Do It Badly: An antidote to perfectionism

Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.

– G. K. Chesterton

 

As an anxious person, I tend to think a lot. Often to the point where I don’t actually do the things I need to do. This is known as overthinking or perfectionism and is a hallmark of anxiety. It can impact all areas of life, and for me in particular, I believe it’s a major cause of my recent burnout at work.

Sounds like you? I’ve got good news. There’s a way past this. Continue reading “Do It Badly: An antidote to perfectionism”

Spring!

A breeze so kindly

Softens a winters grip

Please wait with me

We can take in the sun

– Birds of Tokyo, White Leaves

 

Today, 1 September, marks the beginning of spring!*^ And it’s an absolute pearler.

1-flowers
Just don’t look at the forecast!

*In the Southern Hemisphere.

^Some may argue that seasons start at the equinox/solstice. They’re wrong. This is my blog, and I say they start on the 1st.

This turn of the calendar came to my attention when a fellow blogger posted about her plans to write 30,000 words this month. (Good luck, Lauren! 🙂) I’m not going to do that. But I would like to take the opportunity to “spring clean” myself a bit. Continue reading “Spring!”

Introducing National Mental Health Day

Watch winter melt away

Look for longer days

The sun comes out

Come up from underground

Yellowcard, The Hurt Is Gone

 

We all need a mental health day sometimes. But what if the whole country could have one at the same time?

Allow me to propose a new public holiday for New Zealand.

nmhd

Hard Times

I’ve noticed people around me seem a bit down this week. Work colleagues are visibly unhappy, even the usually bubbly ones. My flatmates tell me the situation is the same in their offices. I’ve been way off-colour myself.

This got me thinking: Is there something in the water that’s making the whole town upset? Am I generalising from myself with a heaping dose of confirmation bias? Have I just been unlucky with a small sample size? Or is Wellington just feeling flat right now?

I hit up r/Wellington to take the pulse of the community. The response was overwhelming.

rip my inbox

I got 39 replies in 24 hours. Not quite r/AskReddit levels of “RIP my inbox”, but strong for a modest community like ours.

Many culprits were suggested for the citywide gloom. Many workplaces were complained about. We even considered calling in Wellington Paranormal. But several commenters pointed to another cause – one that runs wider than any workplace.

SAD city

At 41° south, Wellington doesn’t get a whole lot of sun between May and August. This (somehow or other; reports vary) leads to the well-documented phenomenon known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Not everyone experiences it – some of my colleagues are still delightful rays of sunshine! But it’s common enough that it could plausibly bring down a large proportion of the city’s office workers.

Whatever the cause, mid-to-late August is the worst time of year for it – we’ve suffered for a while, tempers are starting to fray, and the end isn’t quite in sight yet. And as it stands, there’s no public holidays for two months either side. What better time to give everyone a day off?

Holiday spirit

How does one celebrate National Mental Health Day? As the commenter above suggested, it’s simple: Just do whatever you’d do if you took a day off work! Relax, socialise, create – whatever (healthy) activity brings you joy and gets you ready to face the world again.

And while you’re doing that, spare a thought for those of us for whom “mental health” means so much more. A National Mental Health Day would be the perfect conversation starter for New Zealand’s mental health crisis.

Awareness events come and go, websites are easily forgotten, but a public holiday would give the issue a permanent place in our consciousness.

Tell me you’re not thinking about Labour Day already. It’s still two months away! We could give mental health the same recognition as the 40-hour work week. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

calendar

New Zealand needs a National Mental Health Day.

To bridge that pesky gap between public holidays.

To blunt the impact of SAD.

To recharge for the final stretch of winter.

And to get people talking about mental health.

Let’s make this happen, New Zealand!

 

And in the meantime, fellow kiwis: Hang on till the hurt (of SAD) is gone.

Change comes for you

Even if you’re hiding out

So wake to this truth

And maybe you’ll believe me now

How to have a depressing Sunday

Don’t leave me drowning in your Sunday rain

It’s right down the drain I go

– Foo Fighters, Sunday Rain

I’m gonna talk you through the day I just had as an example of what not to do. It’s a warning to my future self.

Step 1: Don’t make any plans.

Don’t check in with your friends or other local acquaintances. Just resign yourself to the fact that you’re going to be alone with nothing to do and a day to kill.

If you had plans but they fell through, don’t attempt to make any new plans. Don’t have a fallback. You went all in on those plans. Dwell on them.

Congratulations, you now have nothing to look forward to! Scene set for the day.

Step 2: Night-time self-loathing.

When you wake up to go to the bathroom in the night, once you get back to bed, open up your phone and start surfing. Go on, you’re only gonna keep dwelling on those plans otherwise. Soak up all the instant gratification (and blue light) you can get. Whatever crap you usually browse. Reddit, Youtube, adult content, the works. Don’t worry, it’s Sunday, there’ll be plenty of time to sleep in afterward. Except of course you won’t, because the sunlight/noise/your bladder will wake you up at your usual weekday time. But you don’t know that yet, despite the fact you’ve experienced this several times before.

Step 3: Wake up at your usual weekday time.

There it goes. Lie in bed for a while, secure in the knowledge you won’t get back to sleep. Forget about making last-minute plans now – no one wants to see you like this. Oh well, you’ve got some hours up your sleeve. What better way to spend that time than…

Step 4: Gaming.

Preferably something fast-paced and mentally taxing, like real-time strategy. What could be more fun than building up a city and tearing down the neighbour’s one? Unfortunately, since you’re sleep-deprived, things don’t work out as well as usual. Your satisfaction evaporates, replaced by frustration. Time for the ace in the hole: cheat codes! Look on in guilty defiance as the enemy town burns in a hail of gunfire.

Okay, false start. But it’s only mid-morning, and you’ve got another strategy you want to try. Time for round 2!

Step 5: Share your joy with the world.

Now that your brain is thoroughly fried, it’s time to take on those errands you were putting off. Namely, groceries. It’s lunchtime and, on top of gamer brain, you’re getting hangry. It would have been nice and quiet in the morning, but that was gaming time! So you now get to experience the joy of grocery shopping at the busiest time of the day (if not the week).

Act like you own the place. This is your supermarket. Resent the fact that other people exist. They’re trying their best to get in your way and generally make the experience as annoying as possible. Don’t let them. Cut them off. Stare them down. Whatever it takes to get to the checkout.

Be sure to dither about your lunch options too. You want something cheap, healthy, and ready to eat, and you’re not leaving till you find it. No, it doesn’t exist, and it never will. Give up and go home to the canned food you already had. You could have just eaten that – why did you even go grocery shopping?

Step 6: More gaming.

Take out your grocery rage on some pixelated characters. Well, try to, anyway…

☀️☀️☀️

How to salvage something from a depressing Sunday

Step 7: Suddenly decide to do something.

It’s now late afternoon and you’re racked with guilt for wasting the day. But wait, it’s not over yet! What’s the quickest and easiest way to gain a feeling of accomplishment?

Exercise.

If you’re lucky, you’re feeling a tingling sensation in your legs at this point. That’s all the pent up energy from doing nothing all day. Time to strike. Get those training shoes on and hit the pavement!

Yes, it’s dark out. Too bad. Hey, at least it’s quiet now – a refreshing change from the supermarket!

Crush it for half an hour and bask in the warm glow of endorphins. Congratulations, you’ve done something today! But why stop now?

Step 8: Self-care.

Hooray, you don’t hate yourself any more! What better way to celebrate than with some R&R. Take a long hot shower/bath to clean away your sweat. Ahh, doesn’t that feel amazing?

Step 9: Don’t stop now!

You can have a good, productive day yet! You may be tired, but push through! Crank up the music and make yourself some dinner!

Way to go! You’ve accomplished something today, AND you’ve saved yourself some work in the coming days. I guess this Sunday wasn’t a write-off after all. But, looking back, it feels hollow. Don’t you wish you’d done something with the rest of the day?

Oh well. Let’s call it a draw.

Step 10: Promise yourself you’ll do better next Sunday.

You’ve got a week to make plans. Get on it!

How was your Sunday? What have you got planned for the next one? How do you deal when plans fall through? Let me know!

A is for…

I take a pill to help me through the day

I stay inside until I feel okay

– Ladyhawke, Anxiety

 

Hi, my name is Evan, and I’m anxious.

I don’t mean I’m nervous about publishing this post. Well, I am, but it’s not just that. What I’m talking about is…

Anxiety.

Constant low-level fear, anxiety.

Freak out in a crowded supermarket, anxiety.

Hide in the bathroom while I have a panic attack, anxiety.

But you know what? In spite of this, I’m having the time of my life. That’s why I’m writing this blog – to show how good life with anxiety can be.

It’s a reminder, for the hard times, that it gets better. That when the storm passes, the sun comes out again.

IMG_0513
[sunshine intensifies]
I need reminding of this once in a while. Maybe you do too. I hope this helps.

Unfortunately, anxiety doesn’t go away. That’s not how it works. It’s part of who I am, and I’m okay with that. But I won’t let it take over.

I am more than my anxiety.

You are more than yours too.

 

There’s joy not far from here

I know there is

This isn’t everything you are

– Snow Patrol, This Isn’t Everything You Are

 

☀☀☀

 

A is also for About. Check out my new About page!

The social media lemming: Green-haired with envy

My spirit animal is the lemming.

Not the cute rodents that roam the tundra of Norway. The video game version.

1 Let's Go!
Let’s Go!

This game was my jam during my university days. I spent thousands of hours building devious puzzles and setting records for the original levels, with a modest but widespread community of like-minded rodents. My specialty was exploiting glitches in the program to make the lemmings do things that shouldn’t be lemmingly possible. Like this:

2 The Far Side
Mayhem 12: The Far Side. Yes, you’re supposed to go around the solid steel!

The game is founded on the fabricated myth that lemmings follow each other over cliffs to their death. These guys, left to their own devices, will blindly go along with their fellow rodents, even if that means falling into a bottomless pit.

Well, I’ve just done the human social media equivalent.

This should be a doddle!
3 Follow the leader
Taxing 25: Follow the leader…

I’m still new to this whole social media thing, okay? Unlike the rest of my generation who jumped in a decade ago, I held out til October last year.

I found a fantastic local community of friendly, introverted yet outgoing characters. These people do cool stuff. They inspired me to get off my backside and go out and do stuff. Lots of stuff.

Too much stuff.

It seemed so easy at first. But it turns out I was blindly walking into a trap – and a common one at that.

4 Watch out
Taxing 2: Watch out, there’s traps about
Oh no!

Don’t get me wrong – I had some great times and some amazing new experiences. But looking back, I realised I was doing things to prove to them that I could. You signed up for a 10k run? I’m there. You work out at the gym? Me too. You go out for drinks midweek? I can handle it.

You’re starting a blog? Ok, honest to god, I thought of that independently. But I couldn’t help but try to outdo you!

As I mentioned in my last post, it caught up with me.

5 there's traps about
Yowch!

How did I get here? Social media envy. Somewhere along the way, I went from “This sounds like a great thing to try, count me in!” to “What? Some aspect of your life is better than mine? No fair!” Inevitably, in my vain attempt to do it all, I hit the wall.

6 Better rethink your strategy
The game is trying to tell me something…
Pressing paws
7 Paws
Paws = Pause. Geddit?

Here’s the thing: There are dozens of regular contributors to this group. I’m just one guy. I can’t physically keep up.

But more than that: These people have worked hard – perhaps for years – to get to where they are. To build those friendships and relationships, to get that job, to gain that skill, to find the energy to live a busy life. And to handle their liquor of course.

There’s no way I can live out the amazing life of user123 over there. But I don’t need to. Because, guess what? I have my own life too. I’ve done other things in that time and gotten somewhere myself. I don’t know for sure, but things seem pretty good in my little corner over here.

And who’s to say their life is any “better” or “worse” than mine? Maybe user123 actually has a crappy life and only shares the good bits. You’d never know! There’s no point in comparing myself to them – I can’t even rate my own life, let alone the lives of internet people I barely know!

New strategy
8 If at first
Taxing 1: If at first you don’t succeed…

In light of this, I’m re-evaluating my approach to social media. Here’s the plan:

  • Reduce the amount of time I spend there. It’s tempting to get constant updates, but I can easily catch up with just a couple of visits a day. This frees up time and energy to get on with my own life – which, conveniently, means I’m more likely to have something worth sharing!
  • Keep looking out for social opportunities and new things to try, but be sure to find time and energy for them. Prioritise: Will this bring more joy to my life than the other things I was planning to do?
  • Be happy for the people who go out and do great things. Let them inspire me. But turn the focus back to what I’m trying to accomplish in my own life.

The key here is perspective. Step back and think about just how amazing this is. All these people, each with their own unique life experiences, come together on this forum and share their best moments. And you know what? They’ve earned those moments. I haven’t. But I’ll have my own too.

Time for this lemming to stop following and start leading his own life.

9 Yippee
Yippee!

Mental health self-awareness: Doing a little soul-searching

The following is adapted from a story I shared with my online community. I’ve received many thoughtful responses and pieces of advice, which I’m very grateful for. So if you’re from there and you’re reading this, thank you so much, and sorry there’s not much new here for you here!

Confession time. So, that self-improvement journey I mentioned? It’s actually a mental health journey.

I’m dealing with a long-term issue, and for the most part I’m on the way up. But, as you’ll see below, there are down times too.

This blog just turned the corner into mental-health-ville. Enjoy the ride. And don’t worry, there’s plenty of sunshine ahead!

My mental health day

Despite what my last two posts may have you believe, I’ve been really stressed out for the last little while.

I hit the wall this week. To be honest, I saw this coming and didn’t do anything to stop it – but I didn’t expect to break so soon.

It was a beautiful sunny day out, so rather than hide indoors, I did what any sane (?) person would do in this situation: I took a pen and notepad and went down to my local park to do a little soul-searching.

Park & write
Greetings from sunny Katherine Mansfield Park!

Maybe it’s a coincidence that my local park is named for a famous author. Because I got inspired to write. A lot. I drafted this entire post there over the course of two hours.

All these things that I’ve done

This was set in motion two weeks prior when a change was announced at work. I can’t do much about my work situation (besides job hunting – let’s not even go there), but I realised there are a lot of factors that are completely in my control. So I came up with a laundry list of all the things I’ve done that might have led me to this point.

tl,dr: I tried to do too much at once.

  • Alcohol. Between work drinks and other social events, my alcohol consumption has shot way up lately. I never developed a tolerance for the stuff so it hits me really hard – great on the night, not so great in the following days. And of course it messes with my sleep.
  • Coffee. About a month ago I went up to three cups a day, and that third one really bites. I basically turn into a jittery mess for the rest of the day. And even though I don’t drink it after 2pm, it probably messes with my sleep. (There’s a pattern emerging here.)
  • Screen time. I spend most of my workday on a computer with two screens, and then I go home and turn on the laptop. I’ve known for a long time that looking at screens in the evening messes with my sleep, and yet I keep doing it. It’s hard not to. Sometimes I feel like there’s nothing else to do.
  • The blog. Yes, the one you’re reading right now. I stayed up late on Sunday night for last week’s post. Exactly what I wanted to avoid. I have other material ready to go but I wanted to put that out while it was fresh (like the muffins). See the above point about screen time.
  • Baking. Like the blog, I’ve only just started this. But I stayed up Monday night to bake for a work lunch that I didn’t even make it to. (I brought the muffins in for the team the next day!)
  • Food. I make healthy-ish food for myself, but lately I’ve been eating out more in the interests of time and/or social life. Healthy options are available (usually) but I don’t tend to take them. There’s also work afternoon teas (which at our place are mostly cake and chips), baked treats (not just the ones I make) and questionable snacks (such as waffles at 3am).
  • Gym. I joined a month ago and I have a weights routine figured out (yay!) but my body isn’t coping at the moment. I can get through a session just fine – in fact I really enjoy it – but it really drains me for the next couple of days. I get that there’s a temporary phase of adjustment when you start working out, but the timing hasn’t been good. It’s also a big investment of time, especially since I’m doing yoga there as well. We’re talking an hour a day here if I do it all.
  • Busy weekends. I had two full-on weekends in a row leading up to this, which means I effectively didn’t have a break in over two weeks. I used to stay home gaming all weekend so I’m not accustomed to moving at this time of the week!
  • Social media. I’ve recently become part of an amazing local community. I invest a lot of time and emotional energy here, and up to now it’s been repaid in spades. Many of the above things have come about through this group, and I’ve had some great new experiences. But the site itself is quite addictive, and it’s become my go-to distraction – not good when I need to get stuff done.
Ok, laundry listed. Now what?

On the face of it, this might sound like a fun, fulfilling lifestyle. But here’s the thing: I’ve taken on most of these things in the last month, and many of them for the first time. And in every case I’ve invited more stress into my life. None of these things is overwhelming in itself – it was the cumulative stress of everything at once that got me.

At this stage I’m not going to single out any of the above to dial back, even though it may seem obvious in some cases. I hope to address them all in due time – for now I’m just getting it out on the page.

But something’s gotta give. And I don’t want it to be that last one.

Note to self: Too much sunshine can be bad for you!

For those of you in the UK, Monday 14 May marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme this year is stress, and this site contains some excellent resources on managing stress. Give it a read, and take a moment to think: what can you do to reduce the stress in your life?