A Microstep I’ve recently taken up is noticing when I start to feel tired and not trying to stay up longer to “do more.” I’m sure many people also feel the pressure to keep working into the night, and this is something that’s helped me prioritize my recovery time. Another Microstep I use is instead of reaching for my phone, I try to reach for a book. Sometimes phones can actually drain us instead of recharging us, so I’ve really enjoyed this swap. When I notice I need to recharge, I allow myself to say “no” to events that could be draining (emotionally or physically). Also, I’m a list maker! When I’m trying to stay focused and clear my mind, I make a list in no particular order and then evaluate what’s the most urgent and what’s just “nice to have” completed.
When the pandemic first started, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to do it all. As a mother to a toddler — and a wife to someone going through a major career change that required them to be gone for six weeks — I was dealing with a lot, but I never took a day off work. I didn’t have any help with my toddler because we were being very cautious about COVID and were not seeing anyone. As a result, I wore myself out pretty quickly, but ignored it for months. Once I started to feel both mentally and physically broken down, I realized the only way to get out of this was to take small steps; otherwise, I would be just as overwhelmed trying to get back on track.
So I went a week at a time, slowly repairing my well-being and building up my Microstep routine:
Week 1: Go to bed earlier.
Week 2: Go to bed earlier and put your phone away 30 minutes before.
Week 3: Go to bed earlier, put your phone away 30 minutes before, and read a book.
Week 4: Go to bed earlier, put your phone away 30 minutes before, read a book, and drink a full glass of water in the morning.
Week 5: Go to bed earlier, put your phone away 30 minutes before, read a book, drink a full glass of water in the morning, and don’t open your phone as soon as you wake up.
I continued until the Microsteps became habits and routines. As these behaviors became normal for me, I noticed I was happier, I had more energy to be with my family, and I had boundaries to say, “I just can’t do more today” — and not feel guilty. It has been incredibly freeing. Not every day or week has been perfect, but I’ve been learning to be OK with that, too.
This is silly, but I come up with creative or funny Slack messages to help connect with my team or co-workers. I have heard people say it makes them laugh or brings a smile to their face, and it’s a nice ice breaker to say hello to someone I may not usually connect with. I’ve done this at three different companies, and it’s always been well-received!
I’ve gotten a better hold on my stress levels recently, but there are many things I wish I could tell my younger self to help her cope better. I wish I knew that worrying over something that might happen is a waste of precious time. Instead of living in fear of “what ifs” and worst case scenarios, it’s better to prepare for what I can control and let go of the things I cannot.
If I’m ever feeling down, I have a playlist of songs that are uplifting and, even though I cannot dance, they are songs that make me want to try. Between great songs and being creative (coloring, painting, or doing anything with my hands), I am reminded to step back, zoom out of my current state of mind, and go into a new place.
The importance of Microstep reminders from the Thrive app has made a big difference in my consistency. Even though I was pretty good about blocking time on my calendar to sign off at certain times, the longer I did it, the more likely I was to snooze the reminder. But once I had the Thrive app, that notification felt more positive than just a typical calendar reminder and I didn’t want to ignore it.