A mix of the pandemic and the winter and then the first trimester of pregnancy has left me feeling depleted. I’m not even really overwhelmed… I’m just drained. I had a little bit of a breakdown recently where I realized I was at the very end of my rope. I think it was a mix of frustration and depletion. The pandemic wall.
(I should add the disclaimer here that I feel incredibly, incredibly lucky to be in the position I’m in right now. While I was pretty sick through the first trimester, it’s been an otherwise straightforward and easy pregnancy. We have not had anyone close to us get seriously sick from COVID. We both have our jobs and can easily and safely work from home with no problems. And we haven’t had to worry about working while doing virtual school or raising children during a pandemic. It’s not lost on me.)
MAKING THINGS EASIER
In a lot of ways, my introverted personal preferences for living life lent itself just fine to quarantining and social distancing. But after a year? I finally feel it taking its toll. I miss seeing my friends in person– my local friends are either out of state right now. And it’s also just super cold and hard to socialize safely and comfortably outdoors. I really miss my family, especially now that I’m pregnant. With the winter in full swing, I feel more cooped up inside. I also think being sick for months really wore me down. Now that I’m finally feeling a little better, I know I was just not in a great mental state feeling so ill.
More than ever, I feel myself needing to cut some corners and be okay with letting things go. I don’t need to try to accomplish everything under the sun. I had gotten really down on myself with negative self-talk about a month ago, which prompted me to restart therapy asap. And I know it was a mix of things, including hormones and just the general pandemic wall everyone is facing and having some unhealthy habits with comparison on Instagram…. but one of the biggest things to come out of it was that I realized that I had to give myself permission to drop a few balls. And recognize that it’s not the end of the world. The only person expecting me to do everything… was me.
I know I can’t be the only one taking shortcuts, especially right now. I can’t tell if this is a really stupid blog post or not, but I’m really just curious because I feel like it can’t be just me. So I thought I’d share some of the ways I’m making life a little easier… and I’d love to hear any advice, tips, or hacks you have too.
I’ve done meal kits in the past and really enjoyed the convenience. (I credit the first experience I had with actually teaching me how to feel confident cooking honestly. I never enjoyed cooking, but meal kits make it easy to learn new skills.) Between various moves, I stopped… and now we’re doing it again. In large part, because of the pandemic. The “what should we have for dinner” question was starting to drive me mad. Mike loves to cook but in an effort to help split the responsibility, I do the meal kit preparations as my contribution. It has made such a huge difference. I love knowing three meals every week are covered by me, Mike does a couple, and then we do takeout on the remaining night(s).
I implemented this “rule” a few years ago after burning myself out. I still experience quite a lot of guilt over it. Because I can always be on and always work, it felt like I should always be on and always be working. But it wasn’t sustainable. It’s hard because my job is largely sharing my life and by taking weekends essentially off, I am doing nearly 30% less than what I could. However, I know I’m better working during the week and have more to bring to the table overall because I’ve allowed myself two days to step away. Being “on” 24/7 is not healthy and it’s worth that 30% sacrifice to me.
I had been so reluctant to get house cleaners…. but about midway through the pandemic, I finally hired a small, local team. We had them coming twice a month and because they were a team, they could be in and out of our house in under 90 minutes. It’s a little too challenging right now during the winter with both Mike and I working from home so I paused it. (Neither of us felt comfortable being in the house due to the pandemic. So it was difficult to coordinate logistics of work schedules and where we could go for the 90 minutes.)
I can’t wait to resume though. It just made the world of difference. We still did a lot of daily chores, obviously, as twice a month isn’t enough to keep your house clean. But the service meant we were getting a thorough deep clean that made the in between time a lot more manageable.
ENJOYING BORING TASKS
Okay, I have just felt totally uninspired to do any of the boring tasks that I have to do. I just don’t want to. Emptying the dishwasher. Folding laundry. Sorting mail and opening packages. Whatever. To combat this, I’ve been listening to audiobooks during everything. I pop my headphones in if Mike’s around so he is not subjected to whatever chapter I’m in the middle of, and feel like I’m doing two productive things. The enjoyment I get from the audiobook cancels out whatever annoyance of the task at hand is. The real “hack” (lol, I don’t know that it counts as a hack) is that if I am super into the audiobook, I’ll find myself searching for small tasks to do so I can squeeze in an extra ten or fifteen minutes of listening.
In a similar vein, I have gotten in the habit of doing tasks as a gift to my future self. It sounds crazy, but trust me it works. For someone reason, tricking myself into doing something that I know I’ll appreciate later as a “gift” to my future self, makes it so. much. easier. to do in the first place. I always make sure to “thank” my previous self down the road when I’m grateful for something done.
It first occurred to me to do this when I could not for the life of me remember if I set up automatic recurring payments for this one estimated tax for the state of New Jersey. I couldn’t find any email confirmation in my inbox. But I had a vague memory of setting it up… just couldn’t fully remember if I had. I found a perfectly labeled screenshot of the confirmation in the folder I use for tax related stuff on my computer. And I was so grateful I had thought to take that screenshot 18 months prior because it saved me a huge headache. So now when I’m doing something that takes extra time or feels like a slight annoyance in the moment. But I know I will appreciate the extra effort for making my future life a little easier, I do it as a gift to myself!