There’s a lot of great stuff in this world. There’s also a lot of worry and doubt. That, plus dread, uncomfortable situations and most of all stress. Unfortunately, at times the latter gets the best of us. I always feel mine most just after the new year for some reason. About a week into January I feel the weight of everything on my shoulders, something unexpectedly frustrating will occur and I will feel buried underneath stacks of things that feel like they’ll never get done and Seattle’s ubiquitously overcast winter weather.

Then comes spring. Ah, spring. And all that nay-saying whips around to catch the sunlight and new ideas are born. That’s my right now; my favorite part of every spring. And this year, I’m framing my reflection around one word, happy.

Stress is something I feel an abundance of this year and it’s really affected my quality of life. I’ve always had a stressful job with too much to do and never enough of me to give, but I love it. Even still, every now and then, as any teacher (or human for that matter) knows, burnout occurs. This year I’m giving everything to my students, working on my professional certificate, the new teacher evaluation, a ton of curricular and standards changes, all while trying to have a life. 

Doesn’t everyone want to live a little happier? That’s why I’m undertaking my own version of The Happiness Project. I’ll be posting life-related posts in a new series called Happy Life. For the full details on some steps I’ve been trying so far meet me after the jump.

7 Steps to a Happier Life

Life has gotten very challenging as of late and I’ve had to really stop and notice that I need to take some steps to reduce stress and feel happier about my accomplishments each day, all without feeling exhausted all the time. Here’s some things I’m working on in order to get closer to this goal:

  1. Guard your time. One thing I always feel is stressed for is time. It’s become a big problem in my life. I feel like I am always racing somewhere, on the verge of being late (or very late), and never feeling like I had enough time to get everything done. I feel horribly guilty for being late when others are affected and often don’t know how to apologize for not respecting their time. I recently read that people who are always late are people who try to squeeze everything they can into every possible second of their day, usually due, on some level to procrastination, and they always run over on time. In short, people who are late are not skilled time managers. I can definitely see that in myself. I’m trying to be more aware of how long it takes me to do things, make a plan, and stick to it.
  2. Make time for the things you love. One thing I’ve made sure to spend a lot of time in is my boyfriend. We love spending time together and try to as often as we can despite our opposite schedules. That combined with stress at work and exhaustion at night and I hadn’t made time for keeping up my home, creative projects, even this blog. I spent so much time on school and life that I don’t make time for the things I love to do most. These things feed me, and even carving out an  hour a week for my creative vices makes me sleep soundly and happily. I’ve put a ton of work into redecorating my apartment (Happy Home posts), and I have loved redesigning my blog and getting back into the fun of writing it. It’s a big part of who I am and I’m happier when it’s in my life.
  3. Allow yourself to relax. I’m the kind of person that always needs to be busy. I don’t do well with idle time. It’s hard for me to just lay down and watch Netflix without that nagging guilty feeling that I should be working on something while watching TV. Whether it’s the dishes in my sink, work I need to grade or plan, a pedicure, this blog, or housework I feel like there’s always something I should be doing. Last summer I vowed to “take more naps” and I felt great. I need to give in to my inner lazy monster sometimes if I hope to be truly productive when it really counts, rather than ragged  from “working” during every moment of my off-time.
  4. Get your finances in check. One thing I’ve definitely let exert useless negative energy in my life is my finances. Although I try to live frugally and not spend too much money, I haven’t truly managed my money much in the last two years other than just making sure I’m spending less than I’m making (most of the time). This has got to stop. I mean, come on, I’m in my thirties. it’s time to be a real adult about this important subject. An adult who can save money, pay off debt, treat myself without guilt, and not worry about the financial ramifications of an emergency. Life’s too short.
  5. Get rid of everything you don’t feel passionate about. This goes for just about anything you can think of. Don’t love that sofa? Sell it. Don’t love that job? Start exploring new opportunities. Don’t love that friend? Spend time with those who matter most. This idea is really about letting go of the less-than-wonderful things in your life, and pursuing the best of what life has to offer (within reason, of course). This doesn’t mean donate your apartment’s worth of furniture and spend a fortune on all new stuff. Oh no. This means if you’re not using it, sell it or donate it. Even if you get $5, that’s better than the object collecting dust. This means spend your time with the people you care most about, and stop worrying about those people that drive you nuts.
  6. Let it go. Another area that can cause undue stress is letting situations with friends, family, co-workers and all the people in our lives become bigger issues than necessary and allowing ourselves to feel stressed by the very thought of trying to repair them. If it’s not some big issue standing in the way, some relationships just seem to vanish from our daily lives over time, and we find ourselves wishing things could be the way they were or to simply start anew. As with anything in life, you have to put the time in to achieve results. There are a few relationships that I would love to try and put some time into this year, and opening myself up to letting go all of the things that have prevented me from taking action on this in the past (my ego, hurt feelings, etc.) are slowly melting away. 
  7. Small changes, big results. When I think back on areas of my life that I dramatically improved (like losing 30lbs a few years ago) I know that I made small changes that had a big impact. Focusing on the the big stuff that is standing in the way of happiness is key, but there’s no need to go crazy and dramatically overhaul this area of your life right away (unless you want to, of course). Dramatic change can also happen in small increments, and I often find that when you do a little at a time (take a long walk once a week, take a salad for lunch) it helps you to build new habits over time that you’ll keep, rather than adding more stress to your already busy life.

These are just a few ways I’m going to try and improve my happy with this year. In the same boat? I’d love to hear what you’re working on right now. Please let me know in the comments.