The most democratical asset

There’s something we all have. Each and every one of us, no matter where we live, our social status, skin color, or our finances. And that something is time. All of us, no matter how different our lives might be, share the same 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Or, how a good friend once told me, Beyonce’s day has also 24 hours, it’s all in how you use those hours.

And that was the point where I’ve clicked. I’ve never been an organized person, to begin with. My discipline was limited at Don’t miss the deadline. but I’ve never understood the people who got their whole days and weeks scheduled and planned. I mean… Why?

But one day came, and I discovered that behind all this is a simple answer, coming from another woman that’s dear to me: we need to be this organized because our minds are chaotic enough. And there it was, my simple, yet never really thought about it that way answer.

 Turning into an organized person is a whole journey. For me, at least. Personally, I wouldn’t be able to try and do this if I’d feel mentally unstable. Because it might be true that all of us have 24 hours every day, but what are we able to do with those hours is conditioned by a lot of factors.

Being diagnosed with a chronic illness or having mental health issues are two of the factors with the biggest impact on our time management. That’s why trying to become a better manager of your time in difficult times for your mental health will always fail.

And it’s not necessarily something about you. It’s about learning to cope with a condition that will impact everything: your priorities, your way, your pace of doing things, the way you manage your time, resources, and relationships. That’s why our journeys are so, so different, despite having the same amount of time.

It can be just as tough even if you’re not being affected by any medical condition, but you’re suffering because of instability. It might be caused by your job, or maybe your finances, your personal life, or even all at once. The main thing to be understood is that one can’t become an organized person in times dominated by uncertainty. And this has another reason that sounds so stupid that it’s actually true. Becoming an organized individual is a huge energy consumer. Huge. Especially if you’ve been used to roam around chaotically and get everything done, eventually.

This is something hitting me like…every two days. I look to my Excel sheet, I re-read the things I’ve said I’m going to do that day, and I’m just sitting there, like… No, I can’t do this. What on earth was on my mind when I got myself in it?

But then I just go, take a deep breath and do the things. Because I know how it used to be when I’ve lived in a chaotic loop. And maybe I can do better.

Because time is like money, it has to be budgeted. The big difference between the two is that not everyone has the same amount of money, but everyone has the same amount of time. Budgeting that universal amount of time, though, that’s a really personal job.

It’s personal because it takes a lot of discipline and will often force you to do uncomfortable things. Like going to bed earlier than you like to. But learning how to budget your time will also bring you good things. Like getting things done, the satisfaction that comes from getting those things done, and actual progress. Or like avoiding the burn-out. Because it won’t take you more than a week or two to test and see how many things you can put on your plate and keep them together. And knowing how much is too much for you is one of the most important things you need to know.

I know it’s this trend, to talk about self-care all over the Internet. And it is a really, really important thing, to take good care of yourself. But this is rarely all about taking long baths or buying pretty things. It is more about doing those uncomfortable things we keep postponing, even if we know those are the right things to do. Maybe being more careful with our money, or maybe our time. Organizing our wardrobe, or maybe eating cleaner. Going to sleep earlier, or maybe give up on that toxic job/environment we’re spending so much time on. But all these start with a small step, which often is called being honest with yourself. With the understanding of the fact that what we’ll do today will impact the person, we’ll be tomorrow. That you deserve a life with continuously high quality. And this is why, even though it is such a personal path to walk, you’ll never be able to walk it all alone. Getting yourself an accountability partner is the best thing you can do. Just make sure you trust that person and that their intentions on you aren’t evil. Because dealing with all the discomfort this kind of journey will bring isn’t easy. Not when you come from a place where you had to dive into the chaos to resist. But it is worth it, and getting to be in control when it comes to your time is a powerful move. It is self-love and self-care. And it totally is something you deserve to know how it feels like.

The forgotten recipe

It’s again that time of the year when the days become shorter, the nights become longer, and the weather becomes colder. It is, once again, the time to sit and look backward, to the good, the great and the terrible things that happened. To be grateful for the lessons, for the good times, and to note down our questions that are still looking for an answer.

So I’m gonna do what I feel like would be my share of gratitude and understanding, and will say a story. This is not meant to be a diary page. It is just a story about which I know it’s relatable for a lot of people, as 2020 came with such an emotional struggle to manage.

I remember a talk I’ve had with a guy in a moment when I was feeling really tired. I knew it’s about the burnout, yet only when he told me You’re being way too hard on yourself, you need a day to do literally nothing. Just to be lazy and stop thinking about all the things you are thinking about daily. And you’ll see how many things you’re actually doing.

That was a revelatory moment for me, the moment when I’ve understood, in the end, that my exhaustion was rooted in my incapacity to relax. It was a hard pill to swallow, the idea that I forgot how to relax. Yet, it’s true. I got all caught up in the craze of showing that I am willing to do things as good as possible even if the possibilities are rather low and…I forgot. I forgot to put myself first, above the Social Media numbers, views, shares, aesthetic or content ideas. And this got right back at me.

I’ve started, in a short time, to feel tired. Really, really tired, and the never-ending to-do-list of the day. I was enjoying less and less what I was doing, and I was always finding flaws in what was already done. That talk was what I needed to hear at the moment, that I’m doing enough things at once, and I gotta loosen up a little. To slow down the rhythm.

And… I tried. I started to post less, to stop worrying that I don’t know what to post that day, or that there is X thing that could’ve been done better. I tried to do things at my own pace, one day at a time. But there is a secret to all these. The mix between a brain so overwhelmed that it refused to cooperate anymore, and my willingness to actually talk about this, to go to people I look up to and tell them I’m tired, I forgot how to take a break from all this, and I need to relearn it, otherwise, I’ll be over and done.

Having external support is a huge deal because no one can do it alone. No one can escape the ropes of their own mind. You can’t shut up that voice telling you day after day that you didn’t do enough by yourself. You can’t escape the guilt trips by yourself. You can’t get rid of the productivity rush by yourself. No one can, no matter how strong their mental is.

The tough part is the journey before that breaking point. The exhaustion, the work, the feeling of not being enough. The internalized voices of all your critics. That ugly carousel you get a free ride into.

Because there is more to toxic cultures than diet culture. The hustle and productivity culture is just as toxic for individuals, as it reinforces the mindset that one has to be 24/7 busy and productive, to stay relevant. You don’t. An individual is not a business. An individual is not a brand either. An individual is a human being, with human needs.

And human beings need breaks. They need periods to stop thinking about what’s done already and what should be done afterward. Denying yourself the time to rest will only harm you. That’s the thing felt by all those promoting hustle culture. Felt, but never gone public about them, only talked in small circles.

I can’t say that now I’m doing things in a totally different way. Or that I am done with the burnout, even if, to some extent, I’ve overcome a lot of struggles. I’ve understood that looking at myself like I’m some kind of content-creating machine is not the way. That my value isn’t the quantity of the things I am doing daily, but their quality. That I am owing to myself to be alright in the long run. But most importantly, I’ve learned that the moment when something I enjoy doing becomes a source of worry, more than a source of joy, it’s time to let loose.

There is still a lot to be thought about and done, but the most important part is becoming aware that whatever you do, you have to find balance, as the smallest things impact your mental health.

I’m fine

Not that long ago I’ve seen a post on Social Media asking ‘What’s your favorite lie?’ I did not answer at the moment, but I know that my favorite one has always been I’m fine. It is the lie I’m telling most of the time, and even if I know I should not, I keep telling it even when I’m anything but fine. Or especially then.

It is bad, yet a deeply rooted habit, and a costly one in terms of mental health and general well-being. But it is far from being something special. In fact, this is part of the factors leading towards what is known as The Caregiver’s Burnout. This is a common condition amongst the caregivers, manifesting as anxiety, depression, physical and emotional fatigue.

But here’s the catch: there are way more caregivers than we tend to admit. The caregivers are defined as persons caring usually for family members suffering from a disability or a chronic disease and are mostly associated with adults caring for their family’s elders. They are not.

A caregiver is also that friend who is always catching and trying to support and lift the others. That friend taking everyone else’s hand during their mentally challenging times and never talking openly about its own. It is that one person that always seems to have their life together, to know exactly where they’re going and what they have to do.

Because not every suffering is visible. Some of us face mental health challenges, others are facing losses, grieving times, there is a lot going on in every person’s life. And, every here and there, it is at least one person being the safety net of their social group. That one person who got the others coming to them for guidance in their tough times. They are caregivers as well, highly empathetic people that care and feel deeply responsible for those guided by them, even if not witnessed as caregivers by society.

And that leads them into a very dangerous trap. It makes them feel like the time for them to talk about their struggles is never now, always later. Now there are others that need their help and support, loved ones that need to receive their best in order to recover or get through the darkness. And this is how they get used to answering I’m fine when they’re asked about themselves. Because they are not a priority on their own list.

This also comes from a strong belief that places bad times as a thing to be kept private. As if, once admitted that you struggle as well, your ability of supporting others would vanish away, making you as weak as they are. Because the strong ones don’t make their dark times public while happen, but only talk about them later, when there are only the scars without the pain. However, truth is we all can struggle at the same time, but not in the same ways. We can (and we do) struggle in different ways, due to different reasons, and at very different intensities. That’s not what matters. What really matters is the ability to manage struggle, frustration and pressure. Because, as an informal caregiver, there’s a different kind of pressure on your shoulders: the thought that you’ve been trusted. That your close one, your friend, the person who asked you for help, did so because it knew you can deal with the situation without being overwhelmed. That you will lift them up, not that they would drag you down. When it comes to a family member that needs to be taken care of, there is a slightly easier burden to carry: you’ve had no actual choice, other than caring for them.

And just like that, the story of I’m fine begins to unfold: with the desire of not being a disappointment to the people which have seen the best in you, and with the belief that there will come a day when you will be free to talk openly about your struggles and allow yourself to ask for the help you need.

Because at the end of the day, what makes a caregiver fail those who trust them by failing themselves is the mix between empathy and fear. You know how it feels to be let down, so you fear that, by saying that you are struggling, you will let the ones that trusted you down. But you’re not. In fact, you would only be helping them more, as they see that it is fine to talk about your bad times. That you can only grow stronger when you learn to be honest. And, the most important lesson one could learn, that it is an act of self-care and self-respect, proof of generosity, as no one has ever been able to pour into other’s souls from an empty cup.