When It All Becomes Too Much

Our flight from India arrived late Saturday night and by the time the plane touched down, D and I were elated, having travelled for more than 24 hours to get home. The journey was long and tiring, so there was a deep sense of relief when we arrived and everything felt familiar and comfortable again. Seeing my mom and our dogs, being back in our home and sleeping in our own bed – these were some of the things we had missed while we were away, and it was nice to have it all back again.

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Although our transit times were long, the views from our flight were breathtaking

As thrilled as we are to be home, one of the biggest issues with travelling half way around the world is that inevitably you end up with a wicked case of jet lag and our sleep schedule has been turned upside down. On the night that we arrived, D and I were wide awake until 4am and then Sunday was a blur of naps and semi-lucid trips outside to let the dogs relieve themselves. As the haze of my jet lag began to lift on Sunday evening, something else began to set in: anxiety and stress.

Over the last few months, my to-do list has been expanding endlessly with many more things creeping on rather than being crossed off (the one exception being that I FINALLY finished my post-graduate certificate, woohoo!), and as each new item is added, I feel increasingly overwhelmed. It was easy to distance myself from this stress and ceaselessly growing list over the holidays because I was busy with social gatherings and the like, and then January was consumed with travel preparations but now that I’m back, with no new distractions, I’m confronted with my reality. The details of my list are tedious, and I won’t get into the nitty gritty of what I need to get done. Instead, what I would like to focus is how I plan on getting through it, and if you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them.

  1. Make a list, for real. Currently, my to-do list only exists in my head and as a result, things can get jumbled and become more intimidating than they need to be. By setting a pen to paper (I’m old school and the tactile nature of writing is soothing and makes me feel more productive), I’m able to organize my thoughts and activities, breaking them down into more manageable portions.
  2. Set timelines. For someone as neurotic as I am, over-structuring can sometimes be counter-productive; I can’t have every moment of every day planned out, a certain level of spontaneity needs to exist. However, I’m not one of those people that can fly by the seat of their pants either and I need a bit of guidance by creating timelines/deadlines. So after I finish identifying the things I need to complete, I plan on setting achievable goals with specific time frames, e.g., February 29th as opposed to “end of the month”. I’ve found that this subtle shift has made a huge impact on me personally because at work, when I’m accountable to other people, I always meet my deadlines but with my personal goals, I’m much more lax and by changing the language of my goal setting exercises, it’s made me more accountable, if to one else but myself.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help aka delegate. Growing up I was told I was bossy and back then, I used to be embarrassed by this quality but now, I embrace it. The beauty of having family and friends is that you’re there to support one another and help each other achieve your goals, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Being “bossy” and telling people what you need done isn’t inherently a bad thing – no man is an island- it’s how you seek this assistance that makes the difference.
  4. Allow yourself the chance to fail/give yourself some space. This is by far the most challenging part of my plan. Honestly, no one likes to fail but the reality is that we all do, at one point or another. Just don’t let that failure define you. Take a beat, see what needs to change, and then adjust to alter course.

The reason I’m sharing these strategies, as simple as they are, is that I want to address a broader topic near and dear to me: mental health wellness.

In Canada, we have an important campaign spearheaded by Bell Canada called Bell Let’s Talk. The initiative aims to shine a light on mental health issues and end the stigma around mental illness. Mental illness comes in many different forms with some cases more severe than others but all of it is valid. And if you’re struggling, this site is a great starting point if you have any concerns and you can find useful resources on their “Get Help” page, where you can talk to professionals.

I struggle with minor anxiety and my bereavement has taken a few nasty turns in the past (I’m currently doing fine but I know there will be difficult times in the future), and though my issues are minor in comparison to many others out there, I recognize that I need these techniques to help guide me through some of the harder points. They’re by no means exhaustive or fail proof, but they do help me navigate my stress, which can sometimes trigger larger issues, and perhaps they’ll help you as well. Perhaps you have tips that I don’t have. The point is, I am not alone and neither are you – we can get through it.

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