Hello, readers! May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and so I’m going to be a little bit more serious than usual: today’s blog post is about prioritizing one’s mental health, and how I have done so over the past year and a half. I briefly mentioned that I started going to therapy sessions in my 2021 recap post, but I wanted to dedicate a post specifically to this topic.
My health realization #1: I should have started therapy years ago!
Regularly talking to a therapist for the past year and a half has greatly decreased my stress levels, improved my work/life balance, and positively impacted my overall mental health. I developed bad working habits early in my career that have been hard to break — first and foremost, I just simply work too many hours out of fear that I’m not contributing enough to justify my salary. I struggle with perfectionism. However, I’ve improved my relationship with my work by setting better boundaries, and I’ve also focused on improving other areas of my life — like making sure I stay on a consistent sleep schedule.
Some of the things I’ve done to break my bad habits:
I rarely work in the evenings now
I keep my work laptop and phone in my office (something I’ve done for a long time, but continue to do)
I block out my calendar in the afternoons in order to have more focused time
I decline more meetings that don’t have agendas or don’t fit into my typical working hours
I try to go to sleep around the same time every night, and try my hardest to get at least 7 hours of sleep
I wrote my 2021 post so late last year that it hardly feels like it’s time to write my 2022 recap, but here we are! When I think about the past year, there are a few major events that come to mind. If I had to summarize 2022, it was the year that my husband Tym and I:
Adopted a second kitty (I mentioned this in my 2021 post, and I’m happy to share the news that our older kitty has finally adapted to the change!)
Traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Sold our first home
Vacation Fun Times & Overcoming Stress
I’ve worked for over a decade in the tech industry and in that time, my longest vacation had been 11 or 12 days. I took a full two weeks off over the summer to travel to Mexico and also visit my family, which meant that I had 16 restful days of time away from my job. I highly recommend doing this, as it really helped me to remember what my main priorities are in life; ever since that vacation, I have been much less stressed and have focused more on my well-being. I finally made the realization that while work is almost always busy, that doesn’t need to mean that work has to be stressful.
Being employed at a larger company has helped me disconnect more from my work as well, as I also came to realize that I’m only a single person at a company of thousands of employees: working an extra hour or two (or five) every week doesn’t really make that much of a difference overall, and only leads to burnout and less productivity over time.
The great thing about running or walking is that almost anybody can do it regardless of their fitness level, so long as they have decent shoes and sweat-wicking attire. I know the word “running” can evoke a negative reaction from many folks, but how far and how fast one can run doesn’t matter; in fact, walking is a fantastic form of exercise, too. Many walkers and hikers participate in races; most running events have a walking option.
Successfully starting and maintaining a running ritual hinges on proper goals, planning, and training. With the right combination of all three, running can be fun and provide amazing physical and mental health benefits.
I’ve procrastinated on writing my yearly recap post simply because 2021 felt like 2020 in many ways, didn’t it? That said, I’m thrilled to be vaccinated and boosted (as I had hoped in my 2020 post), and the world is starting to ever so slowly return to a pre-pandemic normal even if COVID continues to ravage onward.
My 2021 started off cautiously, but by April we decided to get out of Washington state and head down along the Oregon coast. While Tym and I had been to Portland a few years ago, it was our first time to the coast and I enjoyed exploring Pacific City and sightseeing areas such as Thor’s Well and the Devil’s Punchbowl.
After we were finally fully vaccinated, I flew back to Pennsylvania in July 2021 to see my family for the first time in over a year and a half. It was a bit of an emotional reunion, and I was pleased to be able to travel back in the fall as well. I hope to never go that long without seeing my family again!
In addition to our east coast trips, Tym and I spent a week in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, and also traveled on a short getaway to Colorado. In California, we rode roller coasters at Six Flags, spent a day at Universal Studios, and also got a lot of sun — it was over 100 degrees in Palm Springs! While Joshua Tree National Park was a great experience, we didn’t do a lot of walking because of the heat. Our trip to Colorado was Tym’s first time in Colorado and my fourth, so I enjoyed showing him around my favorite areas of Denver and Colorado Springs.
2020 was a year that felt like a decade, yet was over in the blink of an eye. While I’m grateful that I’ve stayed healthy throughout the past year, as I write this I haven’t been farther than an hour and a half from our home in Seattle for more than twelve months. That picture above taken from the Salesforce Tower is from a work trip last February! I did not end up visiting any family last year, so once I’ve been vaccinated a visit to Pennsylvania will be one of my first post-vaccinated travels.
That being said, I have much to be thankful for. I excelled as a new lead developer on my team even with us living in a pandemic for most of the year. We launched a new product in nine months! It certainly wasn’t easy, but I’m so proud of the team I work on and can’t wait to watch our success continue. I’ll have more professional growth and learning this year as well, as my role at work is changing again.
Outside of work, I biked a lot more in 2020 and kept up my running routine throughout the pandemic. I also enjoyed virtual boxing/HIIT classes through my boxing gym, but I was not able to achieve my goal of taking swimming lessons and completing a triathlon. While I’d say I would love for this to be a goal for this year, realistically I’m excited to just get back into staggered-start trail racing — running with friends and others again would be ideal. There’s my main fitness goal for 2021: social running. Seattle will soon have a few new ice rinks thanks to our new hockey team, so perhaps I’ll even consider skating lessons!