Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hitting the Reset Button on Life

Cold weather and a beautiful sunset over the Outer Banks.
Sometimes I just have to hit the reset button on life. Usually its a fairly easy thing to do. Take a deep breath, count to ten, and remind myself that the rest of the day is still ahead of me. Only slightly more difficult than rolling over in bed while still immersed in sleep to pound the snooze button.

Other times, the reset button just refuses to activate. No matter how many times I tell myself to hit it, the stupid thing just seems to be all jammed up. These are the days when every little thing seems to snowball, and the thought of just counting to ten and starting over makes me want to tell my inner voice of reason to take a hike to Antartica. On days like these, there's no starting over, just hoping the next one goes a bit better.

And that's where the vicious cycle starts. Everything I couldn't finish that day piles onto the next. I get stressed, eat a bag of potato chips for lunch and a stack of candy bars for dinner. I stay up too late, stressing about all the work I have to do the next day, then sleep in and get even further behind. I tell myself the only solution is just to work harder, and cancel all plans, date nights with my fiancee and any other enjoyable event so that I can sit and stare at my computer and lambast myself for all the work I'm not getting done Before I know it I'm hopelessly behind with work, tired, crabby and in a general no good funk.

That's when its time to hit that reset button for good. And I don't mean the soft tap, the gentle nudge into a quick reset. I mean hitting it with a sledgehammer and rebooting the whole system. This can be accomplished a variety of ways, but any way you go about it, it must have nothing to do with work, writing, school, or cleaning the house.

My favorite way of hitting reset is a mini-vacation. Just a few days out of town, not worrying about anything, and getting away from the myriad of stress-triggers of daily life. I'm lucky that I live a few hours from the ocean, so a quick beach trip is not out of the question. It's actually even better in cold weather, because rates are cheap, and without the distraction of actual swimming and sunbathing I am actually free to just sit around doing whatever my heart desires.

But although weekend trips are nice, they're not always feasible. A few other reset-worthy activities I've found helpful are: a fantastic date night that starts with a great dinner and ends with some sort of ridiculous activity, whether its sharing a bottle of wine on the front stoop at one in the morning, dancing the hustle in the kitchen, making a midnight sauna trip or attempting to teach the cat to walk on a leash (generally after that bottle of wine). Going out dancing or listening to live music with friends is a rare but excellent stress reliever for me, as is a marathon of silly tv shows or movies, a great hike including scrambling over rocks and generally getting muddy and dirty, or just a really good game night- as long as I'm winning!

Whatever the activity, I think the important thing is just to get out of my comfort zone and let loose. And promising myself not to check email, attempt to do work, clean the house, or even look at my laptop for the rest of the evening. Give myself permission to take time off and have some fun. As a constantly overextended workaholic, letting go off the thousands of pressures just for a night is necessary from time to time.

I always find that after a good night of hitting the reset button, the next morning everything feels clearer, brighter, and more doable. Suddenly that article rewrite that has been looming over me is a piece of cake. The nephew's latest respiratory infection is just another reason to keep the tissues handy. That research paper will get written, especially if it gets started now instead of later. My brain kicks into high gear, my adrenaline starts flowing, and most important, I realize that the reason that I pile so many things onto my plate is because these are all things that I really enjoy.

How do you hit your reset button?


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