Rewind a few years to when I was living in London and honestly? I was pretty miserable. If you asked me, I would have told you I was happy, because I was living the manic London lifestyle I’d been chasing, freelancing in cute coffee shops with creative pals, attending talks, press days, having meetings with PRs, working out of the Google Campus, going straight from working to socialising, hanging out with pals in bars or heading to restaurant openings. I worked hard at uni to get to that point, where my little London apartment was little more than a crash pad for seven hours a night. I was glamourising busy, saying yes to every opportunity that landed in my life, making the most of my Zone 1-6 Travelcard.
But really, I wasn’t happy. I was constantly teetering on the edge of burnout, creatively I felt stunted. I was tired all the time and unbeknownst to me, my body was raging an internal war against a five and a half centimetre tumour. I was doing everything I thought I should be doing, rather than everything I wanted to do, and something eventually had to give.
Fast forward to now, and I’ve spent a lot of time working on my mental health, and part of that was figuring out what I need to be happy. I spent a lot of time figuring this out, working out what I needed to feel like myself, to keep my stress levels low, to make me happy. And ultimately, that’s time without plans to just be at home, read books and relax, time spent with the people I love, time spent in positive thought, journaling or meditating, yoga and time spent out in nature.
Figuring out that’s what you need, and actually doing it though, are two very different things. Partly because I’m busy and partly because my health still isn’t great, I didn’t have time to do it all, so some things had to be sacrificed. I compromised some of my self imposed workload, cut back on how often I posted here, pretty much entirely waved goodbye to YouTube. I stopped saying yes to blog events (I honestly say no to 98% of what comes in to my inbox, I really only work with brands now who I adore, who’s products and ethics line up with my own). I stopped spreading myself so thin when it came to making plans with friends (I’ve realised that one good catch up in a month is better than running myself ragged for the sake of hanging out weekly), and I outsourced some of the household chores to a cleaner. That one came with a lot of guilt initially, but I have neither the time nor the energy to clean, so I’d rather pay someone to help me once a week than stress myself out over it.
And now when I’m looking at my diary, these things go in first. I look at my week and first schedule in daily reminders to meditate. I schedule time to ‘workout’, a yoga class, or an evening walk, or a swim. I schedule time to head into the forest with my hiking boots, camera and no plan. I schedule blocks of time into my calendar for nothing at all, so I can mill about my home drinking endless cups of coffee, reading books, running baths and resting.
And honestly, it took a long time to stop feeling sorry for that. It took a long time to freely admit that what I need in this life to be happy isn’t work, endless socialisation, or new experiences, but rather time spent at peace with myself, resting, reading, being in nature. It took a long time before I felt comfortable saying to my friends ‘actually, I really can’t do that, I need that time for me’. I would make up excuses because I felt embarrassed about being selfish, about putting myself first. But really, if I don’t put myself first, who will?
And the impact of making time for these things is phenomenal. I’m much less anxious, more settled, more happy, even more confident. I feel most myself when I’ve had time for these things, I’m doing what makes me happy, not what I think I should be doing. Life’s too short to feel anything less than great, so I’m making more time for greatness.
What could you make more time for in your life?