Health Over Hustle
Photos by Catrina Earls
Now here's a story all about how my life got flipped turned upside down.
Rewind to mid October. I'm getting acquainted to the new normal of Harlow being in school. My mornings are a lot more hectic and my free working hours are slashed by 25%. At the same time, my schedule is filling up fast. Collaborations and partnership requests are hitting my inbox regularly. Photo shoots are booked. Big ideas for holiday content start to take shape and the goals I set 11 months ago suddenly feel within arm's reach.
And then...the fall.
I woke up the morning of Friday, October 20th feeling so strange. I took Harlow to my mom's house because I had a hair appointment that afternoon and I told her how weird I felt: so tired I could fall on my face and sleep for a week and also so hyper and aggressive I could punch a hole through the wall.
Uncomfortable doesn't even begin to describe it.
My sleep had been slowly getting worse. I started waking up at 5:45AM wide-eyed and ready to leap out of bed. I couldn't go back to sleep no matter what I tried. My stress levels were shooting skyward while my ability to handle it diminished rapidly. I drank tons of water throughout the day and would put two 32oz Nalgene bottles of water on my nightstand before bed. I'd drink them both before I woke up the next day and I'd still feel dehydrated.
By the next evening, I was treading water trying to keep my head above the sea of anxiety I was swimming in. I worked out. I went on a date with Mike to "get out." I practiced my coping techniques to ward off anxious feelings and recited my blessings.
But the waters were too rough to handle. Woman overboard.
For six to eight weeks, I battled anxiety like nobody's business. Exacerbating it was the paralyzing worry over my work suffering, over losing the momentum I'd pushed so hard to build up and was propelling me towards some amazing goals I'd set for myself. I tried to push through but I found doing the same old-same old only made me feel worse. I wasn't in the zone. I didn't feel inspired. I second guessed everything I wrote or photographed.
There's this story we tell ourselves in the age of the Girl Boss: if we let off the gas for one minute, someone will pass us by and take our glory. Our social media-induced inferiority complex rages as we watch all the amazing things our peers are doing while we're down for the count. Every day somebody posts a meme about hustling, working harder than the next person, dreaming big and not settling.
Those things sound good in theory. They look nice written on letter boards. Hell, they've inspired me many times, giving me that "fuck yeah!" feeling. But.
Why do we think it's okay to sacrifice our real selves for the version others perceive us to be?
When I go through spells of intense anxiety, my reaction is to tell myself it's nothing and sweep it under the rug. A glass of wine, a girl's night, dinner out at my favorite restaurant, that'll do the trick! No. In the words of Taylor Swift, "band-aids don't fix bullet holes." My anxiety swoops in and takes over when I've refused to listen to what my body and mind have been trying to tell me. It's like a shithead of an auto pilot takes over and says 'you don't get to steer anymore, Brooke. You've been doing a bad job and look where it's gotten us. '
Anxiety is like the parent who asks their child what lesson they learned after bad behavior. You've gotta rake yourself over with a fine-tooth comb and own your truth to be released from the time out corner.
After some soul searching, overanalyzing, and a few sessions with my holistic life coach, I realized I had some major things driving me down. I was trying to fit square pegs in round holes, trying to maintain old patterns when life had switched to a new rhythm. I was overcommitting myself and dropping the ball. I was mourning the fact that Harlow was in a difficult developmental stage at the same time Mike was working late nights and on the weekends. I wasn't finding joy in the simple pleasures of life which are really what I thrive on.
The perfectionist in me was throwing a tantrum and I was letting it bully me rather than show myself some grace.
You know what they say: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I had to make some big changes in order to find my way back to center. That meant quieting my inner critic, and actually doing what, for me, had always seemed impossible -- let things go.
Instead of hammering out work when Harlow napped, I started napping, too. Or at least lying down to read a book. Not scroll through social media or check email. Unplug and relax.
Instead of harping on the clutter and dirty clothes and dishes around my house, I tweaked my mentality to accept them all as purely symptomatic of this season of life.
Instead of trying to play by the rules of Google and Instagram, I blogged when I felt compelled and posted when I had something to say. I stopped caring about SEO best practices and that stupid fucking IG algorithm. (Even the pros will tell you the bottom line is to have fun with all that stuff. It's not fun when you stop everything to be sure to post at the exact right time only to find out the powers-that-be have secretly changed the rules of the game again and no matter what you do it won't matter until you pay them for sponsored posts. I'm not playing that anymore.)
Instead of dropping Harlow off and rushing home to work on my to-do list, I got a few things done and then enjoyed the moment. I tried new recipes while I watched Hallmark Christmas movies. I wrapped presents and caught up on DVR shows. When Harlow came home and woke up from her nap, I stopped being pre-occupied with all the things I didn't get to do and started being present.
I took each day for that day and that day alone.
I am in a MUCH better place now because I chose health over hustle. It's made me recalibrate where I am in life, what I want to get out of my career and what I want to put in it. Or what I can, rather. It's helped me tweak my priorities and honestly, I needed it as much for my physical and mental well-being as I did for a reality check.
It's not easy to sit there and smile while you feel like opportunities are passing you by and other people, living in a different season of life, are able to take them and sprint ahead of you in the "race." I bet the tortoise had a few moments of despair while he watched the hare leave him in the dust. But we have to think like that determined turtle and remind ourselves that sticking to our plan and embracing our strengths and weaknesses will ultimately get us to where we want to be.
I can tell I'm ready to up my game again, but only as much as I can reasonably take on. The flu is raging like crazy and putting children under five at risk of serious complications. As I write this, Harlow is home from school purely because I freaked out and couldn't take her out of fear she'd get sick. So my work schedule continues to take a hit BUT instead of letting it stress me out I'm showing myself some grace. I'm choosing my child and my health over social media and search engine best practices. Like that's even a choice.
So that's my story. I'm back, I'm better, but I'm doing it a new way. My way. And I'll be a better blogger, business owner, wife, and mother because of it.
Thanks for reading and sharing in my journey with me.
With love and gratitude,