Note pad with questions 'what do you do?' on it

Work to Live, Don’t Live to Work – Should Your Job Really Define You? 

What’s one of the first things you ask when you meet someone new? ‘What do you do?’ And what’s the reply? A job title. Just think about that for a moment. Out of our whole lives, our whole existence, our whole identity, we choose to define ourselves by a job title.  

This isn’t a new thing. And, in some ways, we’re less defined by our job titles than people used to be. Going back to the Middle Ages, people’s surnames were their job titles… Miller, Cobbler, Farmer, Baron, Bishop. More than this, if you were born a Miller, you almost certainly became a miller. Your trade, and therefore part of your identity, was defined before you were even born. 

These days, we have so much more control and choice over what we do for a career. We follow passions, vocations, dreams… and that’s a good thing. But it can easily become all-consuming, to the cost of other parts of our identity. 

So, let’s have a look at why we respond with a job title…

 

Why do we define ourselves by a job title? 

Imagine the scene. You’re somewhere new… a friend’s birthday do, a summer fair at your child’s school, a new yoga club you’ve joined. People can glean a certain amount about who you are from the context. You’re someone’s friend, a mum or dad, a yoga fan. But that’s it. So the question ‘What do you do?’ will most probably follow. Why do we just give a job title? Here are some reasons…

 

  • We’re living to work

While flexible working and work-from-home agreements are wonderful and a great step forward towards a better work-life balance, they can also mean that it’s very easy to fall into the trap of working, when, in fact, you could be doing something else – socialising with family or friends, spending time on a hobby, exercising, relaxing. Your ‘lack’ of free time slowly creeps in to the point where you don’t do much else other than work.

There’s an official term for this – enmeshment. Professor of Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Anne Wilson, defines it as when a job is allowed to “eat up one’s time and identity, leaving less space for hobbies and interests. It makes it harder to connect with people who aren’t a part of your working life.”

 

  • Society praises status

We live in a world that praises people who have important, high-powered careers, or interesting and exciting jobs. To the point that when your job title is seen as ‘ordinary’, you find yourself apologising or excusing the fact. Have you ever asked someone what they did to get a response of ‘Oh, I just work in a supermarket’, or ‘I’m an estate agent. I know, everyone hates me’. It’s such a shame that people feel that societal opinions and expectations define who they are.

 

  • The taboo about sharing

There’s still an underlying taboo about sharing your personal life. People would see it as strange if your response to ‘What do you do?’ was ‘I run a lot, I have three kids and I’m a graphic designer’. It might be seen as an overshare. At the very least, it would take people aback that you haven’t led with your job title. But why? Wouldn’t it be lovely if, when you met someone for the first time, you found out more than their job? Even if it is in a professional environment.

 

The risk of living to work  

Young Business Man in the Office with Burnout

While having a successful career or being happy in your job is definitely an important part of life for the majority of people, there are risks when it starts to take over. 

More and more, we’re hearing of people suffering from burnout. They are simply working too much, and not taking time out of work to switch off and recharge. The incremental effects can lead to both physical and mental health issues. 

As well as this, work is becoming so entwined with our identities that we lose a sense of who we are outside work. If someone then loses their job, they feel utterly lost. This can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. 

 

Work to live – how do we do it? 

So, how do we ensure that we are working to live, instead of living to work? That our identity is more diversified and not just centred around our job title? If this article has resonated with you, then here are some changes you could make:

 

  • Carve out ‘you’ time – make a conscious effort to book in time to socialise with family or friends, spend time on a hobby or get regular exercise. If you find yourself thinking, ‘I don’t have time’, it’s a sure sign that work is becoming too much part of your identity, possibly to an unhealthy level. It’s time to look at how you can free up time. Maybe delegate tasks or have the difficult, but necessary, talk with your boss about how you are overloaded at work.
  • Shun the taboo of oversharing – next time someone asks what you do, give them more detail than just your job title. And make sure you encourage others to share too. As well as asking what they do as a job, ask them what they do in their spare time. The more people do it, the more normal it will seem. It might make you cringe at first, but it will open up more meaningful conversations and lead to a better connection with people.
  • Take a lead from kids – when jobs aren’t part of the equation, kids still get to know each other fine and still have a strong sense of identity. Think of your childhood friends. You are probably less likely to think of them in such close relation to their job, but for who they are outside of work.

 

Of course, there will be people reading this that absolutely love their job and thrive off it being the biggest part of their identity. And that’s fine. But we bet there will be more people who aren’t happy with their work-life balance and would like to make some changes. Remember – identity is fluid and we have the power to change it.

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so either comment below or join the conversation on our socials. What detail would you give about your personal life as well as your job title? Let’s get to know each other! 

 

If you liked this article, you may also find this one interesting: Finding Your Place On Life’s Spectrums

A hand holiday up two gold olympic medals

Say No Like an Olympian

Did you ever get scared on a roundabout as a child, when it kept spinning faster and faster? You didn’t like the feeling and started to panic because you didn’t know how to get off. You held on tighter, but it just kept getting faster. You knew that the faster it got, the more likely you were to hurt yourself if you jumped. As the panic rose, the big strong arm of a grown-up came down to save you, stopping the roundabout safely. After a few deep breaths, you started to calm down and tentatively got off the roundabout.

Modern life and the relentless nature of it sometimes feels like that roundabout. It seems to have become common practice for us to live beyond our wellbeing needs. We’re too busy, too pressurised, too… everything. And often, that feeling of spinning too fast on a roundabout returns… only it’s not a roundabout, it’s life. And there’s no grown-up to save us because we are the grown-ups. So how do we stop, before we fall and really hurt ourselves? 

Well, the Olympics taught us a great lesson this year. Instead of feeling weak when we need to stop, we should learn to say no like an Olympian…

 

Winning shouldn’t come at the cost of mental or physical health

The Olympics brings the world together in a show of both physical and mental strength. Olympians are applauded, praised and cheered on as they strive to bring glory for themselves and their home countries. But this year was different. This year, the world was shown that winning shouldn’t come at the cost of mental or physical health. And we really want to applaud this. 

Simone Biles, winner of multiple gold medals in the 2016 Games, made the news after she dropped out of some of the Olympic events due to mental health. During a performance, she suffered from a case of the ‘twisties’ – a condition that can be brought on by stress and anxiety, which leads to gymnasts losing the sense of where they are in mid-air. She has spoken publicly about how this was the moment she needed to stop… to say no. She knew she was sacrificing the chance of more gold medals, but she put her mental and physical health first. She went on to win bronze on the balance beam, which she said “meant more than all the golds, because I’ve pushed through so much the last five years and the last week.” 

Another Olympian who said no was Canadian diver, Pamela Ware. At the point of executing her dive that the commentator had just anticipated to be ‘spectacular’, she made a misstep and realised she could hurt herself badly if she went through with it. So she said no, and jumped into the pool feet first. Again, she put herself first – something that so many of us fail to do. 

 

If you fail to say no, you will fail

Let’s reframe the idea of saying ‘no’ being a sign of weakness or failure. Because, in fact, if you fail to say no, you’ll end up failing – in a much more serious way. Both Simone Biles and Pamela Ware took the huge and brave step of saying ‘no’ before their roundabout spun so fast that it got out of control. They ignored the world and put themselves first. And that shows more strength than anyone who just keeps going. 

In a previous blog – ‘The Taboo of Needing a Duvet Day’ – we spoke about the importance of learning to slow down, as simply carrying on and on can have serious consequences on both your mental and physical health. 

So when you feel your roundabout starting to spin too quickly, stop while you can do it safely. The longer you stay on, the faster it spins, the worse the damage will be when you fall. 

 

Have you ever made the decision to stop and say ‘no’? We’d love to hear some inspirational stories where you put yourself first. Let us know in the comments below or on our social media channels. 

A Letter to a Post-lockdown Nation that Has Forgotten How to Dress

 

Dear lockdown survivor, 

You made it through the lockdowns. Maybe through extra isolation periods too. Whichever way, you’ve spent a LOT of time at home over the past year and a half. At home, in your comfy gear, letting your hair grow. Quite frankly, choosing ‘the right’ clothes in the morning has not been a priority. 

Now the world is slowly opening up again, and, suddenly, you hear a very unfamiliar question… ‘Do you want to go to the pub on Saturday night?’. WHAT?! The pub?! With other people? Inside?! That, in itself, might be enough to riddle you with anxiety. It’s been so long, what will it be like? Will I be able to talk to people in real life? And then it dawns on you… what will I wear?! 

And it’s not just going to the pub either. It’s going round to friends’ houses for a meal, it’s business meetings… it’s even just the everyday comings and goings of life now that everyone is out and about a bit more. During lockdown, there was a mutual understanding that everyone looked a bit rubbish. You’d be forgiven for going to the shops in your slouchy trousers or appearing on Zoom with slightly dishevelled hair or a bit more stubble than usual. We were all in it together. 

But now… now we’re reaching into that wardrobe and finding that we have no idea what we should wear. And what makes it worse? We cleared out said wardrobe about six times in lockdown because we were so bored… so now, there are hardly any clothes in it anyway! 

Woman looking into wardrobe with questioning hands up

Of course, some people will be acing this. They’ll have kept their glad rags stored, ready for this moment when they can reappear into the world like a beautiful butterfly. But, for the majority of us, we’re emerging in a much less dramatic fashion… more like creatures waking from a long hibernation. 

This is creating some comedy moments. Pubs are full of people dressed from every department of a clothes shop… party wear, casual wear, sports wear. Some people have clearly just missed the mark completely… attempted to ‘dress up’ but looked like they should be on stage giving a keynote speech at a trade conference. Others totter around on high heels – it’s been so long since they’ve worn them, it’s like being a teenager again and learning that very specific skill. At the other end of the spectrum, some find themselves within a ‘fancy’ gang wearing their ‘knocking about’ trainers and the same t-shirt they’ve been wearing all day. Face-to-face business meetings see people sitting rather awkwardly in their smart clothes that appear to have shrunk since they were last used, being very careful not to bend down in case a seam bursts! 

But joking aside, it’s things like this that cause social anxiety to rise. And many people are feeling this at the moment. Not just about clothes, but about re-emerging into the world in general. Suddenly, the couch that you so longed not to sit on every evening during lockdown becomes really rather appealing. Instead of feeling excited about going out, maybe you find yourself wishing you could just collapse into its comfiness and turn on Netflix. It’s safe. It’s secure. It’s our comfort zone. 

But, like with everything else, it can be good to push ourselves out of the comfort zone, and do the thing. While it might take us a while to be able to truly relax in public again (and to figure out what to wear!), we’ll get there. And, like during lockdown, we’re still all in this together. We’re all trying to figure it out. 

And what’s interesting is to see where it leads. Being suited and booted for business meetings or being dressed up to the nines to go out on the weekend might become a thing of the past. Maybe people who turn up in anything less won’t be seen as not having made an effort, but simply as them – someone who prefers to dress more casually. And wouldn’t that be wonderful? Where we don’t have to feel that we have to dress for a situation, but that we can dress for who we are?

Life has changed so much, and continues to do so. It’s discombobulating to say the least. But it’s guaranteed that, however you’re feeling about it all, you won’t be alone. So, once again, we urge you to share and to help each other, and from that will come solidarity. 

Write back to us and share your fashion faux pas! Or even just your thoughts. Would you like to see the world embrace more originality so people can be themselves? Do you think this will help reduce social anxiety and boost mental health in general? 

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Yours truly, 

Individually dressed Makin’ Monsters

Makin' Monsters logo - one M dressed in baseball cap and trainers, then other M dressed in high heels with a feather headress

Mental Health Awareness Week – A Roundup

Mental health awareness week saw such an outpouring of support and solidarity that we thought we would dedicate a blog to it. We saw so many inspirational quotes being posted over social media, with the overwhelming messages being about looking after ourselves, cutting ourselves some slack, and, most importantly, asking for help if we need it. 

We’re huge advocates of all of the above at Makin’ Monsters, so we thought we’d bring you a roundup of some of our favourite quotes that we picked out over the week.

 

Quote

So many of us find it hard to look after ourselves. We have so many people around us to look after that the tendency can be to put them, as well as work, first. Suddenly, we find ourselves going downhill. If this sounds familiar, try spinning the idea of self-care on its head… if you can’t look after yourself for you, do it for those around you. Why deprive them of the best version of you? Instead of being tired and run down, take time out for yourself so you can give those around you everything you’ve got. And, in time… you might just find yourself doing it for yourself too.

 

Quote

This quote comes from Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, and reiterates one of the key elements of Buddhism – to focus on the present rather than the past or the future. Easier said than done though, isn’t it? Our past influences our present, and we can’t help but wonder, and sometimes worry, about the future. But, in anxious moments, focusing on the present can bring the calm that is needed. Distracting yourself by doing something you enjoy can help, or you could try the Five Sense Grounding Technique where you name: 

  • FIVE things you see
  • FOUR things you can touch 
  • THREE things you hear
  • TWO things you can smell
  • ONE thing you can taste

This exercise brings you into the present and allows you to stop the cycle of worrying.

 

Quote

Has anyone ever commented on something you’ve done, that you’ve seen as totally normal, but that has made a difference to them? Maybe it’s been when you’ve left a job, which you didn’t think you excelled at… only to find people were really sorry to see you go. Or maybe someone told you the smile you gave them that morning was just what they needed in the midst of a tough day. However small or large, we make positive differences to people’s lives constantly… and we should stop to realise this, and, more importantly, give ourselves credit for them. That way, maybe you’ll have more confidence in the fact that you make a difference… and that you matter.

 

The world was rocked when we heard about Robin Williams so tragically taking his own life. Well-known for his amazing talents, playing a range of roles from Mrs Doubtfire to John Keating in the Dead Poets Society, he was regarded as one of the best actors and comedians of all time. He entertained people for decades. Yet nobody knew the true extent of the battle he was fighting behind the scenes. 

While we naturally reach out to help people who are visibly struggling, we sometimes miss those that may be hiding pain with a smile. Make sure you remember to check in on friends and family who always seem ok to make sure they truly are. And, if you find yourself putting on a brave face too much of the time, then our final quote may apply to you…

Quote

Do you need to ask for help? It takes a lot of courage to do it, but making that step is the only sure way to getting the support you need. Confide in a trusted friend or family member, or contact a professional. Your GP can be a good first port of call and, in many cases, there are self-referral options they can direct you to. Or there are charities like Mind or the Samaritans that offer amazing support.

 

As we always say here at Makin’ Monsters, we are not trained mental health experts, but we try to create a space that breeds solidarity and support. Mental health awareness week showed that we can pull together and help each other by sharing our experiences –  so let’s keep that going. We’d love to hear if any of the quotes above really resonate with you… let us know in the comments below.

 

Do You Really Need More Stuff?

We’re going to start off with a quick story we heard recently. A little boy travelled to Jamaica for the first time to meet his grandmother. Sat at the dinner table with his siblings and cousins, grandma served up a plate of delicious food… so tasty that the boy gobbled it down in record time, while the other kids at the table ate at a steadier pace. Grandma looked over and asked, ‘Do you need more?’. With huge integrity for a small child, the little boy, with his tummy full, replied ‘no’. He wanted more, but he didn’t ‘need’ more. 

There is a huge lesson for us to learn here. Modern-day consumerism has accelerated at incredible speed in recent years. We can literally buy anything we want from the comfort of our own home in just a few clicks. Couple that with activity-based advertising – which puts all these ‘things’ you might want in front of your eyes each time you’re online – and buying ‘stuff’ can easily become a habit. 

So, why do we feel this incessant desire to buy more? Let’s look at the reasons… 

 

Why do we buy so much stuff?

People buy things for a variety of reasons and sometimes we genuinely need those purchases. If your fridge breaks, you definitely need to replace it. Some of us have passions that require certain purchases. Avid cyclists will need to update their bike and equipment from time to time. Artists will need to buy new materials to continue painting. And this is ok. The problem comes when you are buying so much stuff that it adversely affects your life – financially or otherwise. Maybe your home is becoming cluttered and that’s impinging on your wellbeing. Maybe it’s causing a strain in your relationship because spending levels are too high. Or maybe you want to be more ethical and environmentally friendly in the purchase choices you make. 

Whatever it is, understanding why we buy things can help us address it. Do any of the points below resonate with you? 

  • Easing boredom – hello 2020! With the absence of options that 2020 (and the start of 2021!) brought, many of us found ourselves making more purchases than usual. An Amazon delivery was the height of excitement at points of lockdown! When we have nothing to do, online shopping not only provides the entertainment of looking for something, but it also provides the excitement of it arriving and you using it, wearing it, eating it… But it’s short-lived. Unless you find something else to fill your time, you’ll soon be bored again… and so the cycle repeats. 
  • Keeping up with the Joneses – when you see people around you buying a shiny new car, a trendy new sofa or the latest iPhone, it makes you want it too. Maybe you want to keep up, to not be seen as different or unable to buy what others can. Maybe you worry that people will think less of you. It can be a product of either direct or perceived peer pressure. 
  • Filling a void – this void can be created in various ways. It could be being unhappy in a job, experiencing the breakdown of a relationship, or suffering a bereavement. Sometimes, just having that moment’s pleasure of having something new eases the pain or sadness that the void creates. But, again, it’s a momentary fix, rather than a long-term one.
  • Making ourselves happy – we’ve all indulged in a bit of retail therapy from time to time. There’s no harm in that. But if buying things is becoming the main way that you make yourself happy, it’s likely that there is some more underlying issue that needs attention. 
  • Caving to fads – the world goes through fads and trends… and consumerism takes us along on the journey. Fashion trends are one of the biggest drivers of consumerism, with trends changing multiple times a year, giving people the urge to update their wardrobe. Anyone own a spiraliser?! They were a fad a few years back. Loads of people bought one, spiralised every vegetable in sight for a couple of weeks, and then it has sat in a drawer ever since. Hobbies. They come in and out of fashion too. And there’s a risk of spending lots of money on equipment, only to find a few months down the line that it wasn’t for you. Is there a less expensive way you could try it out? Maybe borrowing or renting what you need?

 

How do I stop buying so much stuff? 

If you’ve found yourself nodding along to any of the above, the chances are that cutting down on your purchases is on your mind. So how do you do this? Here are a few tips: 

  • ‘Do I need it, or do I want it?’ – every time you go to make a purchase, ask yourself this question. Of course, we all have those times when you just ‘want’ something. But limiting the number of times you allow a ‘want’ rather than a ‘need’ will reduce the amount of stuff you buy. 
  • Save what you don’t spend – when you decide that you don’t ‘need’ something, put the money you would have spent in a pot. Decide on something you REALLY want, or indeed need, and then save for it. It’ll discourage you from spending willy-nilly, and will focus you on saving for something that you really feel the benefit of. 
  • Put the screen down – half the time, we’re not even on our screens to buy something, but we get lured in by well-time adverts. The less time we spend on screens, the less temptation we’ll be open to. Find out how to cut down your screen time by reading our blog: Digital Detox: Being Mindful About Your Screen Time.
  • Recognise if you need help – shopping addiction is very real. While most of us are guilty of making unnecessary purchases from time to time, it can spiral out of control for others. This is when professional help is needed and there is absolutely no shame in asking for it. 

 

We’d love to know your thoughts on this topic. Do you find you have bought more unnecessary stuff over the past year during the pandemic? What’s something you’ve bought thinking it would change your life but have only used a few times? Let us know in the comments below! 

Digital Detox: Being Mindful About Your Screen Time

Digital detoxing is a bit of a buzz term nowadays. Before we start, we are not here to tell you to stop using your screens. Far from it. They are part of our lives. But, there are more mindful ways to use them so that they don’t take over all of our free time. 

Hard though, isn’t it? It’s just so easy to pick up our phone when we have a few spare minutes. And you almost feel compelled to do so. It’s like an addiction. A very worthwhile watch is the Netflix film, The Social Dilemma. It explores the way that social media has morphed from something that was created with the very good intentions of people being able to share their lives and keep in touch, into the present day Silicon Valley giants that work by earning huge amounts of money from your activity on the platforms. Sadly, the more time you spend on them, the more money they make. So they are now engineered to keep you scrolling, keep you clicking, and ultimately keep you addicted. A striking quote is: 

“We live in a world in which a tree is worth more, financially, dead than alive, in a world in which a whale is worth more dead than alive. […] now we’re the tree, we’re the whale. Our attention can be mined. We are more profitable to a corporation if we’re spending time staring at a screen, staring at an ad, than if we’re spending that time living our life in a rich way.”

         – Justin Rosenstein – Former Facebook Engineering Manager

Think about that for a moment. We’re being enticed to spend more and more time on screens to make profits for other people. This is a very deep subject, which this blog doesn’t go into further, but it’s an important point to make, as we often don’t realise why we spend as much time on screens. We just do.

So, how do we stop it? How do we take control of the reins and make sure we’re mindful about our screen time so that we can enjoy it, but without it being detrimental to the quality of our real lives? Without it leaving us with less time to do the things we really like to do? 

 

Digital detoxing doesn’t mean no screens

There’s no getting away from the fact the screens are part of our lives, and neither should we want to. Technology advances and this opens up great opportunities for us. There’s no point in trying to hide from it. But we should be mindful about how we spend your time on screens. So here are a few tips:

  • Put your phone out of reach – our devices are extensions of our arms sometimes. They are always there for us to pick up the moment we have a few free minutes. So, unconsciously, we rack up huge amounts of screen time without really meaning to. Putting it out of sight will reduce the temptation to have ‘just a quick check’. 
  • Plan in screen time – what if you gave yourself screen time slots throughout the day instead? Knowing those slots are coming up may incite you to leave your phone alone until it’s actually ‘screen time’. 
  • Have off-screen activities – have something to hand that you can do instead of looking at your phone. It’s all too easy at the end of a busy day to flop on the sofa and scroll away. Place a book, magazine, craft project or any other activity within reach to give yourself another easy option to turn to so you can break the automatic habit of always turning to your phone. 
  • Turn off notifications – this is a must if you are serious about digitally detoxing your life a bit. Having every train of thought interrupted by notifications pinging on your devices constantly is really detrimental to wellbeing. It stops you finishing one thought or task before moving to the next. It stops you choosing when to check in on messages. If someone interrupts you constantly in real life, it’s seen as rude and annoying – yet we let our phones do it all the time. 

Taking small steps like these will mean that you are much more mindful about screen time, and you will start to feel the benefit of it, rather than feeling guilty about the fact you’re overusing it. 

 

Screen time is comfort time – why should I reduce it? 

We hear you. Especially over the past year, screens have been a lifeline – the only way to contact friends and family, be it via messages, social media or video calls. They’ve offered a form of comfort in very uncertain and limiting times. But even before Covid, we were all still guilty of reaching for our phones. When we’re tired, stressed or in need of distraction, they are an easy and comforting solution. So why should we reduce our screen time? There are lots of reasons, but here are just a few…

  • Allows time to talk – how often do you sit down with your partner, a friend or your housemate and end up looking at your phone? Just to check in in case someone has messaged? Or maybe liked or commented on your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram post. That quick check soon becomes much longer, and you both sit there on your screens instead of actually having a conversation about your day. 
  • Gives time for ‘other’ hobbies ‘Other?’ ‘Screen time isn’t a hobby?’ Well, given the amount of our spare time we spend on our screens, surely it should be classed as one. Otherwise, why do we dedicate so much time to it? 
  • Lets your mind rest think about spending 20 minutes scrolling through social media. How many conversations do you see or take part in during that time? Now think about having the same amount of conversations in the same time frame but in real life? Jumping from one to another, making a quick comment before moving to the next, trying to keep up with all the different topics being discussed. It’s enough to make you dizzy. Yet this is exactly what we do on screen. And, afterwards, our minds are whirring and it’s hard to settle and concentrate on one thing.

Screen time isn’t always a negative thing. There are lots of positives to everything we can access via screens – but, like many other aspects of our lives, taking an ‘everything in moderation’ approach is much better for our health and wellbeing.

 

Has this blog struck a chord with you? Do you feel your screen time is above what it should be? Can you think of ways that it can be reduced? We’d love you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The Taboo of Needing a Duvet Day

Think about the last time you hurt yourself physically. Maybe you hurt your back, maybe you broke a bone. How did you handle it? Did you soldier on as though nothing had happened? Or did you stop? Stop and address the physical pain you were suffering? Maybe you stayed in bed while your back healed, maybe you went to hospital to get your broken bone looked at by a professional. In these types of circumstances, we don’t have a choice. We have to stop. And that can mean time off work, time away from your hobbies, and generally time off life. 

But why does it take us to be in physical pain to do this? Why don’t we pay ourselves the same attention when we are struggling mentally or emotionally? We’re not talking above severe mental health issues here, but just needing some time off life to recoup and recharge when things get tough to protect our mental state. A duvet day.

 

Keeping going when you’re drained

We’ve all been there. For whatever reason, life gets too much and we find ourselves feeling utterly drained. It’s hard to get up in the morning, difficult to concentrate, and our patience is low. But we keep going. We think that we’ll get some time to relax at the weekend, but then the weekend comes and there are still things to do. Before Covid, weekends were often spent running around trying to keep up with modern life – shopping, events, taking the kids to endless activities and parties, visiting family and friends – generally chasing our tails. Even over the past year, when we haven’t been able to go out, it’s been hard to get time to look after ourselves due to the pressure lockdown has put upon us. The weekends often haven’t provided the release we’ve needed. The impact of keeping going is incremental and we often don’t notice it creeping up. 

 

Why is it so hard to declare a duvet day? 

For some reason, we find it so hard to tell those around us that we need some time out. But why? Why is it so much easier to say, ‘I’m going to need some time off because I’ve broken my leg’ than to say, ‘I need some time off because I’m feeling burnt out’? Partly because the effects aren’t visible so are difficult to explain, and partly because there’s a taboo connected to it. We’re scared that we’ll be seen as weak, that our boss will see us as fragile and it’ll impact our career, that we’ll be letting our loved ones down. 

So we soldier on. And often we only stop when the effects of being drained and burnt out turn into physical pain – a sore stomach, muscle pain, panic attacks. By the time this happens, things can easily get out of control, resulting in the need for much more than a duvet day. You find yourself thinking, ‘If only I’d just stopped for a day or two, this wouldn’t have happened’. 

 

So, next time you find yourself in need of a duvet day, think again about the last time you hurt yourself physically and had to stop. Did the world fall apart? No. Did you lose your job? No. Did family and friends step into help? Yes. Now try to convince yourself of this – your family, friends, colleagues and all those around you would rather you took a day or two to recoup, recharge and be back on form, than for you to start suffering from more complicated issues. Just like if you keep walking around on a broken foot instead of resting, the long-term damage can be serious. And your emotional and mental wellbeing is no different. The longer you carry on, the worse the effect will be and longer it will take to recover.

 

Do you find yourself dismissing your emotional and mental wellbeing? Or have you learnt to stop and rest when you know you need to? If so, how did you master this? We’d love to hear your comments below. 

When The Reality Isn’t As Good As The Dream

Have you ever had a dream, a goal, a desire that came true – only to find out that the reality wasn’t what you expected? Disappointing, isn’t it? Devastating, even. And it can leave you confused about what you actually want in life. 

It makes us wonder why we bother, why we strive for something more… But we have to have dreams and goals. They are what motivate us in life. The key is trying to figure out what will truly make us happy. Many people are surprised to find out it’s not what they thought. 

 

Where our dreams come from

Our dreams and our visions of how life should pan out come from various places – adverts, childhood, the people in our lives. With so many adverts telling us that a car, a face cream or a new health regime will change our lives, it’s easy to get sucked into making that thing a dream. Maybe your favourite computer game as a child was Mario Kart and you spent years wanting to be a racing driver. Your relationships might be measured up against your parents’ own marriage – a ‘perfect’ marriage that’s too hard to achieve, or a difficult one that you’re aiming to avoid. And then there’s work. Many people spend years working themselves to the bone to get that all-important promotion or partner position… only to find out it isn’t what they’d imagined.

In a great podcast for The RE of Marketing, successful businessman Michael Owen (not the footballer!) talks about this exact situation. He spent years working harder, harder, harder, earning huge amounts of money to be able to afford the massive house with automatic gates on the driveway. He said those gates showed him that he’d achieved his goal. They were part of the dream. And then… the reality wasn’t what he’d imagined. To the point that his marriage broke down and they sold the house. The dream house. But, after a lot of soul-searching, he realised his dreams weren’t aligned to what made him happy. So, he scaled everything back, bought a smaller house, and he and his wife got back together and are now ten times happier than they were before. 

So, how do we figure out what’s really important to us?

 

How to stop chasing the wrong dreams

There are a few steps we can take to try to create dreams and goals that will end in a satisfying and happy reality:

  • Don’t measure yourself against others. Social media is a terrible catalyst in this. Everyone seems exuberantly happy and successful, posting pictures of their ideal family life, their expensive new car or clinking champagne glasses to celebrate the latest achievement. What you don’t see behind these pictures is the struggle they went through to get there. You don’t see the tantrum the kids threw while putting their shoes on to get out to the park. You don’t see the late nights, the missed time with loved ones and the daily stress at work that possibly preceded the promotion.  
  • Think about what you actually want. In a consumer world, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you want something. That’s what advertising does. But what everyone actually wants differs from person to person. And if what you do genuinely want is the big house and fancy car, then go for it. It will leave you with the sense of achievement and satisfaction that fulfilling a dream should do. But if saving up to go on a lovely family holiday to create experiences and memories is more important to you, then you shouldn’t feel bad about driving around in an old Ford Escort.
  • Stop overthinking and look at what you’ve got. There’s a lot to be said for just taking a moment to look around and take stock. In our blog Finding Your Place On Life’s Spectrums, we discuss the idea of constantly wanting to be better at everything, as well as constantly striving to be happier… and almost looking for problems where there aren’t any. This is where we’re at risk of creating dreams that lead to a disappointing reality. It’s ok to be happy with your lot and appreciate it for what it is. 

So, what about you? Have you ever achieved a dream that didn’t turn out as you expected in reality? If so, we’d love to hear about it in the comments, as well as how you dealt with it and moved forward. 

How Do We Cope When The Tunnel Just Got Longer?

Just as we’d been given a light at the end of the tunnel with the news of new vaccines, we now find ourselves in national lockdown again, for the third time. This time, the schools are closed too, and we’re back where we were in March last year. It’s hard not to feel down and a bit of despair. The light is still there, but it’s fainter and further away. 

The upside is that we have two things that we didn’t have last time – the vaccines and experience. While we’re all staying at home, the vaccines will be administered and, by the time lockdown is finished, so many more people will be protected against Covid and the world will be safer than it was. In the meantime, we can use the experience of how we coped last time to cope this time. We can use what worked and adjust what didn’t. We’re not going into this blind like last time. We know more. 

The downside? We’re tired, we’re weary, and our reserves are low – because we’ve been using them for nearly a year now. We’re fed up of not seeing our friends and family, of not being able to go about life in the way we want to – of generally feeling like we’re stuck. So what do we do? How do we cope?  

 

Dig deeper

First and foremost, we have more reserves than we think. We’ve all been through tough times before. Maybe it’s been caring for a poorly loved one, or when you’ve had a hard time at work, or when you’ve had health issues yourself. Think back to when you just couldn’t take any more. And then think about what you did. You dug deeper. And you found a way through. 

This doesn’t have to be done with grace. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have a cry, a shout or a full-on paddy about it. But trust in yourself and find that strength. 

 

Set specific and attainable goals

Many people find it easier to cope when they have goals. They give us something to work towards. But, more than that, they give us control – something that we feel we’re lacking at the moment. Be realistic with your goals, though. If you have a moment, read our blog Finding Your Place On Life’s Spectrums, which talks about finding your place in life, instead of trying to be something you’re not, and how this ultimately makes us happier and more successful.

Also, be specific. Look at the difference between these general and specific goals:

  • Get fit Run 3x a week and only drink alcohol on weekends
  • Do more networking Attend one networking session a week
  • Get more sleep Be in bed by 10.30pm every weeknight

The specific goals are trackable – you can tick them off a list. This way, you’re more likely to succeed, and you’ll avoid a sense of failure or inferiority. 

 

Do things for others

Doing good deeds is proven to help overall wellbeing. The joy and satisfaction of brightening someone’s day has the knock-on effect of brightening yours too. So, think about how you can help the people around you. It doesn’t have to be much. Small gestures are all that are needed. Why not choose two friends a week and send them a small present or a handwritten note of encouragement? It’s simple, doable and will do just the trick of bringing a bit of happiness. 

 

Be selfish 

This may sound strange after saying it improves wellbeing to help people. But, just sometimes, it’s ok to be selfish. Our earlier blog – Are You Feeling Peer Pressure? – talks about how putting yourself first is really important. You can still be there for people around you – but, if you need time out to yourself to decompress and re-energise, it’s ok to retreat. While reserves are low, it’s crucial not to deplete them completely. 

 

Get help

And, finally, if you’re really struggling to cope… get help. There is no shame whatsoever in admitting you need a helping hand throughout this. And sometimes that helping hand needs to be a professional one. If your leg was broken, you wouldn’t hesitate to get it fixed. Your brain is just another part of your body. Your first port of call can be your GP, or you can reach out to amazing charities like Mind

 

At Makin’ Monsters, our whole purpose is to be a place where you can share your worries and help others. So feel free to comment below. Have you found a way of coping that could help others?

Finding Your Place On Life’s Spectrums

 

“Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be the best, better than the rest. Be smarter, faster, richer, sexier, more popular, more productive, more envied, and more admired. Be perfect and amazing and crap out twelve-karat-gold nuggets before breakfast each morning while kissing your selfie-ready spouse and two and a half kids goodbye.”

 

Let’s just consider this quote from The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson. Did it hit home with you? Our culture has become driven by achieving the extraordinary. And if you’re not, you don’t feel like you’re doing enough. It’s easy to feel inferior. But why does everything have to be so extreme? 

It doesn’t.

Looking at life as a series of spectrums rather than extremes, and, more importantly, finding your place on those spectrums, can help you find satisfaction and happiness – and ultimately become the best form of YOU.  

The word ‘spectrum’ is often associated with the autistic spectrum, so let’s use that as a springboard to explore various spectrums further. 

 

Our lives aren’t linear – and nor is autism

It used to be common belief that the autistic spectrum was linear – ranging from ‘less autistic’ to ‘more autistic’.

But this is too extreme. The autistic spectrum is actually more like this: 

Now, it’s imperative to remember that all autistic people are different and each person can have several of these traits, some being stronger than others, as demonstrated here:

How do we apply this to other areas of life, though? First of all, you have to abandon the idea of ‘extremes’. Then, you need to realise that you’re not just one ‘thing’ – you’re made up of many different parts, and they all come together to make you… YOU.

Let’s take a look at a couple of spectrums that run throughout our lives to dive a bit deeper into this. 

 

Playground mums

 

This is based on an article about different types of playground mums, but it could very well be playground dads too. So, if you’re a playground mum (or dad!), which types do you identify with? The WhatsApp mum who needs her group of other mums to hand to make sure she doesn’t forget what’s needed on the school trip? The Activewear mum, who’s always heading off for a jog or a workout after the school run? Perhaps you’re the Good enough mum who ticks all the boxes, is a great mum, but doesn’t win the prize for the best cake at the bake sale. Or maybe you’re the Clipboard mum, who organises everyone else and heads up the PTA to raise funds for the school. 

Remember, though, just like with the traits on the autistic spectrum, you will identify with several of them – not just one. Maybe you’re a WhatsApp mum with a sprinkling of Craft mum when you get enough time outside work and running the kids here, there and everywhere. You don’t have to be just one ‘thing’. 

 

Business people

 

Within a company, you’ll find lots of different types of people. This is normal. A range of people is needed to make a business work. And, while you may not agree with everyone’s approach to business and work, it’s really important to remember that none of these are wrong. They are just different. 

So when ‘skin-of-my-teeth’ Tony is giving you palpitations because you’re a super-organised 9–5er, try to remember that he is just different to you… he still does a good job because it’s how he performs optimally. If you made Tony work 9–5, he’d be totally frustrated and do a rubbish job. And think how useful someone like him is when an urgent project comes through! 

Where do you lie on this spectrum? What makes you perform to YOUR best?

 

Now we’ve explored a couple of these spectrums, let’s consider where all this is leading… 

 

Finding YOUR place and YOUR best

Trying to be something or someone else is never going to work if it’s not who you really are. And why should you? Finding your place on life’s spectrums means that you get to grips with who YOU are. And, by doing that, you can be the best version of yourself. This leads to you being happier and more satisfied, rather than feeling inferior and like a failure. 

And, don’t forget: life changes and so will you. You may find yourself taking a slight side-step or a huge flying leap into another part of a spectrum. A new job, having a child or needing to look after a loved one are just some of the things that can fundamentally change our lives – whether it’s voluntary or not. But it’s important to recognise and accept the shift. 

 

One thing that’s always needed – RESPECT

As with everything in life, RESPECT is essential. Take another look at those spectrums. Have you noticed something? All the different parts make a whole. Your place on a spectrum or in life may be different to that of others, but it in no way means that other people are wrong. Our communities are made up of lots of different people – all as important as the next. Everyone has a contribution to make and we need to understand – and respect – that. 

So, have a think about your place in life’s spectrums. Remember, life isn’t linear, so shouldn’t be full of extremes and feelings of failure if you’re not achieving ‘the best’. Recognising who you are and achieving YOUR best will lead you to being happier, more satisfied and more fulfilled.

 

We’d love you to leave your thoughts in the comments sections below. Where do you feel you lie on these spectrums of life? Can you think of other spectrums?