The Burnout Epidemic

Chronic fatigue, irritability, loss of appetite, anxiety, impaired concentration, weakened immune system and depression. These are the tell tale signs of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. At 27, I’ve experienced burnout a few times in my life and I’ve needed to learn how to balance my energies to stay healthy and happy.

During my senior year of college I worked as a waitress and bartender, I was a nanny to three small girls, I was VP of my schools Hispanic student association and I was interning at one of Bostons top advertising firms. I was 21 and I thought I was invincible. I was an overachiever hell bent on doing it all who sustained herself on caffeine in order to make it through. To decompress, instead of taking it easy and catching up on sleep on my nights off, I would go out with friends. This lifestyle completely destroyed me.

Sure I graduated with honors, a solid internship experience to add to my resume and some money in the bank from my various hustles but it all came at a price. By the time I graduated I was in rough shape. I remember feeling totally uninspired, anxious and emotionally depleted. After graduation I thought to myself “Okay,crazy you did it, now stop!” I remember spending a good two weeks at my parents house doing nothing but watching Harry Potter and working on my tan. It was glorious. It was also a bit of a wake up call.

I’ve written about my last bout of burnout in Letting Yourself Be. Both of these instances of burnout where tough to get through because I had to recondition myself to live a more balanced life. I had to train myself to know when to stop pushing beyond the brink and when to cut myself some slack. It’s not easy to keep yourself in line if you are someone who has high expectations and no patience for themselves. Add to that, living in a society where social media has elevated standards of what having it all and doing it all looks like. We can’t all attend barre class 5 days a week, work full time, keep a tidy apartment that is decorated impeccability, make Instagram worthy organic meals each night, go on exotic vacations around the globe, dress like a street style blogger all while managing to get enough sleep and maintaining healthy relationships! Unless you have a personal assistant, this just isn’t going to happen. More importantly it DOESN’T HAVE TO, despite what all the Pinterest boards and GOOP-esque blogs depict. 

So, what are some ways to avoid burnout? Here are a few things that have helped me and I hope that you find them useful!

  • Know where the stress is coming from – Burnout can be caused by internal factors so ask yourself where is the stress coming from. Knowing the source can help you figure out what is stressing you out and what you can do about it.
  • Take rest seriously – Take time off. This doesn’t need to be a fancy trip but even a long weekend to get yourself organized, and catch up on rest. Go ahead, binge watch that series you haven’t had time for!
  • Enrich your life with hobbies – Always wanted to learn piano? Take lessons! Want to improve your photography skills? Make it a point to get better! Devote just a few hours a week to an activity that has nothing to do with your day job. Whether it’s an exercise regimen or taking up DIY projects, your hobbies will help you unwind and increase your confidence in an array of skills.
  • Unplug – It is hard not to stay connected when you have a demanding job. But make your free time a priority when you can and unplug completely. Sometimes even leisurely scrolling through twitter can be a mind numbing time suck! So drop the phone and get centered, go on a walk, or do a meditation exercise. I have an adult coloring book that I enjoy doodling in occasionally and its very calming.
  • Know when enough is enough – Gauge yourself at the end of each day. Are you feeling anxious? Are you feeling healthy? Are you feeling mentally drained? Are you getting enough rest? We all need to motivate ourselves to be challenged and engaged in both life and work but there is a difference between motivating and forcing. It’s great to push yourself but there is a point in which that can become determental for your well being. Know yourself and know where your breaking point is and stay away from it!
  • Get sleep – I can not stress how important this one is. Sleep is vital! Did you know that women need more sleep than men? Not getting enough sleep throws everything off and is incredibly bad for your health. If you are having trouble sleeping, try sticking to a bed time routine, avoid screen time in the bed room, drink soothing tea and make sure your bedroom temperature is comfortable. If a routine or natural supplements (try melatonin or Natural Calm) are not helping you may want to speak to a doctor. I once had a terrible bout of insomnia that lasted about 4 months and toward the end of it I was seeing visions…it was by far the most frightening health scare of my life. Please take sleep seriously! 

Avoiding burnout starts by putting some preventative measures in place. Also, its important to have support from a partner, colleagues, friends or therapist that can help you implement these practices and know when to call you out if your veering dangerously close to burnout.

What You Make of It

We have all met countless individuals who have been born into situations that one would deem “unlucky” (poor health, tragic family situations…). The knee jerk instinct to categorize the circumstances of life that are unpleasant or difficult as “unlucky” is absurd and unfair to the so called unlucky individuals. We summarize what we assume to know of their life to be unlucky based on what we see on the surface or what we THINK is some impossible hardship because we are narrow minded and have grown too comfortable with the ideas we believe make up a good life.

We think that in contrast we are much better off when in truth those who haven’t ever endured serious difficulties lack a strength that can only be obtained by at one time or another being “unlucky”.Those individuals I have met who in some way lack certain things that are part of the conventional modern idea of a decent life are often happy, tough, optimistic people who make the best out of hard times and keep persevering without harping on said hard times. It’s humbling to be in the presence of such people.

So often we are fixated on a shallow idea of what is needed for a happy life and disregard the fact that difficult periods are essential in moving our lives forward and making changes. Falling on hard times makes you appreciative of all the good around you. It gives you grit and courage and the ability to trust that things will turn around because you will find a way to make it so.

What I have taken away from the “unlucky” is that Life is what we make of it.

Ignoring Negativity

“The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook” – Philosopher William James 
William James had it right. It’s rather amazing how other individuals can cast clouds over your mood just by being negative. Negativity can be so easily absorbed if one allows it via what I like to call “a-hole osmosis”.
Rude strangers who bump into you without apologizing, a friend who cancels plans last minute, or a crabby coworker who gives you dagger eyes when you bump into each other in the elevator. If you do not manage to overlook these grievances that you so despise and are on the receiving end of you may end up sending out that same nasty energy to those around you.

I’m certainly not advocating that you ignore when people seriously mistreat you! But letting the smaller stuff constantly get to you can create toxic anger. When someone does you wrong we must remember: Most people aren’t mean as much as they are weak. Weak people do bad things, selfish things, and reckless things because more often than not it’s just easier for them. So next time you are up in arms over someone being an absolute jerk to you or to others, remember how incredibly weak they truly are and take the oft ignored high road. This is something I’ve put into practice over the past several months and I aim to continue zigzagging my way through life to stay on the sunny side of the street.

In summary, ignore the haters and do you!

 

On Feminism

Is it just me or is the “Are you a feminist?” question that’s been the trendy thing journalists seem to always ask women getting tired? I’m happy that feminism is a topic of discussion in the media but it’s the dialogue that follows this particular question that gets to me. Really the question is more like “Are you a feminist? If so please provide an easy to digest explanation as to how but don’t be too wishy washy about it or you’ll not be feminist enough but also don’t be too serious about it or you’ll come off as too intense!”
I once had a boyfriend laugh at me when I called myself a feminist. His response was something along the lines of “You? After the things you have done in your past?!” He was convinced that because I had been with other guys before him and, like most women do, had an often scantily clad hard partying phase in college that I couldn’t be a feminist. To him I was a used up, sad girl who should spend the rest of her days coming up with ways to make up for her salacious past. Perhaps he thought that being submissive to a not very respectful boyfriend was one of those ways. At the time I was deeply under his charms and I didn’t say anything although I knew he was wrong. If I could turn back time only to respond with Yes! Yes, I consider myself a feminist and part of why I do is precisely because I had a fairly full young women hood and I experienced learning just how to unapologetically own my sexuality while always maintaining the belief that I was the intellectual equal of my male peers and that the ways in which I chose to explore myself don’t define me and although there were plenty of missteps along the way and I may not be proud of it all I sure as hell don’t regret anything I did or didn’t do because it led me to the woman I am today and she’s a feminist!
A man believing he is the authority on what makes a woman a feminist…is not very feminist. I digress! The point is that being a feminist should not be a divisive thing that puts people in buckets. To me, a feminist is an equalist. But the word itself seems to invoke an array of things that has absolutely nothing to do with the main idea of being an equalist. A feminist is not just some caricature of a bra burner or a man hater or an aggressive  protester. These are just some of the general categories people tend to place feminists under and it’s a shame because it’s society wanting to simplify what it means to be a women and to be a women is NEVER simple regardless of how you express your feminist beliefs.
I’ve had the topic of feminism on my mind as of late since I read a piece in the New Yorker on Gloria Steinem. I think everyone should make the effort to read writings of and about modern feminists. The newsletter Lenny Letter created by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner is great! There is really something in there for all types of women. It’s well written and very funny. Lena Dunham’s been busy and has another new project, the podcast Women of the Hour that was released this past Fall. I also really enjoy Vogues Breathless column by Karley Sciortino (blogger of Slutever) who is incredibly cool and kind of a bad ass. Karley shares her personal life freely sometimes going one step farther and taking on the responsibility of making herself somewhat of a test subject in her often scandalous social experiments. There is a great conversation Karely has with podcaster Alexi Wasser on her Love Alexi podcast that I recommend listening to.

Please share with me your recommendations of feminist thinkers, writers, podcasters, artists etc!

Breakup Phases: Bitter to Brand New

There are still times, few and far between, when I suddenly will become enraged again. Something will remind me of what happened and I hate him. Eventually it passes and then I feel a hollow indifference.

I wish it ended long before but it didn’t. It was a slow rotting cancer disguised as young passion. I’m ashamed of myself during this time. I made myself sick and hurt until I had nothing left to feel for him. He took all he could from me and I willingly gave it all away. It was all too clear at the end that he had shown me who he had become and that’s when I knew that the person I thought I had cared about all those years no longer existed. Sometime during the first lacerating insult riddled shouting matches and his first year of law school there began a de-evolution of compassion. A man that at times could almost seem possessed with hate for me as strong as the love he claimed he also felt.

He began making it a habit of calling me names when he’d get drunk and then profusely apologize the next morning and hit a restart button as if words were nothing but sounds, as if I could forget them. I convinced myself that maybe I could. But that was only the beginning of the end. After we moved from Boston to the south and then back to Boston when he had transferred law schools. In Boston is where he would leave me, cheat on me, come back and do it again a few times over until I no longer recognized my life, let alone this person I had spent 3 years with.

The anger was toxic so I gave it up and just felt sad. Sad that I got so caught up and lost. Sad for both of us. Sad for my younger idealistic self. Sad for what maybe could have been. Sad for the women who started treating herself poorly which led others to do the same. Sad for the guy who couldn’t be loyal and sad for the woman who let loyalty blind her. Mostly I was sad that I lost a person that meant a lot to me. But once the sadness was gone I felt relief, joy, a sense of renewal.

I recall a conversation with a close friend of mine who remarked on my break up and how I dealt with it, I told her “I feel like I’ve died a million tiny deaths and then gave birth to myself.” That description is as close to the reality of that time in my life.

I sometimes think if he knew me now he’d hate me because of how much more confident I am and I we love that thought! I’m myself unabashedly and fully. I speak up and I’m heard. I depend on no one to be my happiness. I’m the love of my life first and foremost and because of that I don’t surrender to the anxieties that make me doubt myself.

Because I started treating myself better I’m capable of being in a healthy relationship with an amazing man. A man who doesn’t make me question my worth, he never raises his voice to me, he has tremendous self control and patience. He is supportive and understanding but also capable of challenging me and making me look at the world differently. He makes me laugh and moves me to tears with his sweet gestures. I never question his intentions. He is genuine. He is in touch with his emotions and never shuts me out. He is transparent and he is committed. He sees me as an equal. He never makes fun of me when I have an obscure idea or thought. We respect each other and trust each other.

I’m not lucky to have him. I deserve him and I have learned that I always deserved a love like the one I now have. It just took too many years for me to realize it but I’m thankful that I finally did.

Letting Yourself Be

A few years ago I was going through a breakup which led me to focus my energies on other things to distract me. I was running more, writing more and making an effort to meet with friends on a regular basis. These were all healthy distractions for me. I did develop one unhealthy distraction though which was overworking myself.

It started with saying “yes” to everything and everyone at work. If someone needed help, I’d say I was available even if that meant working much later. If there were office activities I always attended, if someone was going on vacation I’d offer to respond to their out of office emails. At first I really thought that I was doing the right thing and that nothing negative could come from working extra hard. But when leaving the office at 8pm became my norm, I really began to feel out of sorts. I was exhausted, burnt out and could hardly focus on anything.

I started to have nightmares about my job practically every night. I was answering emails on weekends. I even worked through the flu at one point. I kept on pushing myself and not feeling like all the work was appreciated what so ever, it just became expected of me.

My healthy distraction became unhealthy for me rather quickly and I knew I had to make a change. I began to let things go little by little. I also actively pursued other job opportunities and soon I was at a new company where I was happy and respected.

Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation. You have a ton to do on a tight deadline and there are expectations to meet, but your mind refuses to cooperate with you because you have overdone it. You can either indulge a sense of panic about the things you’re not getting done. Or you can remove yourself from the situation and do what is best for your wellbeing. This could mean taking a break, meditating, going on a walk or venting to a friend. It could also mean making a drastic change in your life and switching careers but that doesn’t guarantee you won’t fall back into your same cycle. We must learn to continuously allow ourselves to just be, and  cut ourselves some slack in order to not burn out.

Everyone has responsibilities and goals, and we want to keep up a sense of momentum with them until we reach completion. To keep working away at a goal makes us feel productive and feeling productive makes us feel accomplished. But this doesn’t necessarily make us happy. Our happiness has less to do with how fast we complete a task and more to do with how well we treat ourselves through the process.

Simply let yourself be. Put your wellbeing first because if you aren’t okay, you will get in your own way and make that to-do list seem never ending.

What is Just Siendo?

siendo” is the gerund of “ser”: In spanish is “to be”

This blog is about all the things that go into just being. It’s a series of random notes, personal stories, observations, and sometimes preachy bullshit that I think is vital and no one else cares about. But alas, this is my public catalog for my own selfish and obsessive purpose – to keep my life real to myself and perhaps along the way my words will connect with you on some level.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

R

 

 

I’ll Have Mine With Extra Gluten Please!

Like anyone who has been alive during the last few years, I was under the impression that gluten was bad for you even if you don’t technically have Celiac Disease. I never went gluten free and didn’t really care to do so until I recently started up my marathon training regimen and did some diet research.

Turns out, experts estimate that about 1% of Americans actually have a gluten allergy and that those who are making this actual dietary restriction a diet trend are doing so under the false impression that gluten is bad for you. This was good news for me! Even better news was learning that gluten itself doesn’t offer any special nutritional benefits, but the many whole grains that contain gluten do. These whole grains are rich in vitamin B, iron and fiber. Additionally, studies have shown that whole grains as part of a healthy diet, may help lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even some forms of cancer.

Doctors warn that eliminating a whole category of food that you’ve been used to eating makes you run the risk of becoming nutritionally deficient in vitamins such as iron, zinc, fiber and magnesium. So basically, there is little point in taking that risk unless you genuinely have a gluten allergy. And if thats not enough for you to stick with gluten, keep in mind that gluten free products tend to be pricier than non gluten free versions!

 

Being Obsessed With Your Dog is Okay!

I’m not about to commission a portrait of my dog Edith or try to have her cloned. I’m not that crazy! But ever since I got Edie almost 7 years ago life is just better with a dog to come home to. Particularly on days when you feel as if you’re possibly having a life crisis. Your dog is there to take your mind off whatever it is that’s bugging you in an instant, to comfort you and make you smile no matter what messed up crap you are dealing with. It’s kind of magical. Non dog owners might not get it, and maybe your friends think you spoil your pet too much, coworkers may think you are a nut when they see a framed photograph of your dog on your desk, but as a dog mom myself, I say screw them, it’s okay to be completely obsessed with your pup!

When my brothers girlfriend at the time told me her dog was having puppies and offered one up to me I was a little unsure. I never had a dog before and I was still in college, 21 and kind of a selfish brat. I didn’t know if I could properly care for a dog let alone myself! When I first met her, Edith was an overweight chihuahua puppy with floppy ears who would terrorize her siblings and I instantly fell in love with her attitude. I knew she was mine and that was it.

On her first night with me I had her sleep in her doggie bed but she woke up crying and afraid. I went to comfort her and noticed she had wet herself out of fear and perhaps realizing she was in an unfamiliar place. I scooped her up and brought her in bed with me and we have been stuck to each other since.

She’s been with me since I entered my 20’s pretty much and that means we have gone through a great deal together. Being a broke college student to moving to Georgia for a year, heartbreak and adventure, new jobs and new places. Along with my family and friends she’s been there. I sing to her when she gets freaked out by fireworks or lightning. She keeps me company and stays on her best behavior when I’m not feeling well. I’ve stayed up all night rubbing her tummy when she had a stomach bug and she’s kissed tears away and acted silly to make me smile. When they spend all of their life solely trying to make you happy, why not give your furry buddy the best friggan life you possibly can!

Dog obsessed owners unite!

 

Taking Responsibility for Your Joy

Inner turmoil and anxiety is more often than not a kind of self indulgence. I sometimes ask myself that if I was less fortunate would I even pay mind to half the things I can so easily obsess about? Sometimes you need to indulge yourself and vent and let it out, but one must also know when to let go and be present.

I’ve been working on being more mindful and reminding myself when I lose sight of what’s really important that I actually have much more control of my circumstances than I give myself credit for. Self fulfillment and happiness can be achieved if what we want and what we do are in harmony. I have been trying to live by that ideology and I wholeheartedly believe that it’s had a substantial positive impact on my life as of late.

If we CHOOSE to harness a sense of inner peace, fight back our inclination to be self-defeating, and learn to take responsibility for our joy, we can not only minimize suffering – we can choose to be a source of bliss, for ourselves and the those around us.

Navigating Life as a 20-Something

I enjoy thinking of life in terms of school grades. At almost 27 I’d say I’m in 5th grade. I know some life basics, I’ve gotten past my bigger insecurities and as I enter the last bit of my twenties I’m kind of feeling like a much wiser and worldly woman. Yet I still have no idea what the middle school (my thirties) stage of life will have in store.

We are all students of the World. Always learning directly or indirectly and that means experiencing a lot of ups and downs.  Adventures, achievements, disillusions, romances and heart breaks. These life experiences are worth it all in the grander scheme of things. What we gain in knowledge out weighs any potential discomfort or pain and so the experience is ultimately a good one, even if at the time it wasn’t.

To me, what is the point of being here if not to absorb as much as we can? To develop and challenge ourselves, always seeking more and never growing comfortable with the idea that we actually know anything at all. I suppose that’s life in your twenties: despite feeling more “adult” you have to keep reminding yourself that you still have a lot to learn and that’s okay!

Lightbulb moments

Often times good ideas shy away in our periphery until we do some mundane activity that has nothing to do with the idea itself. You’ll find yourself riding your bike, folding laundry, lacing up your running kicks or taking a shower and there it is; a fully formed unique idea out of thin air. An idea which maybe would have never arrived had you focused intently on coming up with the thought.

Good ideas are self centered as they aim to reveal themselves when your mind is most quiet thus commanding your full attention.Good ideas are promiscuous. They like to fornicate with other ideas and multiply.

Sometimes in order to unearth a good idea you need to not think, and allow your mind to reveal itself to you.