I can confirm that so far in my life I am not someone who has personally had to deal with mental health issues but I am someone who can be quite tense and become very stressed. The thing about stress though is that it is manageable if you just take five minutes and do the things we know we should be doing to keep it all under control. I am currently completely burnt out due to stress. I am sick again for the 4th time in a month (I even collapsed on the tube on Thursday morning! My temperature just sky rocketed and all I remember is beginning to take off my coat but woke up in the arms of some unknown woman on the ground at Kings Cross) and it is entirely down to being stressed, worn out, and not looking after myself the way I know I should.
The stress I am dealing with now is mostly self inflicted because if I just looked after myself more then I would probably be able to whittle the stress level right down. I can not describe how worn out I am, how much work I have been doing, and how I can barely sleep because my mind just will not switch off. I lay awake thinking about the mountain of files on my desk, trying to create the perfect strategy to have a smooth running day, and trying to figure out a way of creating more hours in the day to get things done. It never stops and all the sleep I am loosing and head space I am giving to this is such a waste of time because I know its out of my control and that I can only do so much to help, and that me burning myself out helps nothing and no one.
I have also just finished my most recent show so while all this madness was going on I was doing show prep too. Last week was show week so it was a full week of Sitz probes, Tech runs, Dress runs, and all the performances. Finishing work at 6 pm and running to the theatre to be mic’d up and get ready by curtain call at 7.30 has been loco. I know that stage life is a choice so I can’t complain because I put myself in these positions but balancing work life and stage life is an art - and this time I failed miserably.
With all of that in mind I made a list (shocker I know) of what I know I should be doing as it’s things I have always done. When I finished the list I then grilled myself for not doing those things because I have no one to blame but myself for letting myself become this far from feeling centred, and reaching a level of off balance that I have never experienced before.
So what are those things…
Deal with one thing at a time
Its simple but it’s the most effective thing we can do. Sure, we can all multi task but is it really helping the situation or work load? I feel that if there is 10 things to do just get them done based on priority. Get them done and remove them from your list. Do all 10 things efficiently and right the first time so that when the 10th and final thing is done you don’t have to go back and do the third and fourth - because that’s when frustration starts to kick and what frustration is to stress is what fuel is to fire.
The To-Do List
We all know I’m mad for a list so it’s no surprise that every day starts with one. I keep mine very simple and its just a page in my note pad with the date at the top and everything I know I have to do is written down on it, I go through my emails and add any emails that need to be acted on to my list, and as the day goes on I keep adding to it with tasks I need to do. I use an orange highlighter to cross them off as they are done (if I don’t use the orange one I’m not really sure what will happen but I’m not willing to risk the world imploding so I just stick to the colour that has kept me safe so far and the bad juju away - yes! I am fully aware that I am insane). If something does not get done on the list the those items are added to tomorrows list with a yellow dot beside them so I am aware that they are over due. If they still don’t get completed then that’s when they get a RED DOT. The red dot is a level of fury no one can handle so I try to avoid this aggressive colour in my flawless system.
Analyse Every Situation
This is the one I need to work on the most. I think its really important to analyse everything and every situation when you are stressed, and determine whether its another issue or just another small thing that seems huge because you are already dealing with other things. Mountains and molehills types of situations where the stress level can be avoided if you simply just analyse the situation or scenario. Lots of little things at once can become very overwhelming but if you take a minute to tackle each one individually, then it takes away from the situation as opposed to adding to it. I have always been a ‘straw that breaks the camels back’ kinda girl which is not ideal when under pressure because I am like a ticking time bomb - so like I said this is the one I need to work on!
Create the environment that you want/need
Little things like packing your bag at night can change your whole day tomorrow because it automatically sets tomorrow morning off to the right start. Plan what you are wearing, make your lunch, and pack what you need for the next day (gym gear, rehearsal clothes, after work items). When the morning is stressy the whole day is off and things that wouldn’t bother you normally will trigger you. Keep your work station tidy and organised so that when its chaotic at least it doesn’t look that way. I find that if there is a mess and no stress it creates it but when there is stress and no mess it defuses it.
Power Lunches are Only Cute if you are Samantha Jones
We all live for how Sam Jones stomps around in her heels in S&TC, grabbing power lunches and eating in between the meetings where she is Queen of everything and running the world one event at a time but that is not at all realistic. Use your lunch hour for good. I usually eat lunch at 3ish and just sit in one of the cute booths at work listening to music or learning music, but I also have “Lunch Club” with my two work Besties Jade & Gulsen where we use the hour to just eat and laugh hysterically at each other. Your lunch break is not just for eating but to give you some time to switch off and recharge for the remainder of the day. Use it wisely.
Just Say It
This is so simple but yet it is something we all find hard to do but we know it is an instant solution. If you are stressed out, struggling with a work load, drowning in your schedule, feeling overwhelmed by something - just say it! No one is going to know or come to the rescue unless you say what the issue is. There is nothing wrong with highlighting that you need help or in most cases an outsiders perspective looking at your situation and suggesting a way to fix it or how they could help you.
Take the time to do what you love
Binge watch your Netflix series, listen to your Podcast, go for a walk, go to the theatre, hit up the local bar at cocktail hour with your friends - whatever it is that you love to do just do it! It’s good for you to take a few hours to do what you love to do because if not what is the point? We break a lot faster when we fill up our hobby or social time with 9 to 5 issues or life problems. Whatever makes you happy or sparks joy as Marie Kondo says then create time for that even if it feeds into the time that should be spent on what seems to be the priority you still have to prioritise yourself.
The obvious isn’t always obvious
We all know what we should be doing to function and stay on top of our game but I know very few people who actually do it. We can try lots of different things and jump on new trends but realistically it all comes down to the basics - Drinking 2 litres of water, eating 3 meals a day, exercising regularly, and getting a full nights rest! Sleep is really the key factor in all of these basic things and its the reason I am a hot mess as of late. I am completely exhausted but yet I cant switch off, I fantasise all day about going to bed but yet I cant sleep at night, I wake up at 3 am and check emails or put a note in my phone about something I need to do instead of just turning over and going back to sleep. I have no one to blame but myself for this, and I am the one who allowed this new routine to become my lifestyle so I am the only person who can make it stop.
Disconnect on the weekend/days off
This is crucial in managing stress because everyone needs at least a day to disconnect from everything. When you are at work be at work! When you are in the rehearsal room be in the rehearsal room! When you are with friends be with your friends! When you are at home be at home! These should not overlap in any way because then there is no escape from anything. I am Besties with people who are also my colleagues but when we are at work we are at work discussing work related topics and downing coffee. When we are in the bar we are in the bar discussing everything but work and downing cocktails. There is a time a place for every part of your life but they should all be separate, and if they do over lap it should be on your own terms with clear boundaries created so that when you need to disconnect it’s instant and effortless.
You do you Hunty
The only person who knows what you need is you but you have to listen to what your mind and body is saying. I know right now that I need sleep and to go to the gym because my body has been screaming that at me for months. I know what I need and I know that I am the only one who is preventing me from getting it. You have to do what you need to do when your body says you need to do it. I have always been the person who did what was needed and believe now more then ever that that’s why I have always been “ok”. Yes life happens and events take place that cause problems but I’ve always survived and felt ok because I always did what I needed to do for me. These past few months I have not done that and have not listened to myself and how am I now? I am exhausted, I am living off caffeine and over the counter drugs, I am sick all of the time, I’ve not had breakfast during the week in months, I’ve not been to the gym in 7 weeks, I have 2inch long hair roots, and I have never felt so disconnected to myself or off balance in my whole life.
This is not a cry for help in any way coz I’m grand! I am just annoyed at myself more than anything because it was all self inflicted, and I knew everything on this list is what I should have been doing but chose to ignore it instead. It’s a wake up call to listen to myself and get back to the norm after a few months of madness, and a gentle reminder to everyone of how important it is to look after yourself and know that it is ‘selfish to be selfless’ (I trade mark that quote), think about it…by being selfless you end up being a half version of yourself which has a knock on effect to not just you but to every aspect of your life because eventually everything will spiral and only get the minimum effort from you which is selfish because deep down you know what you’re doing or realistically what you’re not doing is not right.
#5Gs : GOOD. GOD. GURL. GETTA. GRIP.
Stay Boujee xxx