September Stress

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With summer ending, I’m officially into my law school application season. This of course means that I am just a little (read: a lot) stressed out. And I’m not handling it the best. This is to be expected, but still isn’t fun.

Two weeks ago, I commandeered my childhood bedroom to take the LSAT Flex exam. Because of the global pandemic, the LSAT has moved online and has a shortened version. Based on my attention span, I’m hoping that the shortened version will benefit me, but we shall see. I am currently in the middle of waiting for score release which won’t happen for another week. I don’t know what my score will be and I don’t want to narrow down my school list until I know whether I am happy with my score or whether I will be studying for the LSAT again and taking it in November. Not ideal, but if necessary, doable.

Which means I get to do the worst possible thing when I’m stressed: wait.

In the meantime, I’m taking advantage of the time I’m not spending studying by prepping everything else I’ll need for applications. I finished up my resume; I am drafting my personal statement; I’m collecting my letters of recommendation; I’m submitting my transcripts. So I’m spending a lot of time doing things that make me uncomfortable – asking for praise and talking myself up. It’s pushed me out of my comfort zone quite a bit.

With all this, DC has been floating between really gorgeous weather (that gave me one heck of a sunburn) and really gross rainy weather. The flip flopping hasn’t helped with my mood.

So I’m giving myself a little bit of a mental break. Less social media, more books. Less worrying about everything that needs to be done for my applications, more simple tasks. I spent Labor Day weekend chilling at my parents’ and avoiding adulting. And it worked. I came away much more relaxed, but my to-do list is still long.

So we’re diving back in, one step at a time. My next big task is to take the LSAT writing portion (now online proctored), which shouldn’t be too bad. But I need to just do it.

I just keep telling myself this will all be over by December. Fingers crossed.

Just Down the Block

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I started the New Year off with a bit of chaos – I moved apartments. I am still in the DC area and I’m not going very far at all. I literally moved two blocks down. The move was a bit of a mess. There was miscommunication with my old apartment and of course it rained. I had assistance from All Star Movers (they’re actually saints and the quickest movers in the DMV) and my lovely parents (though one half was sidelined with injuries). Bits and bobs were moved over the week and my plants got special treatment in their transportation and will now enjoy a sunny spot in my window.

I find moving stressful. Partially because there are so many “what-ifs” and partially because its the end of an era. I’ve moved every year (if not twice a year) for the past six years. Mostly it has been from my parent’s house to college and back or into a suitcase to Australia and back. Things have been accumulated (mostly plants) and things have been tossed (r.i.p. the black leather chair that was older than my parent’s marriage). And I try to prepare, but can never quite get it right.

But I found a few things helpful in making the moving process slightly less anxiety-inducing.

One: start packing before the moving truck arrives. This seems logical and yet you’d be surprised. I started putting non-essentials away about two months before I was set to move out. Then I stopped buying food about two weeks before my move. The week of my move, everything went into bags or boxes, one night at a time. The few days before my move, I did a capsule wardrobe challenge, using only ten items of clothing and packing everything else. And the night before, my loving mother and I broke down my bed and pushed everything the movers would be lugging about into the living room for easy access. It worked. There’s not a whole lot that was left to be dealt with after the movers left and things are packed in a semi-organized fashion.

Two: give yourself wiggle room. It’s tempting to move out the last possible day of your lease, but having a day or two or a week overlap to move helped me stress less about getting everything done in that deadline. I could spend three days moving my plants and my last bits over, rather than three hours. When it started snow/raining, I didn’t have to power through.

Three: cry in advance. I knew that I would end up crying (and I did!) but I figured getting some of those stressful emotions out of the way before the movers arrived would be helpful for all involved. So the night before, I watched a movie I knew would make me cry and I let it out. And then in the morning after picking up my apartment keys, but before meeting with my parents, I cried again. And voila! No tears during the actual move.

Four: let the professionals do their job. Other than bits and bobs and plants, we let the professional movers handle the tough stuff. They figured out how to get things into and out of the two apartment buildings and they carried the heavy things.

Five: know when to quit. There’s a certain point in my day when I have to acknowledge I need to rest. As an introvert, I know that too much socialization will eventually mean hitting a wall of exhaustion that can only be fixed by time alone. After a stressful day of moving, I needed to acknowledge that everything wasn’t going to be put away right then and there. I could rest and handle what was left over the next few days (see tip two).

Can I just say I’m happy I don’t have to do this again until next year?

Homesick

Hometown, Travel

When I moved away for college, I didn’t have a whole lot of homesickness. Flying across the world didn’t spark constant sobbing sessions of wanting to return home.

I think there’s a couple reasons I avoid what for many can be a debilitating limitation to their exploration of the planet.

The first was that home, as in the physical location of my house, wasn’t that important to me. I love my bed and driving down the GW Parkway and I love my belongings, but I have very little attachment to my home of 20-something years.

Maybe I spent too much of my childhood driving to and from school or maybe location wasn’t as important as memories. Either way, it’s nice to go back but not something I crave.

Another reason I avoided homesickness was avoidance. If you’re too busy to be homesick, you won’t notice the time and distance from your home. From the second I arrived in Indy or Sydney or Stockholm or London, I was busy.

I had things to do and people to meet and bags to unpack. I had a couple of stress/frustration/fear/PMSing sobs, but never felt horribly homesick.

Yes, it was tough to go away – but I wanted to go. I wanted to go to college and I wanted to study abroad and I wanted to get my masters and I wanted to travel. Those plans and the excitement attached kept me going.

The third reason I avoided homesickness was that I digitally detached from home. Yes, I texted my mom to let her know I arrived at my destination and yes, I sent the occasional text to a high school joking about some song I heard playing, but I avoided phone calls and FaceTime sessions for the first six weeks. I also didn’t go home a week in. It gave me a distance that allowed me to skip the wallowing in leaving home and focus on the exciting part of being in new places and meeting new people and learning new things.

I love my home. And I love my family. And I love returning there (even if my nice bed is no longer there and I sometimes end up on the couch…). But I also love my new home and my found families and the experience of going far far away. It’s just as much an adventure to return home now as it was to leave. And when it’s time to leave again, the excitement returns all over again.

Working From Home

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As a currently fun-employed 20-something, I’ve found myself sitting at home scrolling through the endless job offerings on LinkedIn, hoping for a diamond in the rough posting that will perfectly fit my qualifications. While I continue that, I wanted to share my realizations about working (or simply being) at home all day. These tips (for lack of a better word) can apply to the unemployed, the self-employed, the telecommuting, or the retired.

Get Dressed

It’s such a simple step that makes such a difference. If I spend the morning in my pajamas lazing in bed, nothing gets done. Even if it isn’t until 11 a.m., get out of bed and get dressed – nothing fancy, just something new.

Distance Yourself

Speaking of bed, get away from it. Distance yourself from distractions in your apartment/house/dorm. If you can, get out of bed and sit at a table or even on your couch. Other distractions I’ve found include the kitchen, my phone, any televisions, and messy places. Anything that could give you a task or a temptation other than work has to be left in the other room. If you’re really motivated, head to a coffee shop or a library nearby.

Leave the House

Distancing myself from my apartment can mean distancing myself from the stress or anxiety that comes with applying for jobs. Waiting for an email? Take a walk. Can’t think of the right words for your resume? Run an errand. Partly, new environments spark new thoughts, but it’s also nice to leave every once in a while. Folks working at offices get to leave the stress at the office; you should distance yourself from that every once in a while. (Maybe the “stress” of retirement is not exactly applicable in this conversation, but being cooped up isn’t good for any of us.)

Give Yourself Days Off

Just like you should depart from your home every few days for your sanity, taking a break is important too. I find that due to social interactions, my weekends often become my days off, but it can be any day of the week. It also can be just when you finish what you’re working on. Though it helps to get out of bed and put on real clothes every day, it’s also nice to take a day to sit in your pajamas and watch Netflix. You’ll come back refreshed.

Be Social

I mentioned social interactions – you should be having them. As an introvert, I can happily spend days in a row by myself, but it’s nice to talk to someone every once in a while. Call your mom. Text your pals. Go grab a drink with your fellow unemployed millennial. They might spark an idea or give you a hint towards a job opening or make sitting at home alone sound like a dream.

Make a To-Do List

Maybe this is just me, but I have to have everything written down or it doesn’t get done. I make daily, weekly, monthly to-do lists. Everything from laundry day to apply to a job to vacuuming to my super busy (non-existent) social calendar gets written down. It feels really nice to cross things off the list and means you won’t walk away forgetting to hit send on that email.

Finish One Task a Day

I’m stealing this one from my grandma – give yourself one task a day to complete… and then complete it. I make a goal of applying to two jobs a day or finishing my laundry. If I’m super motivated more things get crossed off the to-do list, but if I’m not feeling it, I can cross one thing off and the day isn’t wasted. For low motivation days, I focus on something simple like clearing all my emails into “important” and “clothes websites that I don’t have money for” or taking out the trash or decorating a corner of the apartment.

Have a Creative Outlet

For a while, my roommate would come home from work to find I had hung something new or moved something to a different corner of the apartment. It’s slowed down for now, but having a creative outlet gave me all sorts of stress relief. My mother quilts, I’ve taken up crafting or cross-stitching, others knit or paint or draw (or if I’m being generous here, write blog posts about riding their bike….). Creative pursuits (even poorly executed ones) are worth a small portion of your time.

Pay Attention to Your Productivity

Everyone works differently. Some people are night owls, others prefer the morning. Some people need to get everything done at once, others have to spread the task out. Some people require breaks between tasks, others need rewards for a full day’s work. Whatever your style is, follow it. And ignore all those Facebook articles about how the smartest people are most productive at 6 a.m. or whatever. You’re most productive when you’re most productive – pay attention to you.

Take a Shower

Last tip: take a shower. Showers are a nice refresh from the day before or the last job application. Also, you might not realize it, but you could smell. Just saying…

Anxiety

Travel

Traveling can be an experience filled with joy and excitement and plenty of anxiety. Moving half way around the world, getting on a flight for the first time, immersing yourself in a new culture with a different language – leaving home can be stressful and bring out anyone’s anxieties. I’m sharing how I approach having anxiety-free (or at least as much as possible) trips.

Prepare What You Can

I’m sure plenty of people are okay with going somewhere for the first time with no plans. I, however, can’t do that without airport bathroom panic attacks. Some things can’t be avoided, but I would recommend that you prep what you can: Book somewhere to stay for at least the first night. Figure out how to get from the train station or airport to where you’re staying. Check the calendar for bank holidays or train strikes. Set a reminder on your phone to check in for your flight and to leave for your flight. Ask someone (in person or online) who’s been there before about the simple things: get cash before or just use a card? hiking shoes or comfy shoes? worth the visit to this museum or that museum?

Never Trust Technology

Despite best intentions, our phones are not always as useful as we expect. Even if it’s on your phone, you could arrive with no battery. Service may not be the greatest where you’re going and you’ll need to survive until you track down WiFi. Keep yourself from panic by expecting your phone to fail. Print out your boarding pass if you can and write down the name of your hotel. Bring not electronic entertainment. Maybe you’re saving your battery or the plane’s entertainment screen isn’t working out great – having a back up book or a journal to doodle games of hangman in or a pack of cards can’t hurt and they’re relatively small.

Focus on the Exciting

Make yourself a list of exciting things you want to do or see. You’re traveling for a reason. Hype yourself up (within reason). Are you really excited to feel sand between your toes? Or practice your Spanglish? Or wander an art museum in a new city? Focus on that. Take a peek at the weather and the museum times. Start plotting all your adventures/Instagrams/meals. It’s hard to be anxious when your mind is thinking about all the great things you’ll be doing.

Take a Deep Breath

Life can throw you a curve ball. It happens. Breathe through it. Trust yourself that you’ll work it all out should anything go wrong. Find the little moments of joy even when the world seems like it’s falling apart. Worst case scenario: it’s all gonna be a great story to tell everyone back home.