I used to love Fridays.
But lately, I’ve been dreading them. Like clockwork, since the beginning of our shelter-at-home order, I’ve been starting my weeks with lots of energy—and ending them completely and utterly exhausted. Sometimes, to the point of tears.
Case of the Mondays? Gone. Case of the Fridays? In full effect.
The past few weeks, I’ve recognized that this has become a pattern, and I knew I needed to change something. I wasn’t sure what, but I needed to dig deep and figure it out.
After talking it out with my husband, I sat down and made a list. Instead of traditional pros and cons, I wrote down the things that cause me stress and the things that make me happy. Let me tell you, it was not fun being brutally honest about some of my stressors. But on the other side of the coin, it was also therapeutic to recognize the things that genuinely bring me joy.
Here’s what I learned, thanks to this exercise.
First, there are plenty of things on my stressors list that I have zero control over (hello, shopping trips and paying our mortgage and the damn jungle that has overtaken our backyard due to record rain).
But there are plenty of things I can manage. Like my personal news and social media consumption.
I will admit I’ve been rather addicted to my phone since all of this mess started. Checking on news updates. Reading personal accounts of those who’ve battled COVID-19. Cringing at the terrible decisions being made socially, politically, globally. And let’s be honest, all the existing issues in our society haven’t disappeared in the face of coronavirus; if anything, this pandemic is emphasizing them and showing us how broken so many of our social and political systems are.
All this stuff, it stresses me out. The bad news just continues to pile up. And I’ve been feeding my anxiety with it.
You hungry, anxiety? Here, have a big bag of chips (aka – bad news). Still hungry? Oh, there’s so much more content in this pantry (dumpster fire) you can consume.
So, I made the choice to take a break. Last weekend, I left my phone on my bedside table while my husband and I watched movies, baked banana bread, played games, and napped on the couch. I turned off all my push notifications. I fought the impulse to constantly check in.
I didn’t go cold turkey. I still allowed myself a little phone time, but I limited those instances to a few minutes each. And then I walked away.
This week, I’ve been trying to continue this practice. I’m not perfect. I’ve succumbed to old habits (I mean, I’m human), but something in my brain has changed. When I see something that upsets me on the news or social media, I set my phone down rather than digging deeper into the issue and sitting in the stress it produces. I still post things. I still respond to both good and bad announcements. But I have new boundaries that are keeping my empath heart safe.
Now, let’s talk about the happy side of that list I made!
All those things that bring me joy—reading, baking, playing board games with my husband, exercising, taking baths, watching horror films and RuPaul’s Drag Race, cuddling with the pups, encouraging and helping those I love—I have so much more time to do them now that I’m not consumed by my phone.
I’m making a point to do at least one of these joyful practices every day. On days I’m feeling down, I look at the list and try to do them all. Bring on the joy, baby!
Today is Friday. And it’s the first Friday in a while that I don’t feel ridiculously overwhelmed. I actually have energy. Something has changed, thank goodness.
There’s a lot of talk going around right now about the importance of self-care. It’s incredibly critical, but it’s also easier said than done. Self-care is complex. Sometimes, self-care is taking a bath or drinking a glass of wine. In this particular case, I had to do some uncomfortable work and make significant personal changes to get some relief. It wasn’t easy, but I’m so happy I did it. I feel lighter.
Buh-bye, end-of-week exhaustion. Fridays? I’m reclaiming them, thanks.