Life lessons

living-room-690174_1920We’ve just been through an extremely stressful few months (and it looks like it may continue for a while). I’m sure most people can relate. I’m terrible when it comes to managing stress. I became burned out, overwhelmed, and emotional. I had pretty much no motivation to do anything, which is also why it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything here. I’ve been working to make changes in my life to help manage stress. Here are a few things that have helped.

1. Simplify my life
I’ve been spending a lot of time at home. Less distractions have given me more free time. I’ve spent lots of time watching Netflix. But I’ve also been working on creative projects. Being productive helps me feel better. It’s also given me more opportunities for much-needed quiet time (since I’m living with a stir-crazy extrovert).

2. Limit social media
I like to stay on top of what’s going on in the world but I found that I was getting overwhelmed with negative news. Now I only check the news once a day and limit my time on social media. I’ll also connect with friends and close family when I need a positive boost.

3. Take time for passions
I have a big list of creative projects I want to work on. Having more free time has given me the chance to start on a few of them. It’s been so much fun and has brought some extra joy into my life.

4. Take care of myself
I’ve been trying to take better care of myself. I’ve been working on getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, eating healthy, and cutting out processed foods. I’ve also been trying to go for more walks outside in the fresh air and sunshine, and working out 2-3 times a week. These small steps have helped me feel a lot better. I’m also taking time to recharge as I need.

5. Create a quiet oasis
My room is my escape but it was getting a bit cluttered and busy. So I removed all the clutter, did a deep clean, and organized whatever was left 🙂 I also added some greenery. It’s become the perfect little oasis to recharge and relax. There is a sense of peace as soon as I walk in.

These are a few things that have helped me. How have you been coping? Anything that has helped you over the last few months?

Routine & peace of mind

japan-1778543_1920Life has been going a lot more smoothly. Even though the situation at work and home hasn’t changed, I’m a lot more at peace.

I got fed up of being overwhelmed. I was tired of catering to others while ignoring my own physical and mental needs. I was tired of running on empty and constantly fending off burnout. I’ve been taking a lot more alone time and it’s made a huge difference. It’s amazing what such a “small” thing can do!

I’m still doing the same things. My weeks are full of work, household tasks, workouts, dance, walks, social time with friends, chats with my roommate and countless other things. But I no longer feel stretched thin. I’ve also gotten to connect more with my family, something I’ve missed due to busy schedules. That’s also helped me feel more grounded.

I’ve been trying to be more proactive as well. If I’m starting to overthink things or stress out, I’ll change my focus. Pick up a book, change my task, or put on some happy music. Michael Buble’s ‘I believe in you’ is currently on repeat. I’ve embraced being quiet in conversations. I’ll contribute if I want to (rather than feeling obligated). I intentionally take things slow when I can. So I can appreciate the journey and the process.

As I’ve embraced my quiet nature I’ve gotten more patient. I have more energy on a daily basis. I’m more open to random conversations with my roommate (as long as it’s outside my quiet time). Everything goes better. So I think I’ll keep this up 🙂

How is your week going so far?

5 roommate tips

people-2561065_1920I wrote an earlier post here on roommate challenges. They’re definitely still there but I had a good conversation with my roommate last night and I’m hopeful. I can’t remember how it began. But we ended up talking about our differences in energy and how much social time we need. I’m hoping I was able to articulate how essential quiet time is for me. It’s also helped me better understand how she functions. It was comfortable and hopefully leads to some small positive changes. I wanted to share a few things that have helped me and given me a more balanced perspective on things.

1. Communication is key.
This is vital in any relationship but especially if you live with the person. I need to tell her when I’m feeling burned out and that I’ll be recharging for a couple of hours. That way she won’t feel like I’m purposely avoiding her. Having a self-deprecating, “it’s me, not you” kind of attitude can help too.

2. Door closed = quiet time.
If I want to be alone, I shut my door. That’s the signal that I’m recharging or busy. I also hang a sign on my door with a cute illustration and the words “recharging – do not disturb”. I’m also working to create a peaceful oasis in my room for maximum relaxation.

3. Reset your perspective.
As an introvert, dealing with an extrovert’s chattiness can be a challenge. But it’s just as challenging for an extrovert to deal with an introvert’s aloofness and not take it personally. Extroverts need to socialize as much as we need them to leave us alone. When you have a roommate, the shared spaces are no longer places to recharge. They become the social hub. So if I’m in the living room, it’s because I’m mentally prepared to talk.

4. Find other escapes.
Shutting the door isn’t the only way to get alone time. I like to go for long walks after supper for some much needed quiet time and reflection. Even a solo gym or coffee date can help me decompress as well.

5. Compromise.
I need a lot of quiet time and I will take what I need. But I value my friendship with her and don’t want her to feel that she’s living with a stranger. So every night I’ll spend some time with her. We’ll either eat dinner together or chat for a bit before bed. We get to connect and I still get my quiet time.

Any other ideas?

Who am I?

woman-3094278_1920.jpgI’ve always been quiet. But it wasn’t until I started school that I discovered most people didn’t see this as a good thing. I was told, “she needs to speak up more, she’s too quiet” more times than I can count. Apparently my high marks and large circle of friends wasn’t proof enough of my worth. So imagine my absolute delight and relief when I read over the INFJ description after taking the Meyers-Briggs test.

I devoured everything I could find on the subject. I read Quiet by Susan Cain and several others. These all shaped my growing perception of what introversion is. I wasn’t broken or deficient. I process things differently. Yes, I’m easily overwhelmed and burn out quickly. But I can connect and empathize with others on a deeper level. Yes, I’ll never have the energy of an extrovert. But I notice and appreciate beautiful things that most walk right by. This is a gift. And as I’ve embraced my introversion, I’ve become more confident.

But while I still label myself as an introvert, I’m not defined by it. It’s one small part of who I am. I’m wonderfully tall with a dry, sarcastic sense of humour. I love to laugh and share silly videos with my family. I love strength training and ballroom dance. I read and cook and sew and run. I’m a friend, confidante, and coworker. I’m creative and loving and forgiving. I’m still learning to create and enforce boundaries. I’m taking more of the time I need to recharge.

Thank you for checking out my posts, sharing likes and comments, and reaching out. Hope you have a great weekend!

A letter to my younger self

WalkingDear Ally,

I hope this letter finds you well. I know you’re experiencing a lot of difficult things right now. I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned (often the hard way) and some I’m still learning.

Enjoy your life.

Not everything you do needs to directly lead to the next step in your life. It’s okay to take long walks in the sunshine, soaking up the golden warmth. It’s okay to dance in the rain, letting the drops slide along your skin and soak into your clothes. Obviously its still important to work hard and be studious, but that’s only a small part of life. You don’t always need to be productive and efficient. Find the balance between working hard and enjoying the beautiful moments in life. Spend time with friends and family, play with children, speak with your elders. Learn new things, take risks, make mistakes, grow.

Slow down.

Learn to live more in the moment. Take stock of your feelings and emotions as you go through life. Planning is great, but if you keep looking forward to the next big thing, you’ll miss out on all the special little moments. You feel like you’re running out of time but you have your entire life ahead of you. Don’t worry, some pretty amazing things are coming up, you just need to be patient.

Choose happiness.

Let yourself do silly things that bring you joy. Belt out the lyrics to your favourite song as you’re driving. You don’t have to be serious all the time. Find people that make you smile and nurture those friendships. Embrace new opportunities and don’t let feeling self conscious make you miss out on new experiences. Happiness is a choice. I’ll be honest, you’re going to experience some pretty difficult things in the future, but stay positive. Keep smiling and be a positive example to those around you.

Stand up for yourself and learn to say no.

You have this habit of saying yes to everything because you don’t want others to be upset with you. But if you don’t respect yourself, others won’t either. If you don’t set up personal boundaries, people will take advantage of your kindness. You don’t owe anyone anything. While its good to stretch your comfort zone by introducing yourself to others, making conversation, public speaking, etc, give yourself time to think about why you’re doing something. If you’re doing it to please someone else, you’re doing it for the wrong reason. Take care of yourself and your energy.

Ask for help.

Asking for help isn’t a weakness. In fact, it takes a lot of courage to open up and tell someone you need help. You’re not being a burden to others, there are people out there who truly care for you. They want to help you. Holding in all that stress and anxiety isn’t healthy and it’ll take a toll on your physical and mental health.

I hope these help you along the way. Just remember that the future isn’t as scary as you think it is. Keep on moving forward and you’ll get there!

Take care,
Your future self

Image credit: “Walk with me…” by Sandeep Murali is licensed under CC by 2.0

Autumn Reflections – Day 16

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One wonderful thing that happens each autumn is the harvest season. If you’ve ever had your own garden, you know how exciting it can be to dig up and pick all the fruits and vegetables that have been growing over the summer. There’s something indescribably special about the feel and smell of the earth. There’s a sense of accomplishment when you see all of your hard work sitting in front of you. You’ve spent hours maintaining and cultivating your garden, and now you can see the fruits. Baskets of fresh crunchy apples, piles of carrots, potatoes, and onions. Bowls full of cherries, and beans, and cucumbers. Its truly a wonderful time of year.

Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.
-Jim Bishop

Who am I?

Hide awayIn every job interview I’ve ever attended, I’ve heard some variation of “tell me a bit about yourself”. It seems like a simple request. But for an introvert, it isn’t that easy. How do you describe yourself to someone you’ve just met? What do you include?

Physically, I’m 5’10”. I have brown hair and green eyes. I appear quiet and reserved when I first meet someone, or if I’m in a big group of people. But that’s just what you see on the outside.

I’m sure you already know that I’m introverted, an INFJ, and an HSP. I need alone time to recharge. I love being with people, in small doses. I’m highly affected by loud noise, strong scents, and other physical stimuli. These things can drain me just as quickly as social interaction. I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve and most people have no idea what I’m really thinking. It takes a lot of trust for me to open up to those around me.

I’m a kind and sensitive person. When someone is feeling down, I want to cheer them up, or at the very least, listen to their story. I can’t watch sad movies because I’ll cry during the entire thing, not just the sad parts. I can’t stand it when people take advantage of others and I’m fiercely loyal once you’ve gained my trust. Being yelled at makes me extremely uncomfortable and I’ll probably have to fight back tears. Even an argument going on in the same room upsets me. I’m attracted to the beauty in nature, even things that most people don’t even notice.

Being introverted, I crave connections with people. I’d choose a quiet coffee shop with good conversation over a crowded theme park, every time. I enjoy other outings as well, but my favourites are the ones where we just talk. This makes me a pretty cheap date too 😉 I live a fairly simple life. Most of my time is spent at work, going to the gym, grocery shopping, going for walks, cooking, and other household tasks. I spend my weeknights at home, because by the end of the work day, I’m exhausted. But I’ll use my weekends for seeing friends and doing exciting things. I still struggle with saying ‘no’. But I’m getting better and I don’t feel guilty any more. I’m currently interested in nutrition and exercise/workouts. I love the feeling of lifting weight and getting stronger, it’s really addicting.

I’m slowly becoming more confident and independent and I care less what others think. My journey has changed me. Lots of hard things have happened but lots of wonderful things have too. And I’m looking forward to the person I will become in the future.

So, who are you?

Image credit: “hide me away til summer days” by amanda tipton is licensed under CC by 2.0

Learning to accept myself

SchoolI was listening to the radio this week, and Cool Kids by Echosmith came on. And the phrase “I wish that I could be like the cool kids, cause’ all the cool kids, they seem to fit in” got stuck in my head. It made me think of my own school days.

Growing up, I always wanted to be different from who I was. I envied those who could make conversation for hours and not get tired. Even though I didn’t realize that I was introverted, I still knew that I had limits when it came to socialization. I wanted to be the girl who knew everyone and who was bubbly and outgoing.

I’ve learned to accept that I will never be that person, that’s just not who I am. I am a pretty interesting person though, once you get to know me. While I’m a good conversationalist, I’m never going to enjoy small talk. While I enjoy my small circle of friends, I’m never going to have a huge social group. It took a long time to come to this realization.

While I had very supportive parents growing up, as soon as I started school, things got a lot harder for me. Throughout my entire school life, teachers and students alike would tell me that I wasn’t good enough. That kind of thinking takes a lot of time to unlearn. I’ve heard countless times, ‘you’re too quiet’, or ‘you need to break out of your shell’, or ‘don’t worry, you’ll grow out of it’. Parent-teacher interviews were never fun, because they would always tell my parents that “while she’s a really hard worker, she needs to participate in class more, and be less quiet”. And being highly sensitive, I probably took everything they said harder than the average person would. When you’re an introvert, you’re very introspective. You already have a good grasp of who you are as a person and what you value. So when people tell you that you aren’t good enough, it’s very hard to take. So when I found out that being introverted is normal, and that there wasn’t anything wrong with the way I was, it was life changing. And its really helped me to accept myself more. Of course, its still been quite the journey, but I’ve never felt so at peace with myself before. And I want to keep going forward.

I hope that with more information about introversion, other young people can realize what it took me years to learn.

How has your journey been so far?

Image credit: “High School Sucks” by Bekah is licensed under CC by 2.0

On being assertive

SolitudeI used to be a very passive person, and would avoid conflict at all costs. It’s probably part of my introverted nature. I would do everything in my power to ensure that an argument wouldn’t happen. I’d make all kinds of concessions and agree to things that I didn’t want to do. As a result, I got taken advantage of a lot. In conversations, I didn’t want to upset anyone, so I would always agree with them. And I was doing it all the time, to my own detriment.

I’m still working on getting stronger and more assertive. If its something that I’m not really invested in (ex. where do you want to go to eat) then I don’t mind compromising or accepting the other person’s idea. But if its something I feel strongly about, I will state my opinion and stick to it. Now instead of agreeing with everything, I pick my battles. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point. I’m still working on saying ‘no’ more often, but its a lot better now.

I think one reason that I tried to avoid conflict is because I can always see both sides of the story. Because I knew where they were coming from, I felt bad speaking my own point of view. But this was very destructive to me, and I have started speaking up more. I may not agree with what the other person is saying, but I will acknowledge that they have a valid point.

I was talking with one of my good friends, and we were discussing some deeper topics. And although I completely disagreed with their point of view, I could still see that it was valid, and that they believed strongly in it. So I told them exactly that. And guess what, it didn’t start an argument. But as a result, I felt more empowered after stating my own point of view, rather than merely agreeing with theirs. Often when someone asks me a question that I don’t have an immediate response to, I’ll tell them that I’ll get back to them. It gives me time to think about it, and it usually surprises the other person. And I’ve found that most people respect you more when you stand up for yourself.

For so long, I always put others before me, often in a negative way. But then I realized that if I didn’t respect myself, then how could I expect others to do the same. Its been a hard but rewarding journey, I’m just going to keep moving forward 🙂

How have you become more assertive?

Image credit: “Sit” by Thomas Hawk is licensed under CC by 2.0