You’re employed. You’re making enough money to live on and putting a little away for the future. And you’re filling your free time with stuff you find enjoyable and fulfilling.
… but is it enough?
This week we handle the nagging feeling that you should be doing more with your time. It’s hard to fight against the advice that you need a second income stream, the coveted “side hustle”, even when in reality you’re doing just fine. It’s all tied into that most frightening of the coronavirus pandemic’s side effects: productivity porn.
And if that wasn’t enough terror, we slip in a real palm-sweaty story about that one time
KITTY READ PIGGY’S DIARY
WAS TOTALLY CAUGHT RED-HANDED, THAT FUCKING SNAKE!!
I like me a timely discussion. Especially when it’s completely unplanned!
Which is definitely the case with this week’s episode of the BGR podcast. We recorded it in… April? May? (Time is a flat circle infected with COVID-19 so who fucking knows???) And yet it directly links to my story about getting laid off, which we published just a few weeks ago.
Toward the end of my job, I was really struggling with work/life balance, and making choices to prioritize my employment—not even my career, but just holding onto a job it turns out I didn’t really need—over my happiness. In short, I was balancing work and life all wrong.
Which leads us directly to this week’s illustrious podcast question asker!
You had a bad day. You’re takin’ one down. You sing a sad song just to turn it around…
… and so you go buy something.
The sweet release of “retail therapy” can feel like an injection of dopamine straight into the pleasure centers of your brain. Some even count it as self-care. For what can be more self-caring than to treat yo’self?
I know people who stress-spend like others I stress-eat cheese. The problem is that the euphoria that comes from buying something new—even if it’s fancy cheese and you really fucking deserve it because work sucked today—is short-lived, but the money you spent is gone forever.
That brief high of retail therapy or impulse spending can waylay your larger financial goals and damage the delicate equilibrium of your savings, generating far more stress than you relieved with the purchase.
Yet being upset about a bad day doesn’t mean you have to throw your financial goals to the wind. And losing that money while trying to make yourself feel momentarily better is going to feel worse in the long run.
I’m sympathetic to the plight of the emotional impulse-spender. Which is why I want to help you find another way of making yourself feel better. One that doesn’t involve your meager paycheck.
What are you supposed to do if you’re experiencing a mental health crisis and you don’t have a therapist? Or money for healthcare? Or supportive parents? Or transportation and time off to visit a doctor? Or like, the ability to shower and leave the house?
We see you.
Whether you have a serious diagnosed condition, or you’re just feeling stressed or blue, this list details free steps that you can take immediately that might help mitigate your circumstances. Nothing on here is revolutionary. Nothing here will “cure” you of whatever ails you. You cannot solve mental health problems with rationalizing and motivation. But because most of such struggles are chronic, it helps to have a sizable toolbox of behaviors to turn to.
Here’s what we’ve got.
Drink a glass of water. Don’t gulp it down, drink it sip by sip.
Eat something. It doesn’t have to be a whole meal. A banana or a granola bar is great. Maybe avoid super salty or sugary stuff. Unless you’re in a place where you need to drive to Five Guys in your pajamas with no shoes on because I have been there.
Stretch and change your position. If you’ve been standing and moving, try sitting or lying down—and vice versa. Stretch like a bear awakening from hibernation. Even if you don’t feel like you have to, your limbs will appreciate it.
Get some light. If your blinds are drawn, pull them up. If you’re in a dark room, move to a lighter room. If it’s possible to put sun on your skin, do so. Your poor brain is confused; help her out by having lights on in the day and off at night.
Get some fresh air. If you can go for a walk, awesome. If not, just stand outside for a moment. Breathe deeply and listen to the sounds you don’t usually notice: birds singing, wind moving, cars going by.
If that’s too much: Open the windows if the weather is nice. If the weather’s not nice, just open them for a minute or two. Light a scented candle.
Move your body. Walks are a solid response to basically all feelings and situations. If you have the energy and focus to do more (go to the gym, go for a run), do that. Exercise almost always helps improve and stabilize moods.
If that’s too much: Put a time limit on it. Tell yourself “I only have to do this for five minutes, and if I want to stop after that, I can.” The hardest part is to get going. Once you’re there, you may decide you can continue after all. In any case, you have permission to stop.
Don’t do anything dangerous. If you’re experiencing severe anxiety or depression, please don’t get into a car or operate heavy machinery.
Ah, January. The time when everyone bravely makes a super ambitious New Year’s Resolution to Lose Weight™, Get Better At Money™, and Stop Stalking Exes on Facebook™. And then, before the Ides of February, quietly shelving said resolution and wallowing in nihilistic self-loathing. “Nothing ever changes, so why bother?” millions ask as they wipe Cheeto dust from their fingers to scroll through the Facebook profile of ex-boyfriend Doug Jackson and wonder how he can look so happy and fit now that he’s dating what’s-her-face.
But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if you could make a New Year’s Resolution and actually keep it?
According to Kitty, I am the only person in America who ever completes a New Year’s Resolution. I therefore consider myself a bit of an authority on the topic.
For the past five years, I have made a New Year’s Resolution. And every single year, I have succeeded at my resolution. Here’s a quick tally:
Read a book a week (52 in all)
Run a 5k comfortably by the end of the year
Write 100,000 words by the end of the year
Save $10,000 by the end of the year
Do a good deed every week (52 in all)
Every one of these goals was made in the spirit of self-improvement and creating a life I love. They were rewarding, challenging, fun, and empowering. I am #livingmytruth and a dozen other inane platitudes AND SO CAN YOU!
Below, I’ll use each of my goals from the past five years as an example of effective New Year’s Resolutioning. Buckle up. Read More
That’s right, my darlings. Your humble hosts are fucking tired as shit. So we’re going to take our own advice and go on a brief two-week hiatus for some R&R.
During this vacation, we will be busily contemplating the mysteries of the universe and researching all things economic and adulty. That way, when we come back from our vacation in early January, we can continue to give you the same mildly useful, humorously tasteless, unrepentantly self-referential content you’ve come to expect from us.
We’ve been talking a lot recently about unequal circumstances. Some people, through no fault of their own, have a harder time achieving financial independence than others. This is why the “anyone can do it,” one-size-fits-all success narrative is harmful and exclusionary.
This question is a good example of one such set of circumstances. This came to us from an anonymous Tumblr follower.
“Bitches I need advice, I have never had a job because I was guilted into caring for an emotionaly abusive sick mother right out of high school. I am twenty three and have no idea what to go into now that I am free. I’m mostly afraid of going to school because I don’t have any money, but I have no idea what jobs I can get without an education! I don’t want to work in fast food and retail until I’m thirty, please tell me you can advise this poor bitch :(“
A poor bitch indeed. Oh, my sweet child of winter.
You have opened the door to my heart, and also my memories. Because I, too, spent a precious chunk of my young adulthood doing the exact same thing.
I ask myself why I did it all the time. The only real answer is that there is immense social pressure on children to care for their ill parents—particularly daughters. Friends and family members I hadn’t spoken with in years (or ever) tracked me down. They got my phone number from my mother, or found me on social media, and twisted my arm until it broke. I was too young and inexperienced to tell them to fuck off.
I share these details because I want you to know that you are not alone, and you will never be alone. Abusive and toxic people are very good at turning illness to their advantage. Their greedy hearts are fed by the sympathy and attention, and they will manipulate the situation to get what they want from you.
And the people who were absent? Who enabled them? Looked the other way? They’re tumbling out of the woodwork like termites to volunteer you for the job they don’t want to perform themselves.