Five years ago, I packed up my life in Boston and moved to NYC. As I drove my Uhaul through Harlem, down the Westside Highway along the Hudson River, I felt a renewed sense of energy, inspiration, and adventure. From the museums to Broadway, new shopping options, an insane food scene, amazing workout classes, and simply discovering little-known gems in the nearly 300 different neighborhoods that make up NYC, there certainly wouldn’t be a lack of things to do. Is THIS the concrete jungle where dreams are made of? I was so excited.
From day one, my schedule was jam-packed. During the week, I would try new workout classes, meet-up with friends, go out with work friends, teach spinning, and go to meet-ups to meet new people. The weekends were much of the same, and every Saturday I set out to explore something new. I really was a tourist in my own town.
As I earned more responsibility at work, made more friends, dated, and continued to expand my passions, my scheduling and planning went into overdrive. While I was doing all of the things that I loved, I was so stressed out.
I put so much pressure on myself to be ‘doing’ all the time. Sometimes, I would get myself so worked up trying to decide what to do or wondering if I was doing the ‘right’ thing I would nearly be in tears of anxiety.
Now you’re probably thinking one of three things:
- OMG, I know exactly how you feel.
- Whoa, girl! Take a chill pill…enjoy!
- A combo of one and two.
If you’re thinking two—we’re on the same page. As I took a birds-eye view of my life, I realized I was sucking all of the joy out of my own days.
Not only do stress and anxiety feel awful, but feeling them constantly can create ramifications for your overall well being. Everyone experiences and expresses symptoms of stress differently. For me, I started feeling symptoms of adrenal fatigue, poor sleep, lack of focus and concentration, bad digestion, and just general dissatisfaction. It also caused me to feel like I needed to be in complete control of everything. You and I both know that is not possible.
I knew I didn’t feel good. I was pushing and forcing instead of listening to my body, my true wants, and my intuition. But I didn’t know what to do; maybe this was just who I was.
I fueled all of that energy into running the NYC Marathon. The training took so much dedication, willpower, time, and energy. It was the most rewarding experience I’ve had to date—the emotions are hard to even articulate.
The weekend following the marathon, I was tired—emotionally and physically. It was also a rare weekend I had the apartment to myself. I started thinking about all of the things I was going to do, but if I’m honest with you, I could barely walk down the stairs. I’d heard about this amazing show called Homeland and decided I’d let myself relax for the morning and watch an episode or two. Season 1 and however many hours later, I was hooked and realized that maybe binge-watching TV was the best thing I could have done for myself.
Here’s what my binge session taught me…
It’s Okay to Chill
Relaxation does not equal lazy and lazy does not equal bad. Whether it’s Netflix or some other potentially mindless activity that grabs your attention and distracts you from outside stressors, it’s okay to let them take over every now and then. It’s okay to lay on the couch for hours at a time, to order take out instead of making a home cooked meal, or to sleep the day away every so often. Just because you’re not staying up until 2 a.m. cultivating your side hustle, going to that HIIT workout, or reading that new self-help book on how to be a great leader doesn’t mean that you won’t be successful or that you’re unmotivated.
Stress Is Not Sexy
You know that episode of How I Met Your Mother where Ted is dating the girl with crazy eyes? I feel like that’s me when I’m too stressed out. I look like a deer caught in headlights or running around like a chicken with my head cut off. That is not sexy, approachable, or really who I am.
While societal constructs teach us that stress = success, I find that it turns me into the worst version of myself; someone who doesn’t contribute in an authentic, purposeful, or intentional way. On a deeper level, stress affects our bodies and our overall health long-term.
Avoiding all stress is impossible, and there are definitely elements of stress that are good for us, but finding ways to remove stressors from your life can be so beneficial, even if it’s just for those 22 minutes of a Netflix show.
Exposure Fuels Creativity and Conversation
When my days are overly planned, I’m rarely exposed to anything new. I see the same scenery on my walk to work or yoga, scroll through the same images on Instagram, and am stuck inside my bubble of information. But when I seek new information, watch a new show, or try to learn something my brain starts working in new ways. I start to have new thoughts and open the proverbial creative floodgates.
My little Homeland binge gave me something new to talk about with friends and gave me the motivation and desire to step outside my comfort zone more often. Now, I have a few shows that I love to watch regularly, listen to the Up First podcast every morning among others, read the New York Times, Architectural Digest, and the Medical Futurist in addition to my old standbys, and have been exploring the Twittersphere. I feel like a more interesting, educated, well-rounded person.
Flexibility Is a Skill and a Virtue
Not every day is going to look the same or go according to plan. There will be days when amazing things happen unexpectedly and days when the roof is on fire. The ability to roll with the punches and pivot is a skill that I have to work on every single day. The thing is, life would be really boring if we knew what was around each corner or behind the next door. Having an open mind to possibility is really where the beauty in life lies. If you believe there are endless possibilities, things will happen to you that you could have never dreamed.
Next time you’re feeling like the unknown is provoking unwanted anxiety, take a deep breath, tell yourself everything always works out, and let go. I know it might seem elusive, but just saying to myself ‘Hailey, let go’ has been such a helpful tool.