10 Unique Strategies for Boosting Your Mental Health

Guest Post by Lily Little of https://marriedwithdogs.com/

Life is a beautiful journey, but bumps along the way can leave you feeling defeated, deprived, and mentally drained from time to time. Neglecting your mental health can lead to serious consequences that penetrate every aspect of your life and derail your future. If conventional treatment, counseling, and medication don’t fit your lifestyle preferences, you can use many out-of-the-box tools to manage your symptoms of stress and anxiety.

1. Adopt a Pet

Adding a pet to your household can be a wonderful stress management tool. You may think you’re too tired or too busy to keep a pet, but you may change your mind when you start to reap the benefits of an animal companion, some of which include:

  • Sticking to a daily schedule
  • Experiencing unconditional love
  • Increasing confidence through caring for a living being

2. Telecommute More Often

The time you spend commuting each workday is time you could be using to relax, exercise, organize your space, or spend time with your loved ones. If you can negotiate a remote work schedule with your employer, you can reclaim precious moments for your self-care needs. This will not only improve your mental health but also make you a more motivated and productive employee.

3. Try Chess Therapy

There are many different types of therapy that don’t require you to lay on a couch and be emotionally vulnerable to a complete stranger. If you play chess or wish to hone your skills a bit, you can find a chess therapy practitioner who can help you find solutions to your daily problems while also teaching you how to focus, strategize and think ahead to your next move.

4. Retreat Into Nature

While the modern world offers convenience and connection, the disconnection from nature may be detrimental to your peace of mind. Studies show ecotherapy decreases anxiety and negative feelings.

5. Join a Book Club

Escapism through reading is an incredibly healthy exercise for managing mental and emotional stress. Joining a book club full of like-minded people with similar reading interests adds a social component to your self-care practice.

6. Declutter and Organize Your Home

Your home should be a place where you can relax. If your home is full of clutter, this can breed negativity and create tension. Take some time to declutter, organize, and let more natural light into your home.

7. Take Regularly Scheduled Naps

If you have trouble being still, you can try training your body to relax by implementing a daily naptime. The benefits of napping include increased energy, mood enhancement, and improved performance throughout the day. The key to successful napping is consistency, so you should commit to shutting off your devices and closing your eyes for 20-30 minutes at the same time each day.

8. Learn to Cook

Culinary therapy is a widely-used technique for treating restlessness, panic attacks, and depression. If you’re looking to address physical and emotional distress, learning to follow recipes and cook for yourself is a great mental health strengthening tool.

9. Build a Bookshelf

Finding a hobby is a time-tested technique for managing mental stress. Specifically, hobbies that result in a finished product, such as woodworking, build confidence by giving you a tangible reason to value and validate your abilities.

10. Celebrate Your Birthday

As you get older, you may not feel accomplished enough to celebrate yourself on a regular basis. However, your birthday is an annual reason to party and you shouldn’t feel guilty about planning a special event and indulging.

There’s no single solution for mental and emotional stress that works for everyone. Whether you’re adopting a pet, decluttering, or working from home more often, these unique tips can help you calm your mind and find peace within yourself.

Thank you to Lily Little of https://marriedwithdogs.com/ for providing this post.

No Turning Back

Dear Friend,

I’ve been tentatively planning a visit to my relatives up north for the first time since 2019. When I saw the prompt from WordPress for this month is Bridge, I immediately thought about the trio of bridges my mom, sister, and I watch for as we drive north – they’ve always been our “point of no return” for the Michigan trip. The point at which we refuse to turn around, to backtrack, to cancel. The bridges themselves have held no special significance to us beyond a landmark for our annual trip.

And yet, in a way, they do somehow hold special significance for me today. Lately, I’ve caught myself thinking “it would be easy to get a position at my old job.” And it would – because falling back into well-worn patterns always seems easier than forging new ones. It’s tempting to see this life bridge as the chance to turn around, to reconsider, to lose ground, but I like to think I’ve grown past that mentality for the most part. I keep trying to remind myself that this “it would be easier” thought is simply my brain panicking at things being hard and overwhelming right now.

I’ve been imagining myself as a younger me, the one who was scared to rock the boat. I feel much like Nicely, finding myself tempted to give in to habits that don’t benefit me, yet I’m more afraid of being pulled down by the demons I’ve battled before. To that younger version of me, I say this: Yes, change is scary. Yes, things are hard. Yes, it is okay to be fried and overwhelmed and want to retreat to what is familiar. But just because something is familiar doesn’t mean it is good for us. Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

So, I’m going to keep driving north, past those bridges, and into less familiar territory. I’ll be traveling new routes and taking small detours and stopping to see the sights. I’ll be revisiting the lessons of my youth – but this time, with the wisdom of experience on my side. I hope when you encounter your own life bridges, or whatever your usual landmark for turning around is, you also remember you are strong and brave enough to forge a new path. I believe in us. We’ve got this.

Love always,

Katie

Trust

Hello Friend,

I hope you’ve been feeling loved and supported lately and if not, I hope you feel that way soon. I see you. I’ve been there, too.

Today, I’ve been thinking about trust, particularly the scene in Disney’s Aladdin where he asks “Do you trust me?” and Jasmine replies “Yes.” 

What must it be like to so easily answer that question with yes? For those of us for whom trust doesn’t come easily, the instant response is more often no, hell no, or laughter followed by a no.

Of course, there are usually at least a few people in our lives for whom we can easily answer “yes” but it’s often only easy when previous situations in the relationship show the ongoing presence of support, understanding, and reciprocity. 

I have a friend who frequently mentions she has deep trust issues which make it hard for her to form new relationships. I completely understand her fear and wariness and I also see that she feels frustrated with and trapped by her fear. While I don’t feel ~fully~ trapped by my own fear to the same extent, I definitely have had similar moments more often than I care to count. 

From childhood onward, I know I remain painfully shy and introverted, and that already makes it difficult to make new friends. My own history of misplaced trust, which resulted in hurt feelings and lessons learned, could easily make me want to avoid new relationships entirely. Have you had thoughts like that from time to time, too? Honestly, some days the fear and wariness still get the better of me, but I try very hard – very, VERY HARD, to believe in the good of others. To believe it is safe for me to trust and try again. To have faith in the kindness of others as I have faith in my own. It’s not easy, obviously. It takes a lot of work and reminders to self and baby steps when it comes to letting my walls drop.

I remind myself: “This person is not that person and it is unfair to hold them accountable for the actions of others.” I pay attention to when I find myself comparing a new person’s actions to patterns I’ve experienced in the past. I observe and I ponder and I weigh the current facts against triggered memories. I freely admit I’m still overly cautious, too, but I’m working on being a better communicator, so I’ve been trying to make sure I discuss “red flags” when they arise. “Hey, when this happened/was said, I took it as _____. Is that what you meant?”Or “I could absolutely be interpreting this wrong, but when you said ___, I heard it as ____. Am I interpreting this correctly?”

Honestly, just from a calming anxiety standpoint, this willingness to stop myself from “mind-reading” by instead just asking what was meant or if I’m taking things the wrong way has been huge in terms of helping me feel less like “EVERYTHING is ALWAYS my fault” because obviously not EVERYTHING is my fault and while there are situations where I’ve been at fault, it isn’t ALWAYS my fault. It has also been helpful to catch myself when I have thoughts of “Why is this happening TO ME?” It’s not ALWAYS happening TO me, it’s often just happening. The situation can suck, can be hard and unfair and painful, but that doesn’t always mean it is happening to me. These pauses to check in my own interpretation of events have been helpful in allowing me to feel more secure and safe in my existing relationships and I’m hopeful they will continue to help me in future relationships as well. 

I can’t claim to have the right answer when it comes to trusting others. I know I’ll probably still place trust in people that I shouldn’t from time to time, but that’s okay. I’ve learned from past relationships and I’ll learn from current and future ones as well. I’m just at the point right now where I’m working on being more open to opportunity, to expanding my circle of friendships and finding my place in various communities. If you are also struggling to be more open and trusting, I promise you aren’t alone and it is absolutely okay to be exactly where you’re at in terms of trusting others. I am choosing to have faith that you and I will both continue to find other friends and chosen family on this path we’re walking. I hope that someday, hopefully not too far distant in the future, we’ll feel safe and strong enough to trust that in any situation we’ll be okay because above all else, we’ll trust ourselves (I know, I’m still working on that one too – progress is slow but progress is progress).  

Wishing you well today and always,

Katie

Ash

Hello Friend,

I hope life has been treating you kindly lately.

I wish I could say my journey has been easy over the second half of October, but it’s been rough. As I keep saying to my friends, my sister, my counselor: “I’m okay, it has just been A LOT all at once.” I’m sure you’ve had moments like that in your life, too – maybe you are even in a situation like that now, where things just. keep. happening. over and over and over again one after another and yet another with barely a break to breathe and recenter.

When all you want is for things to pause for just a bit, just long enough to catch your breath, to rest, to recover. It sucks when it feels like the brakes have given out and we are frantically steering our way forward, trying to find the least dangerous and damaging way to slow to a stop. I’m trying to coast along right now, focusing on the good things I pass – the crisp autumn air, petting Gunny as he soaks up the sun, appealing to my inner child by wishing on the first star I see each night, and so on. These moments of happiness, of presence, of “in this moment, I am okay,” are serving as speed bumps, helping me slow down enough to figure out how to navigate the next curve in the path.

A little context on my personal path at the moment: my uncle passed from heart failure on October 16th but I didn’t receive the news until October 17th. My home’s electricity decided to add to the fun on October 19th. In doing repairs, we ended up with a full panel replacement, which also left us with a giant hole in the wall to be repaired separately and drywall dust throughout our entire downstairs. And I do mean EVERYWHERE. We are still working on cleaning it all up a week later. In looking at all the dust, I’ve been trying to think of the events of the past few weeks (uncle’s death, home repairs, my car bumper damaged in a hit and run, to name a few) as a sort of phoenix moment. If I can view these hard situations as the flames and ash arising from the death of the old me, maybe I can see this as a moment of rebirth, too. I can more easily see how I’m handling things better than the old me would have. I have been laughing more than crying. I can see how much I’ve grown in that this domino effect of bad news overlapping hasn’t shattered me. Sure, I’ve had plenty of moments of feeling overwhelmed, but they aren’t even lasting half the day and are rarely lasting more than an hour at a go – that’s a major improvement over past self. So if past self’s hardships led to me of today, who is coping far better than past me could even imagine, then I can see this as the moment when the phoenix dies and is reborn in flames. Sure, there’s a lot of ash to clean up (literally in the form of dust and metaphorically in terms of processing everything mentally and emotionally). And maybe cleaning doesn’t happen every day, maybe growth in this new version of me, after this current rebirth, is slow at first, but I’m still growing, still moving forward, still testing my wings over and over again. And maybe you can see your own hardships the same way, maybe you can see yourself as a phoenix, too.

When you have phoenix moments, too, moments of major change and shifting from an old you to the new, I hope you remember it is okay to mourn what used to be and what could have been as you settle in to what is. I hope you have support and comfort and people reminding you how much you are loved. I hope you have people reminding you to be gentle with yourself because change is hard and often painful. Most of all, I hope you know how strong you are and give yourself credit for how much you’ve grown and evolved from who you used to be.

Wishing you well today and always,

Katie

Pendulum Swing

Photo by lilartsy on Pexels.com

Dear Friend,

Hello again. I hope this finds you as well as possible. I’ve been thinking lately about the idea of “one step forward, two steps back” – kind of feels like that’s what my life has been over and over again this year. More realistically, I know I’ve made far more progress than I tend to give myself credit for making. I’m in a far different place than Katie of November 2020 would have imagined. I’m far more aware of my limits and where my boundaries stand – or maybe simply more quickly aware that they’ve been violated. It’s strange, somehow I feel a bit like I’m a teenager again, discovering who I am – but isn’t that something we do over and over again as we grow and change, anyway? Of course, it’s been many, many years since I was actually a teenager, but sometimes I still feel like I’m not the adult-ier adult I want to be, though I do have evidence to the contrary which I use to remind myself I can, in fact, handle the situation at hand, whatever it happens to be. I guess it’s more in the way I feel myself swinging between moods so quickly, if you know what I mean? To be fair, there’s been a LOT that’s happened over the past few months, on a personal level, so maybe swinging between moods so quickly makes sense. It’s exhausting, though, you know? I remember being excessively exhausted as a teenager, so maybe that’s why it feels so similar. I’m okay, just struggling a bit right now, and that’s okay, too. I’ve been working a lot on managing my stress and anxiety to try to be more resilient to the sudden shifts that keep happening.

If I’m honest, I think this particular post is mostly a way to remind myself that it’s okay to be struggling right now. I hope it helps remind you it’s okay to be in the struggle, or at the very least helps you feel seen in your own “one step forward, two steps back” dance, too. In my Handling Hard Emotions post, I talked about pitching a tent instead of building a house in the blue zone. I’ve been using that analogy a lot lately, and the affirmation “Keep moving forward” – but I’ve also been saying I feel like I’m in the blue zone, but the exit is nearby. Almost like I’m in a forest and I can see the clearing through the trees, but sometimes a new set of thornbushes block my way and I have to pause, rest for a bit, review the map, and find another way out. Last week, I spoke with my counselor about feeling like I had made it out of the woods, but like I was still walking the path beside them. I feel like the path turned back into the woods for a bit, and that’s okay. It’s frustrating, though, isn’t it? When we feel like we are back to good (or at least better) and then slip backwards again. I don’t know about you, but my initial reaction to backsliding is often self-recrimination. “Dang it, we are better than this. Stop backsliding. We should be able to handle this.” Does your inner critic say similar things? That sneaky “should” is something I’ve been working to avoid – looking at what IS not what I think it SHOULD be. I’ve been countering these thoughts with “Hey, it’s okay. It’s like a pendulum. Remember we thought about moving the base of the pendulum higher so we don’t swing as low? We’ve done that. Even if we did swing far lower, we know we’ll swing back to good, better, far better, too. It’s okay to be in the backswing right now, it happens, it’s normal.”

Healing isn’t linear – ha, I know we’ve seen that shared over and over and OVER again. But we WANT it to be linear, don’t we? It would be so much easier if we could move straight from Point A to Point B, but that’s not the way the journey goes, you know? It’s a long distance path, full of twists and turns, mountain tops and valleys, too. I’m trying to remind myself – and you, too! – it’s okay to pause and rest, to backtrack and take detours and sometimes stop and shake our fists at the sky and the map because we’d like to have a word or two with the cartographer. Because jeez, who thought this was the best path anyway? 😅

All jokes aside, wherever you are on the journey right now, I’m rooting for you. If you are lost in the woods, or deep in the valley’s shadows, I’ve been there, too. I know how hard it is to keep trusting the path will wind back toward nicely paved roads and clear skies and flowers as far as the eye can see. I’ll be there again in the valley and the woods from time to time, and that’s okay. Because I know – and I hope you know, too – that we’ll make it back out into the sun soon. Maybe not as soon as we hope, but soon enough anyway. We just have to keep moving forward, while also allowing ourselves the space and grace to truly rest.

Speaking of rest – have you been getting rest in ways other than sleep?

Check out:

Nine Types of Rest

Nine Types of Rest 2.0

The 7 Types of Rest That Every Person Needs

I know I often realize I’ve been neglecting several forms of rest when I’m feeling rundown, overwhelmed, and/or less resilient than I like to be. Worth checking out and seeing where you might need additional rest, yeah? I know I’m currently lacking in the nap, safe space, and spiritual rest at the very least, so I’ll be focusing on remedying those shortly. Naps are almost always a surefire way to recharge and recenter myself – what’s your go-to recharge method?

Until next time, my friend, I hope your map is leading you to a lovely meadow or mountaintop view soon, or at least a decent place to rest, and that you have comfort when you most need it. Rooting for you always!

Love,

Katie

Maintaining Mental Health When Under The Weather

Dear Friend,

Hello! I hope this entry finds you well. On a personal level, I recently dealt with a major asthma flare for over four weeks, flirting between my yellow and red zones even with following my action plan, which understandably made day-to-day living a little rough. I’m doing much better now and have stayed in my green zone most days for the last two weeks. In chatting with my counselor, she pointed out that I was doing a good job of managing my mental health and self care while dealing with the fatigue and pain from the ongoing asthma attack. I guess I found that a little surprising because…well, it’s just asthma? I’ve dealt with long attacks before and they suck, but they don’t usually impact my mental health much. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I definitely felt absolutely awful physically, but mentally I was just slightly frustrated at how long it took to get back to normal. That said, there are definitely tools I use to take care of myself when I’m feeling under the weather that I also use to manage my mental health, so that’s a fair point.

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned over the years is to offer myself far, FAR more grace and care when I’m low on spoons or otherwise not at my best (asthma, migraine, high anxiety, etc.). How?

Firstly, I still make my “to do” list for the day, but I remind myself at the start and end of the day that if I don’t check off ANYTHING other than basic self care (take my meds, eat, hydrate, hygiene), that’s okay. If I’m doing the best I’m capable of doing at the time, well then I clearly can’t ask for more from myself. I remind myself not to worry about what I “should” be able to do, and instead I focus on what I’m ~actually~ able to do.

Secondly, I make sure I make a gratitude list. I like to set a timer for at least a minute and write out all the things I’m grateful to have in my life, which usually starts with “I had coffee today, I got to pet Gunny…” and grows from there. Every little thing counts!

Thirdly, I let myself rest when needed, which often shows up as napping more frequently or going to bed really early. When I’m run down, I know if I’m not getting quality rest, I’m more likely to slip in keeping my mental health stable. So sleep is a big priority. If I’m struggling with sleep (hello insomnia), then I focus on resting my eyes – I like using my frozen eye mask until it isn’t cold anymore. I turn on some soothing background noise, like waves or an ASMR video. I give myself time to simply be. This may look like meditating for 15-20 minutes or more, or it may look like just letting my mind drift to whatever comes up, taking notes on anything I need to deal with later and going back to drifting.

For my fellow Spoonies and mental health journey buddies, do you find it more difficult to keep up your mental health and self care practices when you are sick for a day or so? What about when you are sick for a week or more? Or when you are dealing with a long-term or chronic condition?

Regardless of what battles you are facing with physical or mental health, I wish you an easier journey ahead (as much as possible) and comfort when you most need it. Rooting for you always!

Love,

Katie

Handling Hard Emotions

Pitching a tent instead of building a house.

Dear Friend,

I hope you are doing well. I received some news that upset me recently, which provided me with the opportunity to review my current response versus how past me would have reacted.

In the past, when I found myself sad or deeply upset, I would often fall subject to “ugh, why does this always happen to me?” or “I’m so unlucky” types of thoughts. I’ve worked very hard over the past few years to at least identify when I’m having those thoughts – to observe them and counter them. Not easy, right? Necessary though, I think.

With the news that bummed me out a bit recently, I decided to allow myself a few days to grieve what could have been before facing what is. I think a lot of us have been faced with these moments of “I wanted things to be different but here we are” throughout the course of this pandemic. It’s hard, isn’t it? And that’s putting it excessively mildly, right?

I keep going back to this post I saw on Instagram months ago, where @yasminecheyenne was talking about healing/shadow work and how it’s important to remember you can’t live in that energy of processing trauma and inner healing 100% of the time – it’s important to come up for air, to take breaks, to pause and recenter and notice what’s happen here and now. To focus on what’s still good. To practice the self nurturing care that we need, especially while working through hard emotions.

Lately, my sister and I have had many discussions about how heavy things have been – on a personal and on a world news level – and we’ve both noted that it is so easy to become overwhelmed and to find ourselves spiraling and focusing solely on everything going wrong. We’ve actually been having weekly “What worked, what didn’t, what can we change moving forward” meetings every weekend for the majority of the pandemic, just as a way to force ourselves to pause, acknowledge what’s happening, how we are handling it, if there are any ways we can make things easier for ourselves, and also making sure to try to balance our “what didn’t work” list with an equal or higher amount of “what worked” – it has been very helpful for us to create those gratitude lists alongside the acknowledgement of everything else. It’s helped us pitch a tent in the bad moments instead of building a house and living solely in the negative.

It’s like this song, which comes to mind for me when things are especially hard:

I really like the tent vs. house analogy. Sure, it is easy to get stuck in the blue zone, even so deep in the blue zone that it looks black and inescapable. But if we look at our presence in those feelings as sitting in a tent, well then, sure, we still have a lot to carry with us – sometimes so heavy that we can only move forward by a fraction of a millimeter, moving so slowly forward that it can feel like we aren’t moving forward at all. But each increment of a millimeter forward is still forward. Looking at it as a tent instead of a house helps me remember that progress is progress is progress – and progress makes it easier to maintain hope.

I hope allowing yourself to camp in the blue zone when necessary gives you the space and safety to process the hard emotions while knowing you won’t be there forever. Regardless of where you are on the road out of the blue zone, I’m rooting for you.

With love,

Katie

Life Update & Spoon Replenishment

Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem from Pexels

Hello Dear Friend!

Thank you for your continued patience with me when it comes to updating this blog. It’s been a weird couple of months, but I feel like I’m growing through them. To catch you up, I did take a new job from April to June. I really enjoyed the quality assurance/editing portion of the new position, but the changing scope and deadlines quickly triggered memories and feelings from my previous job that left me feeling like the new job wasn’t the best fit. It didn’t help that the content to be reviewed was rather graphic (medical devices & their uses) – apparently I am far more squeamish than I previously thought, but hey – learned something new about myself, so that’s a win! Biggest takeaways are: editing the work of others is fun for me, offering quality assurance suggestions to ensure the best product delivery is fun for me, working on multimedia video edits is NOT fun for me, shifting deadlines and scope is NOT fun for me, medical content is NOT fun for me. All good things to know as I continue to try to figure out what I want to do next.

I’ve done some freelance writing through textbroker.com, some transcription work through Rev.com, and I’ve started sharing my creative writing on Vocal (check it out if you’d like!). I’ve also signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo this month. It has been really nice getting back to writing creatively. That’s another thing I’ve noticed over the past few months – when I’m not making time to be creative, my mood tanks much more quickly. I’m sure I’ve talked about spoon theory on here before, yeah? Anyway, I have a lot of self-care/mental health toolkit tasks I can do that are neutral in terms of spoon drain (neither add nor subtract – reading, watching a film, playing a game), I have some that subtract in the short-term but add in the long-term (cleaning, exercising, etc.), and I’ve noticed being creative (crochet, sketching, writing, etc.) is a good activity for actually replenishing spoons/helping with the ongoing deficit (time with friends, playing with my pup, and actually resting help replenish spoons, too). I was talking about it with my therapist (I rejoined BetterHelp in April) and discussed how spoon drain kind of works like credit card debt rather than washing spoons in the dishwasher. Every time I borrow spoons from future self to deal with various crises, I increase the deficit. I often feel like I’m at a constant small spoon drain – like carrying a small amount of debt from month to month – sometimes the drain is higher and sometimes it is low enough that when I am able to do activities that actually replenish spoons/leave me feeling energized afterward, I feel like I am actually making progress to someday being at “full spoons” again. So I’ve been trying to make creative activities a priority lately. There’s something really rewarding about seeing something you’ve created take shape and come together – maybe that’s today’s dinner, a dessert recipe you’re finally trying, finishing that shawl, responding to a writing prompt, coloring in a coloring book, whatever – there’s a joy in the creating and a joy in the finishing that I think is really beneficial.

I should probably get back to working on my daily word count for Camp NaNoWriMo now. I hope you take time this week, or as soon as you can anyway, to do something fun and creative for yourself. I hope you find time to play, to learn something new, to make low-risk mistakes (for example, working on art skills and turning to a new page or erasing and trying again), to do something that helps replenish your spoons. I know sometimes it can be hard to find enough spoons to even have the energy to do something that will actually help, and that’s okay, too. Please be gentle with and kind to yourself right now, friend. You deserve to be treated with kindness, especially from yourself. Wishing you ease and comfort on your journey and sending you so much love and supportive energy, always.

With love,

Katie

Burnout recovery continues

Hello again, dear friend,

I had another “Aha!” moment in my burnout recovery today. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that the first “Aha!” came from realizing I feel motivated to respond to writing prompts again (finally!!!). Today’s moment has me laughing at myself like:

Setting the scene: I received an email from a recruiter today for a temporary contract position requiring only 2 years experience in my field – I have 11 years experience – and the pay is close to the hourly rate of my former job. Note that the job description is for editing documents and standardizing formatting and cross-references – easy-peasy-lemon-squeezing level of effort for a technical writer, yeah? I replied I was interested and received a callback pretty quickly. After a little back and forth, the recruiter pointed out the preferred qualification for 2+ years experience in the field of material handling equipment – emphasis on preferred qualification not required qualification, right? “Well, we really want to present you as a strong candidate, so could you whip up a writing sample in that field?” the recruiter inquired.

…well, sure, of course I could…but I already have samples of a redacted user guide, training video, and quick start guide that I’ve produced. I also went looking for existing user guides in the field requested and realized I could write them oh-so-easily. Now, Katie of severe burnout and need to please regardless of cost of time and impact to mental health would absolutely have written a sample as requested, right? But Katie of recovering burnout and renewed confidence decided it was better to write up an “overview of services” with details on how I work and how I can port my skills from a decade of writing for website usage to other forms of instructional writing. Why? Because recovering Katie noted the recruiter reached out to me, not the other way around, so clearly – they need me more than I need them, right? Katie of today knows my worth and has faith in my skills and work ethic. Katie of today doesn’t feel the need to bend over backwards for any job that hasn’t actually hired me yet. Like, hello??? I have better uses for my time than writing bogus writing samples? Like recording a video for the first time in months (started recording again today, woot woot!), like taking the classes I have purchased, like writing things I actually want to write, like spending time with Gunny, like – oh, I don’t know, continuing to focus on fixing the life part of “work-life” balance?

I don’t even know how I reached this level of confidence, my friend, but wow am I glad to be sitting in this moment. I just keep giggling to myself, you know? Goodness, summer 2018 Katie – heck, all of 2020 Katie, too, just wished she could feel the way I feel today. Progress!!! I am so proud of how far I’ve come. I’m so happy with how I’m continuing to change since leaving my job and focusing on life enrichment and recovery for a bit.

I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this post – I just wanted to share in case someone else needs the reminder that signs of burnout recovery can sometimes be so little but so joyful, I guess? Not to say our journeys are at all the same, but kind of a reminder to wait for those little “Aha!” moments as signs of feeling better, right?

As for me, I found I couldn’t recover while at my old job, even after switching teams in late 2018 – it helped a bit for a little while, but the requirement to return to responsibilities from my old team starting in summer 2020 was just…progressively deeply detrimental to my mental health. I promised myself I wouldn’t let the job be such a trigger after 2018, so when I started slipping further and faster, it was time to finally call it quits. That whole “no job is worth the cost of your mental health” thing, you know? Like – I’m never, ever going to be the one to tell you that “you should quit, oh my god” unless we have discussed your situation together and it feels like the right advice based on the discussion, but if your mental health is suffering, maybe at least consider it? Reflect on if removing a situational stressor can help at all, you know? Because, my friend, I absolutely, positively, without a single doubt, know that you deserve to feel safe and supported and content more often than not. If your situation isn’t supportive of that, I’m always, always, always going to be here rooting for you as you work to change it. You deserve to feel good. You deserve to wake up without dreading the day. You deserve to feel inspired and hopeful and confident.

I think that’s all for today, my friend. Wishing you ease on your journey and sending you so much love and supportive energy, always.

Love always,

Katie

Hello again!

Dear Friend,

Thank you so much for being patient with me and my prolonged silence. I’ve felt so stuck and blocked for so long. Have you ever felt like your voice, both literally and figuratively, is trapped in your throat? Like there’s a boulder that lets a little bit trickle through, but the stream is blocked? That’s how I’ve felt when it comes to writing or videos or anything creative for far too long. Gosh, I have so many drafts with prompts saved. I sincerely planned to be more dedicated to writing here, but January 2020, I was still struggling to get the spike in my anxiety under control.

February started off nicely – my mom, sister, and I took our annual Disney World trip and we were able to see our friend who lives in the Orlando area. Gosh, that trip…my sister and I had our dining and fastpasses already booked only for BTS to announce the Map of the Soul Tour tickets would go on sale while we were in Florida. I remember we were SO EXCITED to get BTS ARMY Membership verified preorder and we were so, so, SO THRILLED to snag tickets to the concerts we wanted to see. We even had our annual trip to visit relatives planned around the Chicago tour dates. And yet even as early as that, we were hearing news of COVID spreading overseas and I was already starting to worry about how quickly it was spreading. When we got back, I went on full-time telework after discussing my ongoing heightened anxiety with my manager. By early March, my sister was on full-time telework, too. I was still working on videos for my channel in March, April and May, but with each week that passed, it felt like just going through my daily routine was taking more and more energy. I remember literally crying when BTS postponed their US tour instead of cancelling – being able to keep the seats we snagged was such a small thing, but such a blessing for us. By mid-May, I was noticing symptoms of backsliding further in my progress with my mental health, so I stepped back from the videos as well, fully intending to return once I had my symptoms back under control.

Summer and fall are kind of a blur, honestly. I know so much happened, but I don’t even know what to cover. Staying with the theme here of discussing my mental health journey, I guess, right? Summer was a lot of struggling to get my mental health symptoms under control – lots of self reflection, trying to better understand myself and why I react the way I do. Lots of naps and migraines, too. So many migraines. I started to feel a bit better in August, but the closer the election got, the higher my anxiety climbed, so September through January were spent juggling work and migraines and anxiety attacks and trying to find new ways to cope. My sister recommended we attempt a 90-day challenge – pick something to do for ourselves, for enrichment and joy, for an hour a day from October to January. I had signed up for a few classes, so I planned to spend my hour a day learning – of course, I didn’t realize exactly how much work each class required, so I ended up pausing on two of them and focusing solely on the third – I still have one podcast left for that one. Honestly, the best things to come from the challenge were:

  • Weekly review – what worked, what didn’t, what can we change moving forward to make things easier? This has been so helpful in identifying little ways we can make life easier – like buying a misting bottle for our all purpose cleaner since I was noticing extremely heightened anxiety when we finally ran out of Lysol spray. I know it is silly that such a simple thing as buying a misting bottle made such a difference in reducing my anxiety, but goodness gracious, it really helped.
  • Getting an air fryer/toaster oven combo to replace our toaster. It has been worth every single penny, my goodness! We’ve severally limited ordering DoorDash delivery since starting to play with recipes for the air fryer.
  • Replacing our old, sad, beat-up tea pot with an electric kettle – we’ve had hot tea daily, which has been lovely, honestly. I forgot how much tea really does help me feel more calm and centered. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still devoted to my morning coffee because I love it, but I didn’t realize how much I missed having tea, too. We’ve been making a pot of tea when we brew our coffee, so we can enjoy the coffee while the tea cools to drinkable temperature.
  • Habit- linking – it is sooooo much easier to add a new habit to an existing routine, like adding in running the essential oil diffuser at night – I linked it between dropping my phone on the charger and brushing my teeth. We’ve been gradually linking additional habits as the weeks go by.

January 2021 was a bit of a rollercoaster, with anxiety spikes around the attack on the Capitol and the inauguration, and – the biggest personal change – leaving my job of 11 years. Shocking on a personal level, right? I don’t have another job lined up yet. I spent all of February recovering from burnout – lots of naps, cuddling with Gunny, catching up on fanfics I follow, and spending time on Pinterest for the first time in a long time. I knew I was finally making progress on burnout recovering when I was saving pins to my writing prompts board and thought “Oh, that’s a good one, I could work with that” – it has been SO LONG since I felt that creative spark so easily. I’ve started job hunting now, though I’m leaning toward freelance or short term contract work, I think. I have so many ideas and plans – I can’t even fully explain how…I don’t know, lighter? brigher? grounded but free?…I feel now. I also know things are turning around again since I’ve started noticing little manifestations coming through again – like finding another German Shepherd crystal carving after searching for two years, and like thinking about one of my favorite fanfic authors and having a new fic posted from them the same day.

I’m planning to write again soon, dear friend. Until next time, please stay safe and as healthy as possible. As always, sending you so much love and supportive energy. TTFN!

Love always,

Katie