Hi there! Steph and Sophie of Howlin’ Lamb here. Both of us work as analysts at a consulting firm downtown, and while that takes up most of our time during the week, we try to keep the rest of our lives (cooking, visiting new restaurants, trying our hand at new workouts, the pursuit of cocktails) up and running on the weekend.
When we first discussed guest posting with Kate, we knew we wanted to do something wellness related. In case you are new to her blog, the girl is one tough cookie! This site is full great tips on how to persevere and take care of yourself when facing stressful health journeys. To pay homage to her attitude, we want to talk a little bit about self-care for those of you with other types of life and job stress. We all face those lifemaggedons sometimes, where it can feel like we’re barely keeping our heads above water. For us, this mainly happens during a 70+ hour work week, but most women today are trying to balance personal lives, sanity, careers, relationships, family, creative lives, and any number of other responsibilities. While this can be incredibly challenging, we’re slowly developing strategies to help us get through the busiest of times (“oh I got out of work at 2am, what a treat!”) to keep us as happy and healthy as we could hope. Hope some of these work for you as well!
1. Treat your mental energy and willpower as a finite resource. You can’t be focused in disciplined in ten areas at once, so pick your priorities and allow for wiggle room in other areas. Steph loves training for races, but a month before her last half-marathon, she worked two eighty hour weeks. Needless to say, she couldn’t follow her training plan exactly, but by lessening the mileage and trying to optimize (and therefore shorten) her workouts, she was able to stay awake at work and still run happy on race day. She didn’t get the exact time she wanted but still had a good race (and was proud to finish strong despite skipping her two longest training runs). A female CEO whom she heard speak during college said it best, “You can have it all, just not all at the same time and in equal amounts.”
2. Ask for what you need. It’s always nice when someone offers their help, but many times, we feel uncomfortable accepting it or don’t know what we want. Take the time to figure it out what kind of support you like, and don’t be shy to reach out for assistance. This is especially true in the workplace; if you don’t have the direction or support you need, it causes the entire team more work in the long run.
3. Similarly to the point above, saying “no” is also important. This can mean turning down drunk escapades to stay in bed all day long, but you can also assert yourself in the office. If your boss is piling on assignments under deadlines that you know are unreasonable, you can always say, “Sure, happy to take that on. I’m working on A & B right now, and those need to be done by X time. Should I hold off on this until I finish the others, or do you think I should reprioritize?” Oftentimes, the people who manage us may not have a good idea of what is on our plates or how long those things take, so reminding them in this ways shows that you are organized and committed to getting them what they need, when they need it.
4. Respect your body. Kate has several great posts on this, and it’s worth reiterating. Oftentimes, when we are stressed, things like eating habits, exercise, and sleep are the first to fly out the window. You make not have the time or energy to pack a perfect kale-quinoa-whatever lunch, but loading up on the grease and salt will only make you feel sluggish. Fine to enjoy some French fries occasionally, but even when we are stuck at work for dinner for weeks on end, we remind ourselves that eating pad thai for a week straight will not improve our focus, energy and happiness (believe us, we’ve done it). When it comes to exercise, again, be kind to yourself. If you are a person who doesn’t mind getting up for some intense workouts, great, but your body may need something gentler. Something like a walk or yoga still counts, and can give you energy and occupy your mind. Maybe you’ll end up strolling through a new neighborhood and finding a store to visit that weekend, or a park where you can sit and read (or picnic with some wine!). And if you are sleeping four hours a night, starting up a CrossFit regime is probably not the best move.
5. Prepare for battle. When you sense a particularly busy or unpleasant week is ahead, take whatever time you can to make things easier for yourself. For Steph, this means bulk cooking and packing/freezing food on the weekend for the following week, as well as making sure she has clean workout clothes. Sophie prepares for a tough week of work by making sure her most comfortable workpants have been picked up from the drycleaner (nothing worse than having to wear tights when you’re at work late at night), and giving her sisters a call over the weekend, since they probably won’t hear from her for the next five days. Any little thing that can remove decisions or effort later (getting laundry done, hanging up work outfits, making snack packs) will help. Throughout the week, take 5-10 minutes at the end of the day to set yourself up for the next day (by drafting some morning to-dos, packing your bag, making sure your keys are in the right spot, etc). These little tricks make it easier to get out the door and make you feel that much more capable.
6. Vent intentionally. Think of your stress like air in a balloon. If the pressure gets too high, it will burst, regardless of what else you do. Not only do you not want to burst (into screams, tears, whatever), but this will inevitably occur at the least convenient time. Rather than ruining your day (and other people’s), make intentional decisions as to how you’re going to let off some steam, whether by calling a loved one, playing with a dog, or (Steph’s personal favorite) a boxing class. Whatever works for you, just choose something and make time for it so you don’t lose your cool at your infant niece’s baptism in front of your grandmother.
7. Try to keep perspective. Nothing lasts forever, and your lifemageddon will also end eventually. Deadlines will pass, your apartment will be cleaned, and you might even find yourself craving that kale-quinoa casserole. One of Sophie’s friends has a note up on her desk that reads “However things are today, they will be different tomorrow” – acknowledge that there is a light at the end of the tunnel so you can be kinder to yourself while you get there.
What do you all think? Let us know in the comments how you deal with being at the end of your rope, and pop over to say hello at Howlin’ Lamb!
Sophie & Steph