I am by definition, an unhealthy overachiever. What I mean by this is that I have almost always had a hard time saying no to anyone. I delve a bit more into this in my first post http://livinglikeaudrey.com/2013/04/14/10/ but I didn’t really get into how I’ve started to pull away from those habits. While most of it happened while I was unawares, I do try to force myself to take time and heal myself, emotionally and mentally, when things are getting too tough beyond my homes doors. Even if it’s my own home environment overwhelming me (neighbors, leaky faucets, etc) I seek out new ways to feel better or old comforts. I’ve stopped overeating when I’m emotional, instead I look for other alternatives. I realized I was overeating, when back in Miami, FL, I was having a nightmarish day full of angry students, constantly demanding professors, and a very cramped bus ride home prompted me to stop at the local Publix and buy 2 little trays of sushi, gyoza, a bottle of plum wine, a bag of some “healthy” chips, and before I knew it I had 5 very full bags worth of stuff. While some of it was for my parents, most of it really was for me. Later as I lay it out in my room to devour as I watched anime or a Korean drama, I came to the harsh reality that I was eating to satisfy a void, a dislike of my current situation. Then I thought back to how often I’d done that in the course of that year. How many pizzas? How many subs? How often did I order Chinese? Needless to say that just made me feel worse and as ashamed as I am to admit it, I devoured everything that was there in front of me. What came after taught me a harsh lesson though. Your body can’t contain the amount of food it takes to fill up various emotional voids. Why? Think of an emotional void as a black hole in space. There is very little way to know what is beyond that black hole or how deep it goes. (In theory, back down astronerdies). Point being, if I didn’t know the root cause of my emotional void, getting it fixed was not going to happen with a large pizza covered in artichokes and bacon. A peanut butter burger wasn’t going to resolve it either. I realized I was not listening to myself. I was avoiding confronting my needs because I felt unqualified to take care of myself emotionally. Yet, if I don’t, who will? That can’t fall on anyone elses shoulders and it can’t be stuffed down with food. Food, drugs, alcohol, they seem like they’re working but they’re just helping us avoid the real problem. Many would say looking in the mirror is hard. Bullshit, just open your eyes. It’s easy enough. It’s the looking into your core and daring to ask “what do you need?” that’s hard.
I needed to resolve myself with my reality and my identity. I needed to confront the people who cast roles on me and told me who I was, what I needed to be, and how to do it; and let them know that I wasn’t some toy or play for them to mess about with. This was incredibly hard. I was lucky enough that my mom was open enough to listen when I express my personal needs. If I said “I don’t want to be a ballerina.” she listened. If I said “I can’t eat like this anymore. I want to try soy milk, and healthier stuff.” she went out of her way to help. My godmother is a totally different story. In fact, I don’t think she even listened when I told her I wanted her to stop telling me that I need to be her size. Let’s face it, with my frame, once I genuinely get healthy and make a better structured lifestyle, I may be at best 145lbs. Why? Because that’s really how my body is built. Every doctor I’ve been to has said so. Her expectation that I will ever be her 80lb frame, is way off and really cruel. There were tons of other occasions where telling people how I felt and what I needed either worked or didn’t. That’s okay because I did my part and was true to myself. The end result isn’t something I can afford to fret over, because it’s out of my control, but I can at least be honest with myself and my needs.
This brings me to the healthier alternatives I’ve encountered for when those moments of honesty have nothing to do with people but with myself. Sometimes I deny myself a lot. I figure there are more important things that need to be done and I contemplate putting them ahead of everything else that I want to do. Sometimes this results in them getting done and other times it just results in my stressing out and being overwhelmed without accomplishing anything. The latter is usually a sign that I’ve overexerted myself and haven’t relaxed in a long while.
When that happens I start reaching for my go to hobbies. Some are hard to accomplish in the small town I live in, but in a perfect world these are my favorite things to do. It should be noted that a lot of times, bloggers write from a personal perspective and don’t include what may seem obvious to everyone else. In this case, I’d say to consider this list more of a general suggestion list, and you should totally build on it to suit your needs. Just remember to keep it fun, keep it simple, and do the healthy thing for yourself.
My atypical solution, for those times when leaving the house may prove problematic (like at 1am and insomnia is kicking my tush) anime and k-dramas relieve a lot of my stress. In fact, when my mothers brother died, it was a huge shock that left me really numb and wracked with all sorts of anger and thoughts. It was not a peaceful death and that can haunt a person. Many questions are left behind and it’s almost soul crushing.
I was lucky enough to find the anime Noein at that exact moment when I needed it most. Without giving away any spoilers, I will say what I took away from it. I marathoned the anime. I spent an entire 3 days in my bedroom eating cottage cheese and strawberry preserves (I have interesting snack tastes and I make no apologies.), only leaving to take care of human needs, and I watched the anime straight through. When it was over, it was roughly 7 or 8am, and my mom was sitting in the living room by the window staring out into space. I sat next to her and said, “Mom, if it’s true that there are alternate universes out there, I’m okay with my uncle dying in this one. Because it means that just maybe in another universe he didn’t make the same mistakes. Maybe in another universe he’s with my aunt and his son, and they are healthy and happy. If there’s even a small possibility of that, then I’m okay with this if it has to be true.”. A lot of people view anime as something really shallow and stupid, but some animes have the ability to heal a person, teach life lessons, and make us think on a much broader scale.
When I need something more than anime, like a human voice, feedback, and interaction, I turn to Skype where I get to harass my awesome friends of almost 10 years.
These people are absolutely amazing. They’re scattered all over the place and while we don’t always log on at the same time, usually someones there to talk with. I know that many people fear the internet friendship thing. It’s natural to be concerned about developing friendships online. Some people ARE genuinely creepy and some are even downright evil. That doesn’t mean everyone should be written off though. It just means tread carefully. These people have been in my life for many many years and they know pretty much everything there is to know about me, down to the marrow of my bone, so to speak. It took a while to get there for all of us though. It’s not like we logged on, and immediately handed over our addresses, phone numbers, and our list of deadly allergies. In fact for many of us it took well over a year or two before we even acknowledged our last names. When we finally were comfortable enough to trade greeting cards, letters, and sometimes gifts, we were already deep into our friendships. In fact, I can say I can trust these people with my life, because it’s actually come into question before. I have an ex who wasn’t a very nice one. It ended badly and at the time my life was already a bit difficult. I ended up trying to kill myself. If it weren’t for my friend Chris (whom I affectionately call Psyduck) and for an awesome chickie named Ni, I wouldn’t be here. I’d either be dead or stuck in some psych ward. Let’s make something clear though, the killing myself thing was not over a guy. It was over a plethora of problems I wasn’t tackling properly. Plenty of people have had dumb exes and don’t try to kill themselves. I was a broken person at the time and that just gave me a shallow reason to look for a way out. Needless to say, sometimes having a group of friends who can help you through anything, isn’t such a bad thing to seek out. Normally, I’m very much a loner. I actually have agoraphobia, in some of the worst of ways. I still needed friends. I still do, always will. Most people do, even if they are terrible at admitting it.
3. Video Games
Lately, I’ve been having a lot of fun playing on Tera and playing Plants vs. Zombies! I’m enjoying Tera a lot because due to it’s free to play status, the friends I mentioned before, can also play. My husband Chris (not Psyduck) and I both bought the game before it went free to play so we have access to all character tabs. The combat style is so much fun. Dodging is a big deal and unlike most other games, you can’t just WALK through someone you’re fighting. You have to use realistic skills when it comes to corporeal movements. There are still magical abilities like blinking from one spot to another and shooting creatures with spells, but the aspect of bodies is very firm when you’re in a fight. I enjoy that.
Plants VS Zombies is my go to one-person fun game. It’s a strategy game but it doesn’t feel complicated or as though it’s hard work. I do love challenges, and this one has several, but they are well paced. It’s a lighthearted way for me to just tune out and just relax. In fact it’s so simple and the picture really should explain it well, that going into it any further would be silly of me. You have plants, you kill zombies. It feels good!
4. Practice a new language
I do find it incredibly interesting when someone speaks a different language than I do. I become enamored with the way things are said, so one of my favorite things to do for myself is learning a new language. To date, I’ve learned bits and pieces of various languages like Japanese and Korean. In high school I studied French and enjoyed every second of it.
A lot of the time when I hear a friend mentioning that they want to learn a new language, it’s been an evolution of sorts. First they enjoyed video games from that culture, or anime, or a drama. Other times it was because of an affection they had for someone of that culture. In any of these occasions it was obvious that the language was meant to be a bridge to connect one being to another, one entity to another. As someone who loves History and civilization studies, I’m always intrigued by anyone who wants to build these connections. As a stress reliever, it’s fantastic, because learning a language is a paced study. While you can always take a course or something, if you really want to learn a language you just need some books and an audio of what you’re studying. In other words it’s within your own control. Stress comes from things being outside of our control, and by diving into a language and learning it at your own pace, you’re taking back at least some of that control. We can’t control what happens outside of ourselves but we can control how we react to it. Throw yourself into something positive and life will take you somewhere great.
5. Take up a journal
I breathe easier when I’ve written my thoughts down on paper and a major contributor to stress is simply over-thinking. If you write it down, once you know it’s committed to something more permanent it becomes less burdening.
Whether you’re a guy, girl, guyish girl, or girly guy, there are journals for every type of personality and if you can’t find one that satisfies you, there’s also the option of making your own. Most people think of journals as a venting device, and yeah that’s great, but there’s so much more to a journal than that. It can hold your ideas, your funny anecdotes, and when you’re feeling down or lost, looking back on it can rev you right back up and make you want to try again. I used to do the venting, whiny journal thing. Hey, I was 14 and it was the end of the world as with most 14 year olds. It was over time that I started to add in more quirky and positive things to these journals and use them more as a symbol for hope and goals than despair and gloom. I am confident in my belief that that helped me overcome a lot of troubles as well as a lot of my immaturity.
Are you thinking that hiking isn’t elegant or nerdy? I can see why anyone would jump to that conclusion but it couldn’t be any further from the truth. Firstly, there is nothing more elegant in a person than knowing how to be at peace with their surroundings, and there is nothing cooler than a nerd who understands nature and it’s influence on all of our lives.
Think of all the perks, too! Hiking means you get a fun workout. Instead of being stuck in a gloomy stinky gym, or one with tons of fluorescents that accentuate every drop of sweat, grime, and unappealing lumps of flesh, you get a fun outdoor adventure, sunshine, rain, whatever, and you see things you can’t see within four walls. Hiking also means that if you get out to a solitary area and you’re in a terrible mood, you can SCREAM YOUR HEART OUT and nature won’t treat you like a jerk for doing so. The final perk is the best one. Once you’ve given it you’re all, and are so tired that you can’t feel anything and you DO feel everything all at the same time, your mind clears, and is not thinking of all the things that stressed you out in the first place. In other words Stress – 0, You – 1000. You win the game.
7. Prepare some tea and spoil yourself for the day or night
We all have those days where any of the effort we would have made to cheer ourselves just seems like way too much. Those are the days when a nice big mug full of tea is the best solution. Like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory says: The societal norm when someone is upset is to provide them with a warm beverage. A warm beverage soothes them.
It’s true, too.
That’s why if you have the opportunity to take the day or evening and make it all about you, go for it. Stay in your pajamas, make some tea, grab some tea cookies, a few magazines, books, or movies, and just relax. Turn off your phone, don’t check emails, heck, if you can bear it, don’t check ANY social media at all. Keep it drama free, stress free, and let life happen.
8. Go comic book hunting, antiquing, or to a museum.
Sometimes a quiet outing where you find and discover new things helps us re-evaluate where we are heading and what we really want. Something as simple as grabbing a bunch of comics for a rainy day says a lot. It says you want that rainy day to come, and are open to relaxing, as well as having your own space for a little while. Heading to an antique shop can reacquaint us with the life we envision for ourselves and can help motivate us again. Everyone has something from the past that they cherish. A fragment of a person who we so admired, that we sought to be just like them. Seeing things that remind us of these moments and people can help gear us back onto the right path, and sometimes come to terms with whether that path is no longer for us.
Inspiring yourself to move forward is never a crime. It’s a weight lifted off of our shoulders when we can confirm our biggest worries or genuinely cast them aside. Be quirky, check out a comic book museum, or a quiet little antique shop outside of town. Try new things.
If you’re at your worst and feel like you can’t do anything right, one of the best things you can try is cooking a meal. Not an overly complicated recipe, but stuff that comforts you and that you can share. Preparing a simple meal for family and friends can start to relax you if you look forward to the end result and don’t overthink the process. Turn on some music and let yourself get inspired. Make a nice strawberry salad, some baked potatoes, steaks, and try your hand at sauteing some baby carrots in a ginger garlic butter sauce. These are just suggestions but they’re pretty healthy and easy to make. More than that, they make you feel good. ginger is known to lift the spirits, garlic is good for a persons heart, strawberries incite happy feelings (unless you’re allergic, in which case, go for mandarin slices), potato starches actually soothe people, and steak is awesome if you’re a meat lover. If you don’t eat meat, Portobello mushrooms work fantastically.
The point is to make a meal that makes you happy. Not one that will stuff you to the brim and make you feel worse about yourself, but rather one you feel happy about sharing with people you love.
10. Have an impromptu Tabletop Game night
Invite your friends, or your family, hang out at home and order in and just enjoy one anothers company while playing a game and letting the days frustrations melt away. If you’re so caught up in the game that you forget all about the stress of the day, you will sleep better and probably wake up in a better mood. That can be key in changing anything that’s frustrating you. When we handle a stressful situation at work, school, or in every day life under a really bad mood, we pretty much just make it a lot worse. If we give ourselves a breather, though, and enter the situation in a better mood and with some perspective, things can improve a lot.
All you have to do is give yourself permission to have some silliness in your life and a lot of the anxiety that’s built up could go away. Sometimes it’s just that we take ourselves too seriously, but tabletop games allow us to put down those walls and simply have fun.
At the end of the day, your stress won’t go away because someone else changes. They can change a million times over and still not be whatever you want them to be. If you allow yourself the opportunity to enjoy your life, without feeling like you have to rescue everyone, or without procrastinating all the time and then feeling guilty about it, you spare yourself a lot of agony. Work hard, play hard, but playing hard doesn’t have to mean playing stupid. Getting drunk until you can’t be disciplined enough to control your reactions, or getting stoned until you don’t feel anything anymore, is not going to improve your life. There are a million other options out there for improvement and it’s up to you whether you want them to be the awesome options or the mediocre ones.
Personally, I opt for the more awesome variety. Mediocre options tend to be filled with the same exact kind of people who help induce a lot of stress. Just some food for thought.
Embrace the interesting and allow yourself to be an interesting, fun person.
On a final note, don’t let anyone bully you into doing stuff you don’t want to do. If you’re doing any of the stuff mentioned here, it makes it a lot easier to find a reason to say no without feeling like you’re lying or being a jerk. Let’s face it. So many people out there hate doing their own work. If you’re doing yours, why should you have to do theirs? Isn’t it so much easier to say no, if you can say, “Sorry, that doesn’t work for me. I have plans.”? Even if you don’t have plans, the minute you feel like you’re starting to get used, come up with one and do it. You’re not a doormat. You’re an interesting and fun person, in your own way. Keep that in mind the next time someone asks you to take care of their work.