I had stress. Like, for real.

I’ve personally always just stuck to being a bit of a busybody. I like juggling many things, having things to do, and I have a knack for working hard and making money on the side. I’ve also learned a lot about time management since I was a teenager, who had to juggle a job, high school and a social life – and still, somehow, come out with an excellent result. I’d say I already had all the right tools for handling whatever life decided to throw at me.

But when you are no longer just feeling stressed, it doesn’t matter that you know how to write a to-do list or you wake up early, or you don’t waste time on social media. It doesn’t help you. I realised that things were getting bad when I started forgetting things. Then my temper changed – I’ve always been very calm and level-headed, but the smallest things could upset me (even if I didn’t necessarily show it to my surroundings). I constantly felt on edge, restless, thinking I had forgotten something when I had to moment to just sit and think.

The physical symptoms were even scarier. Someone was sitting on my chest, making it difficult to breathe and the constant pressure combined with sudden heartache made me scared that something else was wrong with me. I couldn’t sleep. It took me hours to find rest, and I could wake up 4-5-6 times during the night. Then I would try to sleep in, only to wake up with the feeling that I was already behind on today’s tasks. I could never catch up, and changes of plans or new tasks made me desperate.
I went to the doctor too. The physical checks were a relief, but only because they confirmed that my body was OK. There was not much to do about my stress – both because the UK’s mental health services are severely lacking, but also because, in the end, if I had to become better, it wouldn’t be through some magic formula that would suddenly give me all the time and energy to continue.

I needed to re-prioritise my lifestyle.

A part of my was frightened to do so, because I still believed I just had to “get used to it”. I am drawn to a very demanding career path, so I figured that if I couldn’t handle things now, at university, how would I be prepared to handle my dream job?

It was a silly thought. I think what I learned this year was that if I wanted to avoid my symptoms worsening, it was not about letting go of my dreams. More the opposite – I had to radically prioritise them. Which means letting go of things that were not directly serving that. I had found my limit. It sounds easy, but when you want to help other people and show that you can handle responsibility, it can seem like a defeat when you have to back out. But I did it. I want to free up more time for myself, my goals, and my creativity. I feel like I have worked as a machine over the last few years and almost killing everything that “sparked joy” outside of school and work (which I do enjoy very much, don’t get me wrong!). Like reading, drawing, exercising. Writing. Spontaneous adventures.

So while I know the next year will be even more difficult as I pursue the next step in my education, I will do what I can right now to set myself up for success. This means fewer projects, harder prioritisation and a laser focus on how I want my life to look like in the nearest future.

So what will I NOT prioritise?

  • Mindless social media. Sucks out time. I am not an avid user, especially not when stressed, but it would be interesting to see what happens when I also cut it out in periods with less work
  • Free work when it does not directly compensate me in one way or another (I’ve spent years doing charity work, but this turned out to be too demanding compared to the initial outline of responsibilities).
  • Shopping and keeping up with trends. I don’t need it. I have a pretty set wishlist which I am glad to pursue, but there is no reason to buy more for the year.
  • Planning, worrying, spending brain energy on things outside my control.

And what will I prioritise?

  • Creativity. Writing, reading, getting inspiration in a mindful way. Helps me focus and go into “flow”.
  • Reflection on where I want to be in the next 1-2-5 years. Keeps me focused.
  • Socialising. Mindful social media use to stay in touch with friends, making more arrangements to hang out.
  • Health and enjoyment. Exercising, eating good food, develop good routines.
  • Studying and (limited) work. Making money, and doing research in an area that I am interested in. Becoming an expert so I can just nerd a lot.

I think this should both set me up for success and hopefully create more time in my life for enjoyment and not just work-work-work. I think that if I approach this is in a mindful way and make the most out of the times during the day where I focus the most, I will get the vital stuff done in less time – thereby having more time to enjoy life and grab the opportunities that are thrown my way.

What about the blog then?

I won’t be posting for June, but I will be setting up a content calendar now, so if shit really does hit the fan, I have some backup for the sake of consistency. Personal finance is a big interest of mine, and I’ve realised that there are areas where I could really improve. This blog keeps me accountable and doubles as a creative pursuit. 🙂

If you have ever dealt with stress or have had a big reflection of the priorities in your life, feel free to leave a comment!

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