“I’m exhausted. I need to transition from survival mode into enjoying life again.”
“I’ve always had a five year plan and seen my next steps so clearly, but I’m just lost right now.”
“Lately all I want to do is Netflix and chill… even though we’re finally allowed to do things again!”
Whether brought on by months of endless Zooms, a health scare, or a relationship unraveling, comments like these keep popping up across all of my circles, and no doubt yours too!
“First comes love, then comes marriage… ” Add in a post-secondary education, a dash of travel, and a few years (or decades) spent accelerating along a career path, and perhaps it’s inevitable that sooner or later we reach the outer limits of our youthful goals.
The massive disruption of a global pandemic and this summer’s return to ‘normalcy’ has left many of us questioning our direction, careers, values — even our identities.
It’s no wonder the New York Times named languishing as 2021’s dominant emotion.
If you’re languishing, here are three simple exercises designed to get you moving from existential ick into action! The life you’ve built for yourself is all around you. You’re not old and retirement is decades off, but oops, what’s next?
These exercises are best done with a notebook rather than a device, a beverage of choice, and some uninterrupted time in a favourite spot.
Exercise 1. REMEMBER WHAT YOU LOVE TO DO
It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of work, chores, errands, and social commitments that we forget to make time for the things that bring us joy. The simple things that help us feel whole, grounded, and authentically ourselves.
This exercise invites you to remember some of those things you love to do and then intentionally welcome them back into your life.
Your turn! At the top of a fresh page, write 100 Things I LOVE to do and then do a brain dump of those things. Anything & everything is fair game. No editing!
Love puzzles? Dogs? Reality TV? Exploring new cities or walking in the rain without an umbrella? Write it all down. Walk away. You’re done (for now)!
Come back to your list later in the week (pro tip: schedule a 15 minute ‘Joy Review’ in your calendar now!) and see what themes and patterns emerged. Common themes include connecting with nature, creative practices, relaxing, learning, quality time with loved ones, etc. How can you integrate these more into your daily life and routines? You could also combine a few of your favourites into a monthly #JoyDate (as I did in the photo above! Mountains + hiking + friends + sunny summer weekends, oh my!)
Bonus points: Try this with close friends or family members — see where there are overlaps and start building those items into your traditions and memories!
Exercise 2. PERMISSION TO DREAM AGAIN
Next, let’s get you into your imagination and away from self-imposed constraints. Your answers can’t be right, wrong, or too ‘out there’. This exercise is for you and you alone.
Feel free to use one or all of the prompts below:
What would I do if I weren’t afraid?
If time and money weren’t an issue, how would I love to spend my life?
One year from today (insert date), I would love to be…
Your turn! Write the question(s) at the top of a page and set a timer for fifteen minutes. Scribble away.
When you’re finished, turn to a fresh page and title it, “I give myself permission to…”
Next, restate your answers from the prompts into either point form or summarize into some key sentences.
Feel free to get creative: doodle, highlight, decorate… have fun with this one!
Congratulations! You have officially written yourself a permission slip to live the life of your dreams. Go get it!
Exercise 3. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
You know the line, “Not my circus, not my monkeys?” Here’s a fun exercise designed to help you remove the circus from your daily life and free up some time and space for all the joyful things you’ve identified and those which bring into the life you’ve journalled about. Your turn! Divide a sheet of paper in two. Title one side, In my Control and the other, Out of my control. List everything that comes to mind in the appropriate column.
Next, cut out or scribble over the Out of my control side of the paper.
Your list is instantly much more manageable, yes? Huzzah! Look at how powerful you are!
Bonus points: Pick just one thing on your In my control list. Set a timer for 25 minutes and GO. Feel better? Onwards! You got this!
How were these exercises for you? What helps you shift from ick to action when you’re feeling stuck? Comment below!