Change is the only constant in this universe.
I’ve heard that modern proverb many times growing up, and it’s nearly become a personal mantra in my 30s as I navigate a world on fire like every other millennial. Dealing with environments rife with chaos or disharmony, and remaining grounded in times of change and transition (especially when there seems no end in sight!) is something I’ve strived to master since late childhood. I’d like to believe I’ve gotten better at it in my 30s but something tells me I still have a ways to go before I can consider myself a master of chaos.
A prime example of this is the circumstances around going back to college and taking on a part time job, after taking an extended hiatus upon completing my Associate of Arts degree during the pandemic. I had a lot of psychological “stuff” to work through around the whole concept of higher education in the United States, and my longtime love-hate relationship with academia before committing to the decision to complete my Bachelor of Arts degree in my original major. I also had to switch to applying to on campus jobs shortly after starting my part time summer job in July, a job I had initially intended to work more long-term – the whole academic year, at the very least. Sadly, I had to step away due to poor management, disrespect from supervisors/colleagues & hazing dynamics.
I’ll be quite frank here: money alone is not enough to motivate me to stay at a job.
This experience, however, certainly was another lesson in staying grounded in my core values and standing up for myself while attempting to bow out as gracefully as possible and not go out of my way to burn bridges. Maintaining one’s integrity and professionalism in the face of unkindness is difficult, but I’d rather take that road then fall into the deep pit of pettiness. It was no easy task, but I feel I accomplished this to the best of my current ability. Considering I’m a little rusty, and out of practice with the typical American work culture dynamics. Which I find to be some of the most toxic, hypocritical and outdated work cultures in the world.
That’s why, in the long term, I seek to pursue consulting, self-employment or entrepreneurship fueled by the study of my fascinations in Anthropology & the Arts. I have no intention of taking a typical corporate, healthcare, or tech job upon graduation.
For now, I aim to work on campus in the afternoons & evenings after classes in the morning & early afternoon four to five day a week. I’m keeping my weekends open for rest, content creation & course work, or study. I feel this will set me up for success in terms of spending more time on campus near the libraries and study spaces, stressing less about my job and income sources, saving on fuel & travel time (aka not having to drive from home to campus to a job and then home five+ days a week), and with time management.
During all this chaos, my “self-care protocols” have played a key role in reducing the stress on my mind, body and emotions. Much of which revolves around maintaining hobbies, forming new healthy relationships, working out and eating well, and engaging in better/more consistent physical & mental self care habits every day. It may sound like a simple affair, but it truly is harder than it sounds – if you’re neurodivergent, you know what I mean.
Here’s how I maintain my sanity:
• Make sure I put everything I need to do in my calendar with an accurate date & time immediately (so I don’t forget to do so later or not at all) – and set a timer to remind me in advance (usually between 15 min for tasks & a half hour to an hour for things like appointments & meetings).
example: communicating with my professor through email and putting my appointment for advising in my calendar as soon as I confirm it with my professor, and then setting a reminder for the day before and a half hour before my meeting
• I keep a running list of tasks around the house or things I need to buy both on my phone and on the fridge in the kitchen. This allows me to cross things off as I go and see what else needs to be done so I don’t lose track and get lost, or overwhelmed.
example: needing to finish the backyard patio & new steps this weekend, drywall & new trim for the second bedroom upstairs in September, get Febreze & more dishwasher soap for the kitchen & buy my notebook for class this week
• I have been getting into the habit of doing certain things at certain times to create a flow state as much as possible (reducing stress, mental strain and decision fatigue) throughout the day.
example: dry body brushing & brushing my teeth right before hopping in my evening showers an hour after dinner and 2 hours before I curl up for the night OR eating within an hour of waking & taking my supplements at the same time
• Practicing barre or pilates at least a half hour hour every day and finding time to go for a walk, usually before dinner time.
• Meal prepping with my sister on Sundays to make sure we have healthy meals and snacks for the week so neither of us need to worry about eating well during the week with both of us working, going to college, and taking care of a toddler!
example: making a big pot of stew, a large casserole dish and a sheet pan meal to keep in the fridge for lunches & dinners, and have prepped ingredients portioned out for quick breakfast options
• Finding a half hour to an hour every day to devote to a hobby like working on a weekly formulation or sewing project, baking, or reading a chapter in my current book. (I’m re-reading the entire Sherrilyn Kenyon Dark Hunter series)
• Giving myself the space to have slow mornings and evening unwinding routines, which often includes journaling or emotional release techniques like practicing the Sedona Method for a while.
It helps me process my thoughts and emotions, integrate things I’ve learned or experienced, let go of crap I’ve been stuffing down or pushing away, and find a space of stillness and calm within.
Like everything else in life, these little protocols are likely to shift a bit as time goes on but the general ideas and practices remain the same overall. I find that I need to create this kind of framework to managing my neurodivergence and live with my C-PTSD in a way that allows me to thrive. Life is harder enough as it is, but poor mental & physical health will only make the struggles feel more insurmountable.
And I think most of us already know that.
Just a reminder to treat yourself with some compassion & respect today.