Fresh Start for February

When I set out to layout my goals for the year, I had a hard time finding what my focus would be. There was so much I wanted for myself, my career, and future that at times my list was growing without any focus and was quickly becoming a daunting and overwhelming list. But then I sat down and saw how there were roughly 12 overarching themes to everything I wanted, and then I saw how I could use each month to focus on the goals I set. 

January was all about getting organized—and that is precisely what I did. I knew throwing myself straight into focusing on routines or the typical “gym-daily” mentality would set me up for failure, just like in years past. My Unbound Planner has helped me visualize what it is I want and how I will execute it, but it took the first few weeks of January to get everything settled and organized. (If you still are in the market for a new planner, and love goals, I have recommended this one after sifting through the saturated market of agendas).

I have finally reached a rhythm where I know what needs to be done daily, weekly, and monthly to really maximize my time. But I know things will change in the coming months, which is why in February I have decided to Prioritize Health. 

I knew once I got a bit more organized, the next thing I really wanted to get started on was focusing on my mental, physical, and emotional health. There is a lot that goes into upheaving your life into a new schedule, especially while you are planning on having a significant life change when it comes to starting a new job, so I knew I needed to quickly prioritize myself.

At times, it would be hard to encourage myself to get out of the house and do anything but stare at my computer screen for hours on end. When you are in that mindset, you lose sight of yourself and what can be crucial. There’s a lot that goes into getting out and getting exercise when you think there’s a cover letter you should be writing or jobs to be hunting. When that happens, everything else falls to the side, and negative thoughts, emotions, and actions come into play.

Activities you found fun or enjoyable fall even lower in the priority ranking that they were previously. Who has time to read, when the most you can think about is your expenses collecting in your bank account? Who has the money to enjoy a Friday night movie when the tickets are close to 30 dollars, and you know that would be a good amount of groceries at Trader Joes?

In the past, during my more trying times, I lost myself. When I first moved here, I was a completely different person, and she is entirely unrecognizable now to who I am today. But it was her actions and her depths that have me really reminding myself that I need to take care of “me” first. 

Firstly, putting me first isn’t a selfish thing, and its taken me twenty-five years to really hone in on that. I have come to realize that its okay to say no, and not seek out these melodramatic experiences or friendships. I have learned that negative things happen when I put myself second. I think illogically. I hurt bonds, or worse, I make awful friendships. My health declines, I eat poorly, I don’t get outside, and I practice worse habits.

Now, as I stare down a daunting task of things to complete in the coming month, I thought I would share them along with you here. Every month I have twenty Monthly Goals and Tasks. Two of those tasks are set for me by my planner, “review your yearly goals & last month’s progress” and “add repeating monthly goals.” I have eleven, yes, eleven goals I plan on repeating monthly:

  1. Finish two books
  2. Write 8 blog posts 
  3. Plan an adventure 
  4. Send a letter 
  5. Earn a new career certification 
  6. Reflection writing piece
  7. Practice a new self-care routine  
  8. Learn something new 
  9. Write one chapter
  10. Reward yourself
  11. Plan a big date with David 

That leaves seven goals or tasks to set for the month. From my daunting list of goals, I took the ones that fit best with my theme and set them as goals I wanted to accomplish during the different months. There were only two significant goals in January, whereas February has four.

  • Have a job that best suits my interests  (Ranked #1 Overall) 
  • Under 30 min on Social Media daily (Ranked #13) 
  • Complete Whole 30 Challenge (Ranked #15) 
  • Have Recipes Organized (Ranked #9) 

I felt that these four goals really played to prioritizing health in February. Having an income and a job (outside of my freelance hustle) is really important for my mental health wellbeing. Limiting my social media engagement and screen time will allow myself to spend more time on myself, and those tasks I previously mentioned tend to get forgotten (like reading two books a month). I know I wanted to partake in some sort of healthy living, diet fad, to really get my body in better shape, because I know when I am physically feeling my best, then my emotional and mental health is right there with it. And lastly, I have hundreds of recipes that live on my computer in screenshots, links to websites, poorly taken photos, and scribbled down papers. I know when they all live in one place, I will finally have an easier time finding what it is I would like to meal prep for the week.

That leaves just three goals that I will set for the month after reflecting on the previous month’s wins, and what I can expect for the next month. I purposefully didn’t set all 20 in January, because who knows how I will be feeling in October. Maybe there will be more pressing tasks, such as how I found a fellowship to apply for in January that I hadn’t noticed until the second week into the month. For February, I want to continue with my health goal by trying to reach 10,000-20,000 steps daily. I believe that will have me out there getting active and not sitting on the couch if I don’t find a job on February 1st. I also want to set the goal of learning more about my body and taking care of it because I know certain foods don’t sit well with me, and I need to take better care of my ankle. And for the last goal, I want to reread You’re Not Listening by Kate Murphy. While I worked at Celadon Books, this was the first book I was gifted, and it had always stayed on my mind. The first time I read it, it was a skim read for an assignment at work, but not I want to take the time and apply those skills mothing forward—so what better month than a month dedicated to a fresh start.

I took a photo of my February goal breakdown looks like! Hopefully, it will be an inspiration to you all as well. You can see there are still a few blanks of goals and tasks to do, but thats something I learned from January, you are always going to find new major tasks to complete, so I repositioned my twenty goals to wither be priorities or Ideas this month to consider.

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Happy February! 

Finding Your Light: The Action

A while back I started a series I never followed through with, until today, of course. I talked a little bit about the self-doubt I had been feeling at the time and how it had surpassed a similar doubt I had a few years prior to then. I described the way it flooded my bloodstream with toxic feelings at such force, and I wanted to talk about how I was combating the negative energy. Partially because I wanted to feel strong.

I mentioned that I was starting this multi-part series to invite others to gain insight towards mental health by providing personal experiences that I hoped, in turn, would promote more people to gain an understanding of the significance of mental health. I wanted to make sure individuals knew that you are not alone, there are so many resources out there to better yourself. 

Not too many knew that in 2017, I became crippled under the weight of fear and ached every time I tried to pull myself back up. So I wasn’t heading my own advice, I was isolating myself. I struggled, still struggle, daily with the events surrounding the changes in my life, but the struggle I initially wrote about is gone.

When I first wrote Finding Your Light: The Onset I had no idea what was to come within the next month –– the hole I found myself in July 2018 was a pothole compared to the fault line that eroded my sanity come August 2018. But, I wasn’t wrong in July to discuss my hard times, but what I should have done was listen to my own advice.

When I was at my darkest time, I wrote only one post, and you can feel the pain seeping through the words. I remember having a friend reach out to me the day I posted it. They had read it and wondered if I needed anyone to talk to, but I shook off my issues. I didn’t take my advice to not let the demon consume my happiness, but instead I allowed him thrive in for way too long.

Because of that, my light shattered more, but that seemed impossible. What happens when you drop an already broken piece of glass?  It explodes into more and more fine and fragmented pieces that I, in turn, amounted myself to because I felt like I was a fine mist of dust allowing something invisible to the eye, something such as wind, to take control.

I was sick, mentally and physically, but weakened to nothing past a sleeping vessel that struggled to ever feel rested. I abused myself and my health, and I let insignificant people define my worth. I let depression linger behind my sullen, hazel eyes that were tinged red from the evenings spent overthinking and manifesting fear. 

But I took action, finally, because I needed conversation. I needed a distant bystander who could talk to me and listen. It helped to see a therapist for a few weeks until she tried to take control of the therapy session. I wanted to talk about the flames because I needed help putting them out, but she was too busy trying to forge through the ashes that were lying where objects once were. The dust wasn’t me, but the wind oxygenating the flickering flame emitted an unbearable flame.

The conversations for awhile validated me. They told me the pain wasn’t insanity, and that I could find something better. It reminded me about who I was when I was younger. I knew I struggled with self-confidence. It was almost typical for me to feel down about myself. I had a great friend group, a supportive family, and a bright future, so why was I manifesting on this low time when I should be thankful for all the highs?

The second the therapy would no longer help, was when I gained the confidence back in myself to really believe in who I was and the journey I was on. I was a grad student, thriving in class, and making friendships that were going to matter. Hell Yeah, Hannah, keep kicking butt! I was writing again, for schoolwork, but I was creative again.

But being thankful wasn’t enough because I was still grateful for a handful of the wrong things. I was thankful for toxic relationships, honestly up until the end of 2018. I couldn’t hold on to those people, and I needed to learn to let go. I was thankful for my freedom, both financially and parentally, but I wasn’t following a life destined to be thankful for.

Sometimes I think back to what fun I used to have with some people in the East Village, but leaving it all behind showed me how to bring the happiness back. I wrote a bit about that journey in Relationships After Heartache when I referred to the saga as the “August downfall.” But I learned in isolation I could focus on myself. I wasn’t worried about saying the right thing to someone, striking up the best conversation, or ordering my favorite drink. I wasn’t concerned with making an impression, telling the funniest joke, and worrying about what my friends were saying behind my back. I just was me, alone in my apartment, crying when I needed to but mostly doing the things that strengthened me.

The reason this time was different was because of the way the negative thoughts strained me into a thick pulp without any sustenance. Sometimes I still struggle to let go of the toxic relationships, hoping they just lie in a grave, so I don’t have to deal with goodbyes, but I have learned how to walk away. Because walking away from the sadness was the one thing that brought happiness back?

My sadness in July? I buried it in 2017, looking my anxiety and depression, literally in the eye and forgiving the demon forever reintroducing it in my life. I told him that I am no longer mad, and that is why this time was different. The past showed me that I can stand up and turn away from something I don’t want to be apart of, and I think so many of us can struggle with that part.

I think we worry about the action when it comes to rekindling our light. We fear that it won’t fix anything, but this time was different because I reignited my light in the most mature way compared to the past. I learned I could find even more strength if I just gave myself a chance, so give yourself a chance.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, I urge more to feel comfortable asking for help. Bearing the weight of your friends in times of need is not meant for everyone. If you are in a space in your life where you can be there for others, I hope you utilize your gift as I have in the past. If you personally cannot handle that role, help yourself, and help others to seek personal help. There is nothing shameful for wanting help. Hug more and remind those in your life that you love them, it will make a significant impact on your well being.