Good Reads: Trauma Survivors and Overworking

I really enjoyed reading Tanya Paperny’s article at The Atlantic. Paperny asks whether trauma survivors throw themselves in work to cope with their past experience. In my personal experience, it’s true that some of the most accomplished people use work as a form of escapism. Totally recommend giving the article a good read.

Quick Tips on How to Prevent Oversleeping and Stay Awake

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that 1 in 3 adults in America don’t get enough sleep. But what if you’re dealing with the reverse issue of oversleeping? For a few of us, sleep is a form of escapism. The mantra goes: if you’re asleep, you’re not facing real issues.

However, this excess of shut-eye can be detrimental to your health. Some studies even link it to higher blood pressure and weight problems. After all, oversleeping does limit the hours which you are active. In addition, it can lower the quality of rest you get, so here are some quick tips to finding that happy, healthy balance.

Easy Level

  • Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals – Prevent food coma & exhaustion.
  • Get Active – Exercise, take a brisk walk outside, and breathe fresh air.
  • Stay Away from Comfy Couches and Bed – This is especially true when you work from home. Remove the opportunity to feel too cozy sitting or laying down.
  • Drink Tea, Coffee or an Energy Drink. Caffeine, as a last resort, will help keep you up during the long day. If you’re allergic or cutting caffeine from your system, then substitute these beverages with a hydrating glass of ice cold water instead!

Medium Level

  • Learn Something New – Start a Coursera, Lynda, Duolingo, MIT OpenCourseWare, or Khan Academy class. Fun lessons on your subject of choice will keep your mind alert and distracted from the desire to sleep.
  • Make a List of To Do and Daily Goals – This simple habit will motivate you to be more productive and accountable for everyday tasks.
  • Get Enough Sleep the Night Prior – Re-adjust your schedule to get enough Zs. Or during the day, put your phone across the room, and set an alarm for a 10-20 minute power nap.

Hard Level

Hope this helps! If you have any tricks of your own, feel free to share. I’d love to learn what you do to manage a fulfilling sleep schedule.

Featured Image by Hernan Sanchez via Unsplash 

Scared to Start Over? It’ll All Be Okay.

However, it’s never too late to reinvent yourself. While you might be scared that it’s already too late, since you’ve invested all this time and energy, consider our parents, grandparents, or their forefathers. As immigrants to an entirely new country, they certainly held that fear. Yet they’re here now, and gained new skills in the struggle. You too can learn to be as resilient as they are, and make this change in your life!

Reframe your thinking.

No matter how long you’ve been “off track”, you haven’t wasted time if you’ve learned something valuable. Instead of looking at yourself as a failure, see yourself as a product of all these collected memories. Even mistakes offer insight on how you can make better decisions in the future. As hard as it is, try to find something you can be proud of. Consider, how can your previous experiences transfer to your new field?

Don’t focus too much on the past, because you are constantly changing. Our personalities are not set in stone, and we’re constantly in a state of unrest. So take that time to try new things you’ve always been curious about before, and start new healthy habits. That being said, it might be helpful to pick up relevant skills in preparation for your next job.

Just do something, anything at all.

It’s a rather embarrassing story, but I figured it’s worth sharing. At one of my lowest points, I felt paralyzed by my anxiety about finding a job after graduation and completing my senior thesis. I often slept over 12 hours a day to escape reality and hardly left my room, not even to eat. I was literally hiding from my problems as well as the folks I cared about, because I didn’t want anyone to see my at this state.

The one time I sneaked off to brunch, hoping to avoid familiar faces, my friend caught me at the dining hall. As a STEM major, he told me about applying the concepts of inertia and momentum into our everyday lives. He said that it takes significantly more force to start movement than it is to accelerate. It really hit me and I can’t thank him enough.

In layman’s terms, it’s a lot harder to get started than it is to keep moving. Sounds like a formula to success, so embrace kinetic energy.

Reconnect with loved ones.

Alone time is needed, but also know others are there for you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends. Kick that pride into the nearest trash bin, and replace it with a bit of humility. It’s okay to be vulnerable, share your worries with your trusted ones and ask for advice. Who knows? They might even introduce you to a mentor in the new field you’d like to explore!

Lastly, manage your expectations. It’s okay to make mistakes, since no one can be perfect. Neither can one be productive 24/7. I found that I put too much pressure on myself to have my entire life planned out. I’m only 23 years old, but I’ve always imagined that I would have figured out my career by that age. That’s actually quite unrealistic, but I could at least take steps to explore the possibilities out there.

How are things now?

Just to let you know, things did get better from those days of lethargy and escapism. After consulting with a counselor at CAPs (our student counseling and psychological services center), I set a schedule with time slots for when I would study, work on my job search and go out with friends.

I got back into the habit of waking up at 6:00am for gym time and breakfast. The oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar was a great start to the day. My stress levels decreased as I continued to submit job applications, since I was at least getting things done. I’ve heard back and am going to interviews.

I also found other ways to relieve the pressure and have some more fun. I volunteered to plan “Sextravaganza”, a campus-wide sex-positive event for undergraduates, found pleasure in eating out, and met cool acquaintances through social events. There’s still days when I feel tired after a long day, but at least I’m just a lot happier now!

Speaking of which, what ever happened to that friend? Well, he’s still finishing his studies and is bound to go far in life. He let me know that he got a new tattoo — the laws of intertia sit on his wrist. Sure to say that he’s a man of his words.

Study Abroad: Being Uncomfortable Helped Me Grow

In college, I was deadset on working in foreign affairs and international development up until my senior year. Personally, it meant for me planning-participating in Model UN conferences, going after as many internships as possible and gaining more experiences abroad.

In fact, I devoted quite a few weekends applying for study abroad scholarships and coaching others through the process. Receiving the funding opportunities, I spent two gap years learning Russian and huge life lessons in Russia, Italy and Kazakhstan with hopes in interning with USAID or the State Department.

That being said, I’ll finally admit “в гостях хорошо, а дома лучше”–meaning that I began to miss the sunny California weather and appreciate cultural diversity back in Los Angeles. That’s not to say I would never leave the States again. I’d be excited to visit friends in those countries and explore more places in the future. However, I recognize my current need to recuperate and take some time off should I later pursue the international development route. Or do anything as ambitious!

Lessons Learned

Living abroad for an extended amount of time away from loved ones and comfort was entirely different from simply vacationing abroad. Those travels challenged me to find a new community of friends and family, and made room for my personal growth. I really learned how to take initiative in finding entertainment from enrolling in a ceramic class with locals to trying out new cuisines by myself.

And of course, like my first gap year in Russia, this second experience did push me to exercise my budgeting skills. Good life experience I would say!

Although I’ll always be glad to have those memories outside of the United States, I was frankly burnt out from being gone for a whole year. After returning home, I knew that I wouldn’t be happy committing to a life living in a rural setting, much less a remote part of a developing county.

In contrast to my previous romanticized version of working with locals to address water sanitation issues or advocate for greater access to technology, I saw that my rosy image of living abroad was quite naive. In reality, social change takes years which at that time frustrated me. I wasn’t quite patient enough. Additionally, I turned out to be much more of a high maintenance person than I knew before. I definitely needed some growing up to do.

Moreover, I needed to be honest with myself. I had to ask, “What makes me happy?”. Perhaps I was too quickly chasing a dream of a prestigious career, income stability and travel while neglecting my own mental health. I could have also taken more time to consider other options which might have also fit the same criteria; instead of stressing myself and gunning for a figuratively straight path to foreign affairs.

Note to self: There is no singular set way to get to your goals.

So, what DOES makes me happy? At the moment, I have rudimentary answers to that previous question like food, people and a sense of mission. So I’m certain, I’ll continue to gain clarity with additional time and thought.