Being busy doesn't mean having it all

*This is Kristen's first post, but expect a lot more from her. She is one of the most genuine, down-to-earth, and loving people I have ever met. When you open up to her, you can really tell she feels whatever you're feeling and can say the right thing to help you understand yourself and what you're going through.*

My life is so wonderful. I truly have so many good things going on and so many people that I absolutely adore. Here are some of them.

I'm engaged to the best guy I know, whom I love so dearly. I have awesome roommates and the best of friends. I have such a supportive and loving family that also happens to be so fun and silly.

I have it all. Or do I? Can anyone really have it all?

I want to explain why I bought a $40 t-shirt and have absolutely no regrets. This shirt reads. "It's okay not to be okay," and I'm learning to accept that grand truth more and more every day.

Busy can feel good... or really, really bad.

It's normal to overwhelm ourselves with tasks, commitments, projects, and hobbies. We often schedule things in our planner (if we are lucky enough to be so organized) to fill up almost every minute of the day. It's quite idiotic if you ask me, yet I do it all the same. I am no stranger to overbooking myself and filling all of my time with meaningful events. But the whole regiment ends up being extremely stressful and tiring, if not impossible.

Planning our days like this, stuffed to the brim, makes perfect sense on a good day. We have the potential to feel so accomplished by crossing off everything on our to-do list. On these days, we somehow manage to rise early, try that new hairstyle or outfit, make a homemade breakfast (not me, I'm all about the #cereallife and #Lifecereal), go to work or school, finish a project during our quick lunch, think of the perfect gift idea for someone's birthday, and still manage to have time to go classic skating with our friends in the evening after swiftly finishing all our homework or chores. I'm all too familiar with the "high" of productivity. We feel like we can take on the world and more, so we plan accordingly.

Yet this hectic process of scheduling away our lives can have such a discouraging effect on our less-than-average days. These kind of days happen often. We still accomplish a lot during them, but for whatever reason, we just aren't able to get it all done. And that should be OKAY. We go to class or work, we help a friend, and we work hard to clean up our living space and get to bed before midnight. On far too many of these days, however, I experience unnecessary guilt and regret for not accomplishing more, causing me to vow that the next day I will do everything on my list I didn't finish today PLUS all the things I planned for tomorrow. Not surprisingly, this kind of guilt doesn't lead to much productivity and can even have a detrimental effect on the days that follow.

We put ourselves under so much stress and pressure to be be polished, put together, and peppy while we attempt to do it all. And this is unrealistic in my opinion. Not only that, but it often hinders our ability to treat ourselves and others the way they deserve to be treated.

So, back to the shirt.

I found a company whose motto I love and support (no, this is not a sales pitch) called "Wear Your Label," so I ordered a $40 shirt from them, which as I wrote before says, "It's okay not to be okay." The company's aim is to make mental illness more visible so that it becomes less of a stigma. They have other shirts like "Sad But Rad," "Self-Care is Not Selfish," and "Stressed but Well Dressed." I absolutely adore these messages. If people didn't just see these shirts but also took on these ideologies, I believe we would be in a much better spot to understand and support people with mental health symptoms and illnesses.

What can we do to help others and ourselves? What will we do? Maybe you don't need to plan a rally to raise awareness or pass out a million flyers. Even if you haven't personally been affected by mental illness, consider the high likelihood that a close connection to you such as a friend, family member, or co-worker probably has had or is dealing with one.

As a suggestion, please consider implementing (if you're not already) some of the following suggestions to help yourself and/others with these types of issues.

  1. Save the guilt for sin. This resonated with me so well the first time I heard it. I often cause myself so much stress and pressure from the silliest things. I make myself feel so guilty and sick if I don't have an "on-day" or if I feel I have wasted too much time. And that is just not fair to myself! I'm not saying that guilt is the root of all evil and we should never feel bad about anything we do or say, but how much more productive would those feelings of shame or remorse be if used for mistakes you have made or unkind words you have spoken? Use those bad feeling for what they were intended for: change. In those situations, we can change the way we think, act, or speak. If we exhaust all our energy by feeling bad about the trivial things in life, we will not have enough care and love to care for ourselves and others when the big things come along.

  2. Reach out to others you love and trust. This may seems obvious, but the difference it has made for me has been huge. I know some might be hesitant reach out, either to avoid burdening or bothering someone else, or because they feel embarrassed about their situation. It may be easy to think that no one will be able to understand how you feel. So many times I have thought I was one of the few who understood how I felt in any given situation (so much anxiety I was getting sick, a family member dealing with cancer, or having the daily tasks of life drag me down). As I have been able to better learn how to open up to the right people at the right time, my burdens have been lightened because I have other people who care about me helping me carry the weight. Even if it is a random text or call from someone who was thinking of me, it can make a big difference, at least to help me get through a rough day.

  3. Survive Today. If the help is only enough to get you through today, that's okay. It reminds me of the point I made earlier. Sometimes all we need is one good day to get us going. An average day can turn to a great day with just with a small sentiment or thought from someone else. These kind gestures sometimes have the power to bring us back to reality and out of the dark and lonely place where our minds sometimes traps us. Try to avoid feeling lost or alone, or even guilty for the negative or sad feelings that can so often occur.

Mental illness is in the hectic days

Based on almost every statistic, most of us bear some kind of mental burden. These burdens can greatly affect our self-worth, and that self-worth is tied to what we feel we can accomplish. By over-scheduling ourselves with impossible to-do lists, we forget that it is okay to be "just" okay. We forget that we should allow time to take care of ourselves when we need a break. We forget that we can be wonderful people even if we aren't scaling mountains. We forget to treat others with the very love and respect we need from them.

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