The Perks of Isolation

By: Summer Brons

Ever have those moments where two or three things have gone wrong throughout the course of your day and as you’re sitting there trying to figure out a viable solution to restore balance, suddenly the weight of EVERYTHING even slightly amiss in your life seems to come crashing down on you all at once? Those times where you feel like there is simply no way you’re ever going to catch up, let alone get ahead? Yeah. Welcome to the club.

It’s probably safe to say that most of us juggle some combination of responsibilities involving work, home, fitness, family, friends, hobbies and social endeavors. We have bills, we have schedules, we have people to please and duties to uphold each day. Toss in the occasional unexpected crisis or unsolicited obligation and we’ve got ourselves a three-course meal of stress, anxiety and headache.

One technique I like to try to employ during these lovely times – like when I’m contemplating, oh, let’s say, how my income is inversely proportional to my financial debts – is isolation. I’m not talking about hiding out in my house and avoiding interaction with society, I’m talking about isolating each situation for what it is. Breaking things down into manageable, bite-size chunks rather than attempting to navigate my way through the big picture makes it much easier to take it all in stride and develop a plan of action.

For example, let’s say I’ve had a rough day at work, I still have to hit the gym and I’m supposed to meet some friends out for a drink later that evening. I might leave work feeling frustrated from a project gone awry, then find myself feeling rushed to get my workout in before I need to leave to meet my friends on time, then I’ll start questioning whether or not I should really be going out in the first place. After all, I’m broke, right? The “I really can’t afford to go drink beer” thoughts then generally turn into analyzations of upcoming bills and anything that might be approaching past-due status, which inevitably leads me to tell myself that I really should try to pick up additional hours at my second job, which frustrates me because working extra hours will drastically cut into my training, which then discourages me because I’ll be that much further from reaching my fitness goals…on and on and on until I’m ready to start ripping out handfuls of my own hair. Oh, and did I mention that my laptop of six years unexpectedly died on me two weeks ago? All of my data from the better part of the past decade is sitting in the recovery machine of a computer shop downtown, waiting for me to scrounge up $325 so I can go retrieve it.

Fantastic, yes?

This is where that whole “isolation” game comes in.

  • Chunk Number One:   Work. Tackle work AT work. Once I’ve left the building for the day, it’s time to quit stressing over unanswered emails and purchase orders I haven’t received on time. Back at my desk the next morning, taking five minutes to jot down a to-do list helps keep me on track for the day and ensure I don’t overlook anything critical. But at 5, 5:30, 6pm – whenever I end up leaving – that’s that.
  • Chunk Number Two:  Fitness. I’ve recently started breaking up my workouts into two parts. I get up at 5am and hit the gym before work. My gym is quiet in the morning and I get a little “me” time before the craziness of the day begins. Plus, if something does crop up during the day that might prevent me from working out afterwards, I can still feel good knowing that I’ve at least done a little something. After work, I’ll go for a run. I’ve found that this split technique is a great way to balance weightlifting with half-marathon training; neither endeavor falls to the wayside in favor of the other.
  • Chunk Number Three: Friends. The nifty thing about friends is that the good ones tend to be pretty understanding. They won’t judge you for being a little short on cash one week or wanting to have a quiet night at home instead of bellying up to the bar. A quick “I really just can’t make it tonight” will suffice just fine. Rainchecks – use ’em!
  • Chunk Number Four:  Money. This is a toughie, especially for me. I am not one of those people who can just push their financial woes out of mind and happily go along on my way. What I have to do to maintain sanity in this department is to look at each bill as just ONE bill. If I sit there and contemplate all of them, I am easily overwhelmed. Dwelling on monthly expenses and paying down debts on top of day-to-day things like food, gas, etc. is neither productive nor beneficial to my mental state.

Basically, this all makes it possible for me to enjoy the small successes of daily life without being completely jaded by everything that isn’t quite where I want it to be just yet. Great workouts, a productive day at work, getting some writing done, even something as small as paying a $14 water bill can be looked upon as tiny victories. It’s all about perspective!

What are some of your own methods for keeping yourself sane when everything seems to be convincing you otherwise?

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