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How to Get Out of Your Own Way

by Lisa 3 years ago in self help
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A Guide for Grad Students (and anyone else who needs it)

Getting out of my own way is something I'd like to do more of in my daily life. Sometimes in the midst of chaos, I forget simple things that help me to be a less neurotic, more functional person. So here is a brief list of things that help me when chaos strikes.

• Remember: It's not the end of the world (literally and figuratively). If you have to print out signs in 70pt bold letters and put one on every wall in your bedroom and/or work space, do it. In fact, make each sign a different color and use a different font—our brains seek out novelty, so the more variety in your reminders, the better.

• Ask for help when you feel overwhelmed. If you're having difficulty managing your time, ask for an extension on projects.*

• Conduct a Basic Needs Assessment

• Have you been engaging in activities that help you to relax/de-stress? (The answer is probably a loud, resounding, "NO." But you can't run on empty, so even if it feels like you don't have enough time to relax, in actuality you don't have the luxury of not taking the time to relax and refuel, because that is how you burn out**.)

• Spend time with people who give you energy, not people who drain it. Alternatively, spend time alone because, often, that is all you need to reset.

• When was the last time you laughed? If you have trouble recalling, you are in serious need of FUN. In order to do your work effectively, you must also engage in PLAY. If you tend to hyper-focus, like I do, taking time to unfocus, or refocus on tasks that allow you to unwind and unravel is a necessity, not a luxury. The ability to hyper-focus is great when you're trying to meet a deadline, less so when you're overwhelmed by ALL THE THINGS. So really take time-outs— schedule them, if necessary.

• Are you stuck in your head trying to figure out Life? Or your Purpose? Or what to do next (even though you're chin-deep in what you're doing NOW)? STOP. Stop the insanity, stop the thinking, just HALT. When you find yourself spiraling into OMG WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE I DON'T HAVE A PLAN OMG IT'S 3AM I SHOULD TOTALLY LOOK UP GRADUATE PROGRAMS IN X, Y, OR Z EVEN THOUGH I HAVE TO GET UP IN four HOURS!— just S T O P. There are no answers to be found in your current state of existential crisis. Go to sleep. TRUST that if you follow your gut, you will find the next thing, whatever it may be. It will appear.

• Go to your Self-Care Toolbox (Don’t have one? No problem! Making one is easy.) and take care of your SELF.

*Asking for extensions (or any accommodation) can be hard on the ego, I get it. But consider it a matter of health—because that's what it is. If you had mono and as a result missed a bunch of classes and fell behind in your work, it makes sense to ask for accommodations, right? Well, stress adversely affects your immune system, so consider this a preemptive measure and pat yourself on the back!

**Burning out: it's real, it happens, but there are things you can do to prevent it. In our culture which values productivity over just about all else, it happens a LOT, but you don't have to buy into that way of thinking. Really. You are allowed to put yourself, your well-being, FIRST. In fact, if we don't all start doing this, there will be more burnouts than functioning people.

self help

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Lisa

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