Six Ways To Save Your Sanity

Last night I dreamt I was traveling on a work assignment. I traveled a lot as a consultant and quickly learned the art of traveling light. Clearly, though, in this dream, I was not into simplicity because I had several pieces of luggage of which I was keeping track.

The stressful thing about this dream was that I kept misplacing important items as I waited for my flight. Not the unimportant, buy-it-when-I-arrive things…nope, I was constantly misplacing my laptop, photo ID, and files I needed for the client. I was really stressed in this dream. In the middle of dream crying because I couldn’t locate my photo ID (which I needed to board the plane), my state of mind shifted from that “I’m really living this – it seems so real” state to that half-asleep, half-awake gray area because I remember telling myself (in my dream) “This is just a dream, you don’t have to be this stressed.” I stirred awake, went to get more drinking water, and then laid back down, saying outloud, “Okay, let’s move on to a better dream.”

If only life, as in our dreams, was so easy. Right? To just say “Well…this sucks. Let’s PIVOT.”

Or…can we? Maybe some minor changes can change what we think life is to what it can be.

I’ve been working on some significant changes in my daily routine recently. Most of the changes focus on reducing stress because my cortisol levels are sky high. The changes seem relatively easy to someone who might not struggle with them. Still, for me, they’ve been deliberate, and I’ve been hypervigilant in keeping my promises to myself.

What are they? You ask. Well, grab a drink and settle in. Imma ’bout to tell ya.

Limited Social Media. Thankfully, I don’t IG, Tweet, Snap, or do whatever most of the other cool kids do. I have a LinkedIn profile, a Pinterest account and of course, the ever present Fakebook profile. I’ve already stated a gazillion times how much I loathe social media. With that said, I realize most people still communicate via Fakebook, so deleting my account altogether is not a thing I can do. I envy those who can, though. In fact, my cousin did it years ago and has never looked back. Still, with the volunteer efforts I’m involved in – at this point – it is just not possible without a ton of extra work on my part to get messages to people. However, that said, I did delete the app from my phone – saving both my sanity and my phone battery. I check in Monday-Friday a couple of times a day (see point three for more details) and once or twice on the weekend. I figure that if someone significant needs me…they can text me because those closest to me have my digits.

No more FB Messenger. At least, no more on my phone. This one was difficult but not impossible (I’m not above FOMO). Most people don’t have my cell number, so they can’t text me, but I was getting messenger pings at all hours of the day for stuff that can wait. Those who really need me have my cell phone number so they tend to call or text if I haven’t responded via FBM. I’ve missed a few ‘important’ notices, but….meh—nothing life-altering.

I discovered Time-Blocking. Time-Blocking is just like it sounds. You block your time and schedule tasks. I know…you’d think an INTJ Virgo would already be ingrained in this type of behavior, but I wasn’t. But, Lordy, I am now. I took a quick little course on LinkedIn Learning on time-blocking, and it has changed my life. I realized I also needed to relearn the art of self-discipline so I’d actually do the tasks I’ve blocked the time for. Still, yet…time-blocking has become my new favorite thing. I even time-block 30 minutes a day for Fakebook scrolling and posting (Mindless activities are allowed, so go ahead…waste that time watching Fox News.) Time-blocking keeps me focused, and I accomplish a crap-ton more than I ever had before. On the weekends, I time-block tasks like laundry, creative time, and my personal favorite….

I schedule Tom-Time. So, Tom is not my boyfriend. “Tom” is the HR Director at work who told me he time blocks ‘Tom Time’ on his calendar every day (Gasp…yes. Monday through Friday, too). He does whatever he wants for his personal sanity during ‘Tom Time’ and is not the least bit apologetic about it. Sometimes it’s mowing the lawn, reading a book, taking the coveted nap, indulging in a rerun of his favorite show, or doing something creative. So If the Director of Human Resources can do, well, so can I. I’ve time-blocked Denise Time into my schedule Monday-Friday where I step away from my desk. The result? I’ve been a heck of a lot more productive at work and getting shit done I actually need and want to do at home.

Turning off my phone. Last night I went to bed (and almost immediately fell asleep) at 7:30 pm, so this was an exception. Still, most nights – thanks to time-blocking and Denise Time – my phone gets turned off at 9 pm – even on the weekends. This ensures I get my son ready for bed in a timely fashion, start my ‘nightly routine’ to calm my mind, and prepare for a good night’s rest. If I can’t sleep when I go to bed at 10 pm, I grab a book instead of the phone, or I meditate for ten minutes, focusing on my breath. I do not turn on the television (Sorry, Adam) because I’d be sucked into the streets of Chicago and not accomplish the goal: Sleep. By setting a time to turn off my phone, I’m calmer, and I’m sleeping better (well…on the nights I sleep. I still struggle with insomnia a few nights a week).

Limiting alcohol to the weekends. Okay, this one has been the hardest. I mean, I don’t need a meeting or anything, but I’d regularly cap off a stressful workday with a couple glasses of wine before bedtime. This was a habit, not a necessity. It’s much like my morning cup of coffee…I don’t need it; it is a ritual). So I switched to a cold glass (in my favorite stemware) of flavored kombucha instead. (My favorite is Rosemary Basil or the Lavender from Spring Branch – a local company). I just changed up what I consumed. I ain’t gonna lie…I get a little excited on Friday nights when I get to have a glass of my new favorite summer wine.

Get creative. Okay – I’m not the most creative person on the planet, but I have a few pet projects. I like to paint and upcycle furniture or turn one thing into another. I turned an old custom-built twin bed with a trundle into an outdoor bar, and a sleeping platform for my car camping adventure (more on this later), and I turned an old newspaper dispenser into a Little Free Library. Because of time-blocking…I ‘found’ the time to do this. It’s been fun, and I’ve let go of my need to control the outcome and just let my creative side take over.

This is Gus. Gus takes Free Books. For more about Little Free Libraries:

So, whoop…my favorite ways to protect my time and indulge in some simple joys. I’m curious, though, folks: What do you do to preserve your sanity and set boundaries on your time? No idea is too frivolous. Do tell.

In the meantime, I found a great new song that I love (okay, new to me…whatever) which has absolutely nothing to do with this post, but it makes me smile each time it hits my Good Vibrations playlist. Take a listen and do something fun while it plays. I guarantee it will make you smile…or your money back. (I’m kidding. There will absolutely no money back.)