Full disclosure: The following is purely anecdotal. It’s about as scientifically based as your new obsession with turmeric.
Hey there, sparky. Quick question for you: Are you starting out the day on the wrong foot? Does it feel like a little cloud develops before you leave the house and follows you out the door? Do you sometimes wake up thinking, “I will crush this day and drink all its delicious juices,” but by the time you get to work you’re only thinking, “I hope I make it to lunch without killing someone or crying”?
Any or all of that sound familiar?
Now, yes. It could very well be actual depression. Depression IS real and should be diagnosed and treated. But it could also be something else, something within your control.
“Yeah. Like my stupid job,” is something you may have just thought.
That very well could be it. Despite a lot of privileged assholes and life coaches telling you to follow your bliss and do “what makes you happy,” the majority of people work jobs because they need money. Some people work two or three jobs. Sometimes we don’t get to be so picky about that. But we soldier on. Still, even the most resolute among you may start to crack up a bit if assaulted every day by the stress of a job you’re not suited for. And it is a free world. You can quit a job. I’d highly suggest trying it at some point. If you can afford it.
God knows my stress levels went wayyyy down when I quit mine. My skin is shiny, my hair grew back in and my teeth quit falling out. But important caveat: You have to have money saved up for this. Quitting your job and being broke is going to make things worse. (As it is, with each passing day I’ve got one eye on the money meter and another on LinkedIn.)
But maybe it’s not your job. There have been a few days in my glorious fake retirement where something’s gone off. A few days in which a sense of optimism and a mission to kick ass and take names is replaced by “Ugggghhhhhh” by the time I brush my teeth.
So another question for you: What is the very first thing you reach for when you wake up in the morning?
Is it your cellphone or tablet? I’m going to bet that many of you use one of those as your alarm clock.
And after you hit snooze six times and wake up, what do you do next?
Do you check email, Facebook, Twitter and some other favorite social media feed? Do you look at Drudge headlines?
Does half an hour to an hour get away from you while you do this?
Some may have answered yes. Some may have said, “Man, I ain’t got that kind of time in the morning!”
You might not have that kind of time. You may be burning it without realizing it anyway (which will only make your mood worse).
But even if you are hopping out of bed, I’ll bet you end up squeezing your media in during your morning routine — squeezing it in while you’re squeezing one out (I’m so not sorry about that), or while cramming yogurt down your face, or — if you’re a city dweller who takes mass transit — on your morning commute.
Wasting valuable time in the morning is going to throw you off your game. But more important is what you’re wasting it on. I’m not going to get into the actual news media at this point. Though being confronted with that first thing in the morning doesn’t help — especially these days. (I partly got into blogging because I was mad about something someone said about meteors on Good Morning America back in 2001.)
Think about Twitter and Facebook. There is so much on both of those just tailor-made to not only piss you off, but to suck you in. People are making bold statements about politics, religion, child-rearing, sports teams, holistic medicine, global warming, GMOs, vaccines. Just looking at that list probably has you tensing up. Especially if you’re like me, and nothing drives you quite as batty as someone being wrong on the internet.
Even the fun stuff can be a trap. How many of you have clicked on a Cute Cat Compilation video only to come to half an hour later parked outside the nearest animal shelter about to adopt them all because you feel guilty? How many of you slip into an “I’m an awful friend” shame spiral because Facebook reminds you of another birthday you forgot or that you haven’t seen that one friend since she was pregnant (and her kid is graduating)?
This sounds funny. But all of these things become an emotionally exhausting treadmill that you can’t quite hop off. Worse, it’s sapping your brain at what should be its freshest time of the day, before it’s cluttered up with crap. In fact, instead of letting it wake up and stretch, you’re literally force-feeding it stress-inducing garbage.
Worse still? This behavior is addictive and hard to break. I saw a Facebook friend yesterday post a political rant from the beach and I shook my head and almost typed, “You’re vacationing wrong.” But that would have made me a giant hypocrite. It’s not like I put my phone down while we were in Iceland recently. Though I did force myself to stop looking at Twitter and Facebook political stuff because I was getting pissed off. The thing is, I KNOW this already.
When we went off to Bora Bora two years ago to get married, one of the reasons the week at the Four Seasons was great was because we didn’t shell out for the expensive WiFi. Yes. I had itchy fingers for a day, but quickly got over it. And I’d sit on the deck in the morning looking at the world in front of me rather than getting mad at a screen. (And, like a couple of crackheads, the minute we got to Moorea and free WiFi, we spent every morning and night checking our feeds.)
The good news is you can experiment with this. If you can bring yourself to do it. I know some Catholics give it up for the 40 days for lent. That sounds intimidating. Maybe just try it for a week.
Already some of you are protesting. “But my job, my kids, my life.” Hey. I’m not suggesting you quit social media entirely (you wouldn’t want to deprive yourself of me!). I’m saying don’t make it the first thing you do every morning (or the last thing you do at night, for that matter). Unless you are a social-media manager, this is doable. Anyone else who thinks they need social media or social media needs them first thing in the morning is an egotistical drama-addicted lunatic.
Postpone your fix until a little later in the day.
You can do it. If you want to. (Says the guy who woke up and immediately wrote a blog post — on his phone, while in bed — about this.)