Finals Week Playlist 2014

Day 39 Mantra: Blast some tunes and hang in there.

Keep your head up and push through finals week! (This is my last finals week ever of my undergraduate career. Craziness. That is an awesome feeling.) Here’s what I’ve been listening to (aka the songs that get stuck inside my head, for whatever reason.)

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“Centuries” – Fall Out Boy

“Geronimo” – Sheppard

“Shake It Off” – Taylor Swift

“Lips Are Movin” – Meghan Trainor

“Blank Space” – Taylor Swift

“Uptown Funk” – Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars

“Immortals” – Fall Out Boy

“Fireball” – Pitbull ft. John Ryan

“Shut Up And Dance” – Walk the Moon

And if you can’t decide what you want to listen to…you could always listen to the 2014 United State of Pop Remix:

Somewhere Along the Way, I Stopped Thinking and Started Being Happy

You have have noticed that my last post was nearly a month ago. Heck, I’m not proud of that. But instead of wiping the blog clean and simply pretending it never happened, I’d like to acknowledge it.

As soon as I made the decision to graduate early, I was feeling lost and confused, and thought I needed to jump on The Next Big Thing to feel complete in my life. I am always on the go and I like to distract myself instead of dealing with my feelings. I pride myself on my productivity, on my many passions and career goals. But this was a time for me to take care of myself, to heal up, and it’s impossible to be real with yourself when you’re always catapulting from one goal to the next.

I’m a total analytical junkie. I love thinking, I love numbers, and I love running through my thoughts. Is this valid? I might think. Am I enjoying myself enough? What could be a better use of my time?

All this questioning made me really unhappy. I knew over thinking was not the answer. I knew it was making me unhappy — I just didn’t know how to stop it. I thought this blog would help me — but in the first week, I fought my thoughts every day. I felt like an imposter, a preacher of self-worth and confidence that I did not have — did not even come close to having. But I wrote, still, tried to keep my head up and positivity on my brain.

I’ve learned you can’t force the cycle of thoughts to stop. I slowly had to ramp myself down from over thinking everything to only thinking about the necessities. It was a total pain. I hated slamming the brakes on my brain — in a weird way, it felt like I was limiting myself,even though in reality, I was freeing myself up to be more productive about real issues. Obsessing can be addictive to me — once I start, it’s hard to stop. So I had to take another approach — I tried not to let myself start thinking at all.

I hung out with people. I buried myself in books. I ran to the tunes of bass-thumping pop music. I wrote fiction — one of the few forms of where I allow myself total freedom. I tried to do things — quite simply, I tried to do things that made me feel like me, things that had fallen by the wayside.

I messed up a ton. I’m only human. But it was only recently that I’d realized that I stopped thinking and started being happy.

I took this month to slow down. I might not have documented it all, but here are some highlights:

  • November 15: I went on a scavenger hunt at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, through Watson Adventures. My team won the challenge, coming in first place on a trivia hunt! We were so shocked that we won (we’ve done several and always tied or lost by a point or two) that we started laughing when we heard the results!
  • November 26: I went to the library for fun for the first time in forever and read Insurgent cover to cover in three hours.
  • November 27: I took time to cook and spend some time with my family on Thanksgiving. Watching the parade and the dog show on TV is a must-do (I was totes rooting for the Sammy dog.) I also finished up my final essays and presentations for classes.
  • November 28: Went shopping with my mom very late in the day (no a.m. rushing for us!) and managed some good deals nonetheless.
  • December 1 & 2: Watched the entirety of season seven of Supernatural on Netflix. #noregrets #whoops I also cooked a lot of vegetables.
  • December 3: I remember being grateful for the hauntingly beautiful moon on a late night stroll.
  • December 5: I gave my final presentation for one of my favorite classes — thereby finishing all of my undergraduate work (except going to classes) until my final on December 16. (The presentation, by the way, was on Gluten Free Hudson Valley.)
  • December 7: I met up with a friend from ASME and explored Manhattan. Followed through with the tradition of going to Rockefeller Center and stopped off at the Plaza as well as our old stomping grounds.
  • December 8: I slept for 16 hours (unheard of for me!) and it was glorious.

In between, I caught up on my laundry, chatted with family and generally enjoyed myself. Have I done anything remarkable? No, not really. But I’m recharging my batteries, I’m happier than ever…and I think not writing that down, that sort of progress, would be a damn shame.

I’d be lying if I said I was happy all the time. But I’ve made bits of progress where it counts. The negative inner self-talk is now recognizable, and I’m stomping it out. I try to find the good in situations instead of immediately jumping to the worst possible scenario. I’ve learned there is a time and place for relaxing, and sometimes you need to embrace it, not fall into it kicking and protesting (my usual strategy.)

I’ve come a long way in (just under) one month. Every day feels more possible to live the life I’ve imagined for myself.

I couldn’t have written this post a month ago. I’m glad I can write it now.

Day 33 Mantra: Don’t beat yourself up over the lack of a log — the important part is the result of the journey.

Snooze Away Your Stress

Do I still have bedhead? It might be because I slept for about 15 hours today.

Whoops.

Normally, I try not to sleep in, but I’d been feeling run down and like my batteries were out of juice lately.

All too often, I think sleep is the first priority to drop when people are overwhelmed with work and other obligations. It’s so important to hit the “magic” seven to eight hours of sleep daily. At least for me, I know I turn into a total grump (complete with “get off my lawn!” attitude.)

So for me, getting enough sleep is vital. Quality pillow time = quality me time. I’m lucky enough to not have a) young children b) pets c) pesky neighbors d) jackhammers (select one or all of the above!) waking me up in the morning.

Day 3 Mantra: Sleep is sacred.

Here are some of my favorite ways to optimize sleep:

Step Off Your (Metaphoric) Mountain

It’s easy to say “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” but sometimes, my problems feel gigantic. They’re anything but small in my mind.

It’s hard to deal with a mountain of a problem when you can’t see the top, the peak of success. All too often, the molehill-sized problems in our lives look like mountains. But we’re simply viewing them from the bottom, and from the bottom, it’s hard to get perspective.

I think it’s similar to the way in which after you’ve faced a Difficult Life Challenge, some mountain of life’s issues, you emerge stronger. Admittedly, sometimes you’re not even scaling the problem, not even moving forward — it’s all you can do to just hang on, knuckles clenched, gasping for breath and praying that you’ll get through this. Those times are hard, but on the mountain, they’re just one small part of the bigger picture.

But for me, during those moments, it sometimes feels like time stops. It’s like the world is frozen in place. Anxiety and worries can weigh you down from catapulting over this monster of a mountain.

If only I could ditch these heavy worries, you think. Then I could finally scale the mountain. And if you ditch a worry or two, sure, you feel better immediately — but you still feel the need to cling to this mountain. Even if you optimize your environment to be as worry-free as possible, there is still something there. You’re not quite free.

Now, hold up a second.

What if I told you to just step off the mountain? You know, the one that’s practically running your life because it’s so ginormous?

You’d think I was crazy, right? Like, there’s no way in hell I’m stepping off a freaking mountain. I must hold on and grip it until my fingers ache deep into my bones. I must have it become the focus of my life — because without it, I would not exist. I would fail — I would fall off the mountain. How else can I succeed at this challenge if I don’t think about it constantly? (This is my train of thought more than I care to admit, but here I am, admitting it, because I think it is really important to talk about worry and anxiety in a way that’s accessible. In a way that feels real. This blog is not a psychological self-help book. I’m not qualified to do any of that. But I do hope you can read this, and think of yourself – or a loved one, or a friend – and try to understand where these thoughts are rooted and how to acknowledge and move past them.)

This is how it feels when people tell me to stop worrying about whatever challenge I’m facing. It’s not that I believe worrying will help me (I do recognize, on some level, that it is detrimental to my goals and my health.) It’s just — at the time, it is the center of my life. The mountain feels like the pillar of me. In a way, it feels like a part of me, a foundation.

Here’s the kicker: I see the mountain as the Challenge. I see clinging to the Challenge as a way to survive, as a way to hang on to the hope that I will scale it.

But the mountain is not the Challenge. The mountain is only the Worry.

Wait, what?!

It took me a long time to realize that I was not clinging to the Challenge. I was actually clinging to the Worry. When I faced an exam, I thought the insurmountable height of the Challenge was paralyzing me. But I had prepared, studied my butt off, and worked hard. It wasn’t the Challenge that gave me anxiety — it was the Worry, perceived as the Challenge. It’s not that I can’t do it — I’m just perceiving my worries as part of the problem I need to take on.

And this is hardly ever true. I’m more than qualified to tackle anything life throws at me, and I’ve proven this again and again academically, socially and in my career. But this separation between what I need to overcome to succeed (the Challenge) and what I need to overcome in smaller increments (the Worry) is crucial. You don’t need to do both things at once. You don’t even have to think about both things. Success in both will come eventually. You just need to step off your mountain and realize the worry is a separate entity from the challenges in your life.

It’s only now that I’m slowly realizing this shift in perspective is so integral to my life. Relabeling what I struggle with — hardly ever the actual Challenge — as struggling with the Worry instead is a huge step. It’s not easy. Sometimes it takes time. Sometimes you might screw up a little.

But it’s okay. You can climb mountains.

Day 2 Mantra: Scale back your perspective.

Will this matter a week from now? Will this matter a year from now? Are you looking at the mountain as the Challenge? Jump off from your worries. Breathe.