Happiness Practice - September 21, 2018
It's time for what's making us happy this week!
This actually hasn't been a fantastic week for me. I think I'm just starting to feel a little bit worn out. The high of quitting my job has worn off, but I'm still in paperwork purgatory so I don't really feel like I can make a lot of progress on finding something new yet. I've had some weird/discouraging news about my knee and am waiting to see my doctor, and I suspect I might be fighting off a bug, because I can sleep about 10 hours a night right now without blinking. I have also been having bad dreams and waking up upset or sad and it kind of sets a tough tone for the day, so this week has been a bit of a struggle, but here we are.
In that vein, the things that are making me happy this week have to do less with my feelings this week (see: above) and more to do with the reminder of how it makes me feel when I fail to take care of my needs. I overscheduled myself badly the past two weeks, and I'm definitely feeling it. It was all fun stuff that I was excited about - which is why I got overscheduled, I didn't want to turn any of the opportunities down - but it was too much, and I didn't make time or space for myself in there. I'm a much happier person if I take at least some time to putter around my house, read a book, snuggle with the cat, and cook myself a good dinner that I can eat leftovers from for several days, and whenever I fail to accommodate that I feel it. It also tends to mean that I let my house get to be pretty messy, and it's amazing how quickly living in a messy space drags my mood down. It never takes very long to set right, but it's kind of a self-reinforcing cycle, and it's a remarkable mental load to carry, especially now that I'm home considerably more. I'm not very good at carving out time for myself, and it's a lesson I still struggle with day after day - I have a really hard time saying no to things I want to do, and frequently compromise on my alone/home time. It's something I need to continue to work on.
The other side of not making space for my own needs is how I can fail at taking care of my body when I'm busy, or even just not quite in the right headspace for it. I've been busy and social, so I've been eating out more, eating junk food more, and not making time to exercise. I still marvel at how precipitously my mood falls when I fail to exercise enough, and while I'm still getting to Valkyrie regularly (thank god) since I no longer walk to & from work every day, my overall activity level is way down. The first few weeks I made sure to get on the exercise bike every day, but I've been too busy for that the last two weeks, and I definitely notice. Add in the junk food that was always available for Fringe volunteers and the social commitments with snacks around and it's no wonder my poor body is struggling too. There's a direct relationship between exercise and my ability and capacity for happiness (part of the reason that rehabbing this knee injury has been so difficult and draining) and while junk food definitely does make me happy, too much is not good. It's amazing that I can have gone through this cycle dozens of times and still can't always identify what's going on when I'm in the moment, but it is always valuable for me to realize it and put more effort into self-care. My menu plan next week is going to have a lot of vegetables!
Drafting this post really highlighted what I maybe hadn't actively noticed yet, but I think I knew already: these are all symptoms of depression! Depression is something of a constant companion in my life, an old acquaintance I have never really been able to rid myself entirely of, and probably never will. It's kind of like the weather - sometimes it's fine, sometimes I need to keep an eye on things, and sometimes it's misery, and it's not entirely within my control. Most of the time it doesn't need too much active management, just checking the forecast, and other times, I need to put more energy into dealing with it - digging out the winter clothes and finding my snowboots. I'm extremely fortunate in the mildness of my presentation, and I have 20 years of experience managing it, so I have the tools I need to recognize what's happening and the skills I need to take steps to mitigate it. I think with a few steps towards better self-care I should be able to handle this bout, and if things aren't going all that well in a few weeks or months then I'll go talk to my doctor to see what my next steps are. Being in a place to recognize what's going on is good in and of itself, and while it will take some effort to bring things around I think I'll be all right for now.
So, on that slightly downer note, how about you? What's making you happy this week?