Take A Step Back

I can’t tell you how many times I have found myself racing through life, concerned about how busy I was and what the next goal was that I had to accomplish. I felt as if I didn’t check things off a list or look extremely busy to the point of burnout, then I would be seen as lazy and a failure. In hindsight, the negative self-talk and pressure I used to put on myself to perform were harsh and unnecessary. But it was all I knew, and the thought of taking a step back and trying to grasp what I was doing just seemed like another way I could procrastinate.

Only now, after slowing down my life because of the pandemic have I come to understand and appreciate the simple concept of taking a step back. Yes, the world will go on, but that doesn’t mean you will fall off the bandwagon for taking a few moments to step back and see your life from a different perspective.

It has been beyond a rough year for me, and a lot of it was due to me clinging on to these ideas that no longer aligned with who I was or what I wanted from my life. I had convinced myself that following one specific path was the solution to all my problems, how I would become successful and make money. The truth is that the path had ended, and I didn’t even know. Around the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, as I was getting ready to finish my university degree, I started on the classic post-grad job hunt. I had it stuck in my head that I needed to work a specific job in order to be happy.

That specific job wasn’t a bad one – it could have been a great job if it had made me happy and was what I wanted. But I had lost my way and was forgetting the previous experience I had had in a role similar to that job. I fully forgot about the many experiences in that job that made me so unhappy. I had trained myself to forget about those experiences to keep pushing forward and make it seem like I had a plan. It felt good to tell people exactly what I wanted to do after I graduated. Except for the fact that it wasn’t what I wanted to do at all.

Giving myself the time and patience to take a step back and re-evaluate my life was one of the best decisions I ever made. Here are a few things I did that you could do whenever you want:

1)      Stop doom scrolling through job sites or the internet in general

I was constantly checking any job site you can think of. I was doing everything “right”, but I wasn’t doing what was right for me. Because no matter how many job postings I searched or replied to, absolutely none seemed even remotely interesting. At the end of January, I decided to clear my search history on these job sites and overall, not look at them for a few weeks. From January to early March, I very rarely looked at a job posting.

2)      Evaluate how you feel right now

I was feeling unmotivated, disappointed, fatigued and exhausted from trying to carry on in this life as if everything was sunshine and rainbows. After a family thing happened, I felt nothing but numb and I finally gave in to all that I had been feeling for months at this point. I was so unhappy with my life, anxious about what would come and confused about which direction to go.

One night, I was reflecting on the past two years of my life when suddenly it was like I had unlocked memories that I had kept hidden. It dawned on me that I already experienced the life I thought I wanted – and quite frankly I hated it. That time in my life was filled with depressive episodes, an abnormal amount of crying and a constant state of sadness. Why was running back to that?

3)      Accepting that you don’t know what you want

After realizing that the path I was working towards had ended and taking that very necessary step back I was essentially starting back at square one. In a way, I felt hopeless and like a failure, but I just gave myself time. I let myself sit in this period of not knowing, and I stopped forcing myself to create a life that I didn’t want.

4)      Opening yourself up to new opportunities

At the beginning of March, I sent an email to someone and a few weeks later I would end up doing something with my life that made me happy.

Now I don’t think you should take a step back and never go back into the arena. Breaks and pauses are meant to be temporary, but eventually, you will start to feel a lot better, and you will know when it’s time to get back at it. But when you do, you will have a much clearer vision or at least a semblance of an idea of the kind of life you want to live.

Allow yourself to pause, take a step back, re-evaluate and sit in the unknown for a bit. It’s essentially allowing yourself to recharge and reset – something we should all be doing a bit more often.

The Reset Routine

Do you ever have those weeks that feel so draining and chaotic? I used to feel like that a lot, but a few years ago I started building this habit that I have come to label as a ‘reset routine’. I usually do this on Sunday or Saturday, but when or how you do this routine does not matter as much as the actions you take to reset your day or week.

The reset routine I have come to create is essential for keeping my life in order and my sanity intact. But I understand that creating this routine might sound a bit daunting, but I promise you it does not have to be complex and intricate. All you need to do is carve out a bit of time in your day of choice and you can build your reset routine.

As I mentioned earlier, I usually do this on Sunday because I like the tone it sets for the week. Some weeks I might dedicate only a few hours on Sunday to this reset routine, but most weeks I split up my reset routine to last the entire day. Once you have carved out some time and space to reset your life, it’s time to build a routine that suits your needs.

1)      Reflection & Intentions

First, take a moment to reflect on the past week, the upcoming week and how you are feeling about it all. Before you do any sort of routine it’s important to evaluate where you are mentally, physically, and emotionally. Establishing where you are at can allow you to create a routine that will address your needs. Once I understand what’s happening internally, I take a few minutes to set my intentions for the week.

2)      Clean, Clean, Clean

Second, once you have checked in with yourself, it’s time to start tackling the space around you. I am sure you all know that your physical environment affects your mental and emotional health, which is why it’s important to keep it clean and organized. What I do is make a list of chores that need to get done. Depending on the size of your home, the number of people you are living with and other factors, this might differ for everyone. But creating that list makes the chores tangible, easier to digest and easier to tackle. For many people, including myself, cleaning my physical space helps clear my head, which is why it is the first thing I do. When my space is clean, I can think clearly. 

3)      Plan the Week Ahead

After I finish cleaning, I will move on to planning my week. This step is especially helpful if the week or coming days are going to be hectic. As mentioned in my last post, I love time blocking and find it best to do during my reset routine. Planning the week also allows your brain to anticipate what’s to come and it can start mentally preparing for anything you have to do that week.

4)      Take Care of Yourself

Once your home is tidy and your week is planned, it’s time to focus on yourself. We checked in with ourselves at the beginning of the day, but now it’s important to help ourselves feel whatever we are feeling. I like to carve out an hour or two (more is also great) to journal, do a hobby, meditate, read, or even just sit on the couch and watch a tv show. What I am trying to get at is that during your reset routine, you must listen to what you need. What kind of rest do you think you need? Does your brain need a bit of creative time? Are you feeling lonely, sad, happy? Do you feel like you need to call a loved one? Resetting ourselves for the week requires that we check in with ourselves and that we feel whatever we are feeling and then deal with it accordingly. Some weeks you won’t be able to but feeling the emotions you are feeling is a big step in the right direction.

I hope you try building your reset routine and give yourself some grace. The routine and habits themselves will take time to build, but the more you do this the better you will feel and the more prepared you will feel for the week ahead.