It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon this article. It’s a Lifehacker piece about helping those that are grieving. Being someone without any recent deaths or friends with recent deaths, it wasn’t exactly topical but I decided to read on anyway. I didn’t expect to find anything, but what I did find has become profoundly helpful for many people in my life, including myself.

The tip I’m referring to is the phrase, “You don’t have to have the answers right now.” The basic message is that healing will take time, but on another level it makes the suggestion that it is okay to not feel perfect. We spend a lot of time trying to change our emotions. We believe that by focusing on the symptoms of our personal ailments, that we can treat their root cause. But what if the cause is beyond our control, like a physical disease or a stressful time at work? Clearly, acceptance is a more helpful path than rejection of our very natural feelings.

And when I say acceptance, I very explicitly mean acceptance of ourselves. We don’t have to have all the answers right now, we don’t have to feel better right now, and, as a result of this, we do not have to dislike ourselves or our circumstances for making us feel less than perfect. Understand your circumstances and uncover potential solutions if they exist, but above all else, accept yourself.


Don’t Get Busy

I’m big on avoiding burnout. It’s a problem that’s plagued me for years and years and years, hamstringing my productivity at the worst times and forcing me to take a break from the hobbies and pursuits that I enjoy most.

There are simple ways to avoid burnout in the short-term, but a long-term solution requires quite a bit more understanding of how success is constructed.

In this article from the blog Study Hacks, the author details a study conducted by psychologists at the Universität der Künste (the Wolverines if I’m not mistaken…). The short version is that the most successful individuals studied spent their time hyper-focused on one task at a time instead of overloading themselves with many tasks at once.

But while this may be hard to stomach or comprehend, it’s the truth, and it is exactly that psychological bias that causes us to stay in patterns of burn-out. According to a recent article in Psychology Today, if you have to exhaust yourself physically and mentally to slow down, you may be relying on faulty assumptions such as the desire to be perfect, the belief that you should not feel stressed, and the need to delay relaxation until all tasks are done.

There is no easy formula for preventing the big BO, but there are patterns we can recognize within ourselves to improve our quality of life. The most important message is to cut yourself some slack, relax, and do less with more focus. Trust me, you deserve it.


Ask the Right Question

Today’s message is simple:

Sometimes when you ask, “what is wrong with me?” the answer is, “nothing.”

This is a personal anecdote, no hard scientific evidence, but a full week of grappling with this question, finding no answer whatsoever has enlightened me to its importance. Often when we cannot find the answers we need, we are asking the wrong question. In my case, the question was not “What is wrong with me?’ but, “What is causing me to feel this way?”

Our circumstances have a powerful effect in our lives, but it takes maturity to remember that.


Preventing Burn-Out

I am not bragging when I say that I do everything and always have. In high school my schedule was packed from before sunrise to after sundown and then I’d do my homework. Even today, I simply cannot find enough hours in the day for all the things I want to do. This, lads and lassies, is not always a good thing.

We are creatures of limited resources. Diet and exercise can stretch those resources by leaps and bounds but no one possesses infinite physical and mental energy. When that energy runs out day after day after day, we experience the dreaded BO: burn out.

Burn out is as real and significant a phenomenon as laziness , and it is potentially worse. But there are ways to safeguard yourself:

1. Consider your priorities.

As I said earlier, we are creatures of limited resources, capable of accomplishing a lot, but not everything we may wish. So know what is important to you and what you can put on hold when times get tough.

2. Practice mindfulness.

Know yourself and know what you are capable of, but also know your limits. Do a regular self-check and notice the signs of fatigue.

3. Take care of yourself.

This is probably the most impactful tip there is. You can drive a car for tens of thousands of miles, as long as you keep the oil fresh and the tires aired up. A good diet and exercise are like routine maintenance for your body and your mind and will help keep you strong when times get tough.

We are capable of great things, but men (or women) of steel are the work of comic books for a reason. Know what’s important to you, keep an eye out for wear and tear, and change your oil every 5,000 miles and you’ll get a lot farther than pushing.