February 29, 2016

Stressed Out: Time to Take Action

It’s Monday, and… ugh. I had a pretty lonely and frustrating weekend, with the exception of a small get together to watch the Oscars last night. Is it sad and workaholic-ish that I’m excited to go back to work just to get away from my personal life? (Except also, not excited for work because it has gotten rather stressful with far too much for me to do. I need to clone myself to have any hope of tackling my ever-growing to-do list! It seems there is no respite from stress…)

So what’s up in my personal life? Well, going through a breakup is always hard, and this one is even harder given that the main reason for our breakup was the stupid logistics of living in two different cities. It seems like such a bad reason to break up, but with no solution, what can you really do?

But beyond that, my weekends have changed from how they used to be even before I was dating Adam. Just six months ago, it wasn’t a huge deal for me to be gone during the week; I scheduled every second of my weekends with activities, so it felt like I still got my fill of social time even though it was crammed into just a few days. For the last few months, though, something intangible has changed and now it feels like I spent half the weekend sitting around doing nothing. That’s not why I live in Colorado!

Solo hikes can be nice, but I hate using them as my excuse to get out of the house for the day. They’re a lot less peaceful and a lot more stressful when I’ve already been hanging out by myself all day!

As a result of being bored and lonely on weekends, I’m starting to find myself falling into some of the same terrible patterns I fell into when I lived in New York – namely, traveling to escape. This weekend, I booked a quick trip down to Mexico for some beach time. Sounds nice, right?

I am in desperate need of vacation after working till 10pm on Friday night and then plenty on Saturday and Sunday too. But the real impetus for the trip was because it’s something to do instead of sitting around trying to make plans that continually fall through. I remember feeling like this when I lived in New York, but I’m sad and frustrated to be feeling so lonely in Colorado – I never expected that there. It’s definitely not healthy for me to be booking trips just so I have something to do for the weekend, and I need to solve my loneliness problem instead of just putting a bandaid on it.

Happy Laura Cancun 2011
Bandaid or not, I’m still hoping my trip will get me to be this version of relaxed and happy Laura that I was on the beach in Cancun a few years ago.

So: problem-solving time. I think, moving forward, I need to start planning things further in advance. Part of the issue is likely that I wait until Thursday/Friday to start asking around about plans, which is after the planners have already made plans (and the non-committal people won’t commit no matter when I ask). Furthermore, I think I’ve also been hurt by taking a flexible approach where we’re trying to decide at the last minute what to do and whether to join. That results in lots of flakiness and false expectations, and those really make me sad. Rather than trusting that things will come together at the last minute, I think I need to take a more active role in building the life that I want.

I’m reading a really interesting social psychology book right now called Master the Art of Quitting. (Don’t worry, work, I’m not thinking of quitting!) The first chapter drew me in with an example of a fourth year lawyer who had been doing well in her career right up until she had a change in bosses, and couldn’t seem to please the new boss. No matter what she tried, it didn’t work – and she wasted multiple years thinking that she had to stick through it instead of realizing that she was up against a brick wall. The authors make the point that our society villainizes quitting (“quitters never win and winners never quit”) to the point that it can be socially difficult to quit even if it’s the right thing to do. As someone who’s always valued goal setting and achievement, this really gave me new perspective.

Master the Art of Quitting has a lot of fascinating research around how to minimize regret in various aspects of your life. For example, did you know that the six biggest regrets of Americans, in rank order, are education, career, romance, parenting, self-improvement, and leisure? The study authors posit that opportunity breeds regret – which may be why education tops the list, since there are so many educational opportunities in the US. However, knowing those regrets is kind of useless unless you can avoid it. To that end, one of the big takeaways from the regret section is that people regret inaction more than they regret doing something, even if doing something doesn’t make them any happier in the end.

So, no more sitting around at home watching TV and just wishing things were better. (The fact that I even have to call this out as a lesson shows me how far from my true self I’ve strayed!) I need to get out and try some new things to cheer myself up – and again, this is where I need to get more proactive. If it gets to Thursday/Friday and I have no takers on plans, I’m going to start taking a chance on some local Meetup groups again. I all but stopped going to Meetup groups while I was dating Adam, simply due to time constraints, but I realized lately that I miss them – they’re a great way to get out and about instead of sitting home moping and hoping for something to happen. I’ve found that attending Meetup events is a great way to make new friends (as an extrovert, meeting new people always energizes me), and also has the side benefit of introducing me to new fun activities and places to go. Win win!

Now: time to tackle my work stressors…


14 thoughts on “Stressed Out: Time to Take Action”

  1. I’m sorry you’re so stressed and lonely. My husband and I are very introverted, so going to a Meet Up group is completely unappealing, but what about joining a ski club? You’ve talked about loving skiing, but it doesn’t seem like you’ve done it much this season. Or maybe a run club? What other interests do you have? Rock climbing? Mountain biking? Tennis?

    I have to say, I think there is a lot do outdoors in Arizona. Sure, there aren’t 14ers, and the skiing is not so great, but while living their I learned both rock climbing and mountain biking. Flagstaff has real mountains and isn’t that far away from Phoenix.

    1. I definitely haven’t done as much skiing this season as I intended, but luckily there’s at least a month left to make up for lost time. I just bought a mountain bike a few months ago so am looking forward to trying it out this summer!

  2. Haha, I am an introvert so a weekend at home (especially after traveling for work all weekend) sounds amazing to me!

    I was also going to suggest a running or skiing club. I know for me I always need to get in a long run so if I can do it with some other people and get in some socializing time, it’s like 2 birds with one stone! And long runs lead to breakfast, of course! (At least with my group!)

    1. I’m heading out with a skiing group tomorrow when I’m back in Colorado! I love doing those sorts of active things with a group.

  3. Like Rebecca and Kristen, I’m an introvert, so I’m totally content to rock a weekend alone. Just thinking about going to a Meetup group gives me anxiety.
    I valued learning how to be alone and enjoy my own company. I tend to focus more on getting stuff done and relaxing on weekends.

    1. Learning how to be alone was HUGE for me in my early 20s! I sucked at it when I was in college and I feel like my 50 state marathon quest really helped me learn how to do it and be content. (And look at me now – on solo vacation and happy with it!) But after a week of being away, I want to catch up with friends when I’m home.

  4. So sorry you’re feeling lonely. 🙁 I’m definitely more likely to do something when there’s a concrete plan (“who wants to eat at this place tomorrow at x time” rather than “anyone want to hang out tomorrow”) and also I like to know in advance. When I have no plans I get in that mindset of “I guess I’ll stay home and watch a movie or play games and go to bed early” and that sounds nice, so I usually won’t want to change plans on the fly and leave immediately.

    Also I keep thinking about getting together with you for some craft time. I’m could use to motivation to cross stitch and put on a silly movie (that I don’t want to give my full attention).

    A lot of the time I don’t feel like leaving the house when I’m already settled in. But feel free to invite yourself over for a movie or games or just to chat over drinks if you’re feeling lonely. I don’t mind the company, just don’t want to put on pants and shoes. 🙂

    Jay and I 100% want to see Room and Fuller House though – so just name the time and place.

    1. Good to know about the concrete plans! Everyone’s style is different, and I thought I was being more accommodating if I said let’s definitely do something but we didn’t decide what until later. That is so sweet of you to offer that I can come over anytime… I may take you up on it!

  5. Hey Laura, this came in my email today. It’s slanted toward the parent/child relationship, but it’s awfully eloquent and, I think, relevant on any human/human relationship (whether at work or on the weekend).

    From Charles Fay:
    [quote]If you’re like me, the daily stress and exertion of life can take its toll on your patience and your tone of voice with the ones you love the very most. I’ve never met someone who didn’t face this challenge on a daily basis. It falls under the category of “life.”

    While we can’t take the stress out of living, we can do our best to remember a few key things:

    Expecting no stress creates more.
    Knowing that life is stressful for all of us…and that this is the standard state of affairs…can go a long way toward helping us avoid being overwhelmed by it. …

    Seeing purpose in stress creates hope.
    Every difficulty we face can either erode us or grow us. When we look for the growth and learning opportunities each trial brings, our perspective remains far more positive.

    Emotional connections with others make it seem smaller.
    Many of us withdraw or throw ourselves more deeply into our work when we feel stressed. As a result, we isolate ourselves from the relationships that give us the most strength. …

    Remember daily that our kids (followers, coworkers…) are looking to us for calm leadership.

    As we all know, kids take their emotional cues from the adults around them. When we can keep ourselves positive in the face of stress, will our kids be more likely to do the same?

    When we can talk to them in a tone that truly communicates our love for them, will they respond in far more positive ways?

    Don’t expect yourself or your kids (colleagues…) to be perfect.

    We all get snippy and snappy from time to time. Forgiveness is a wonderful thing!

    Enjoy the downhill side of the week…..you’re awesome!

  6. I totally get you on planning – I can get high expectations when I try to get people together then get SO disappointed when everything falls apart at the last minute. But good news: hopefully I’ll be moving to CO in the near future (job search first!) and I’ll definitely be in your neighborhood a lot once I do!!!

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