(Sorry for not posting last week. I had no power Sunday, and Monday I had to catch up on all of Sunday’s work. This one is extra long to make up for it!)
Have you ever sat down and thought ‘This isn’t working! I just can’t go on like this!’
What was it prompted by? A failed diet? Going to bed past midnight for the fourth day in a row? Falling apart in class for no good reason? Just generally feeling out of it? Or maybe everything’s okay, but you feel like you’re not reaching maximum potential, and you can do so much more?
It can be incredible to feel the boost given by a good dose of inspirational hashkafa. But it doesn’t often last. Here are some tips that have helped me re-work my life. Try some. No matter what you might think, you have the potential to be the person you want to be.
- Sit down and work out what the problems are. Sounds obvious, but you can’t fix a problem until you know what it is. Is that horrible headache coming from dehydration? An illness? Annoying background noises you thought you had gotten used to? Make a list of everything you think is ‘wrong’, some potential causes, and some ways to fix them.
- Clean up. A tidy room is the secret to productivity. If you can’t concentrate on your homework, stopping for five minutes to clean your desk- and cleaning does not just mean stacking the random papers and pencils :) – can help you think clearly. As you organise your things, it helps organise your mind.
You might not think that the extra three seconds spent by your locker can really make you late to class, but go on- prove me wrong and try it. I look forward to all those comments. “I can actually find my binders now!” “I thought I had lost my gym kit!”
- In your room, the best things to do are 1. The bed- it’s the biggest surface. 2. The clothes. 3. Desk 4. Bookshelf. 5. Large floor areas. After that, just work as much as you can.
- If there is somewhere that is always messy, think about why. I used to keep my art supplies on top of my closet. It was so out of reach that it was really hard to put stuff away. One day I gave up trying to clean it up. I got a step stool and moved all my art onto my bed. Then I moved all my stuffed animals into the art boxes, and the art into where the stuffed animals were- much easier to reach. I use the stuffed animals less, so it was okay to put them higher up.
- It’s all about minimizing clutter and organising the room the way it works for you. For you!! Not your neighbour, not the way you think it should be, but for you! If you find it easier to put your books in the closet- it’s out of the box, but go for it!
- Change your diet. To most people, diet means ‘A strict way of eating, for a limited time, until you finally take off those 10 pounds.’ Sounds good, but what’s to stop you from putting them back on afterwards? I prefer to call this healthy eating. Your body needs starch, healthy fats, natural sugars, protein and vitamins. Few or none of those can be found in those sugary Froot Loops :). Think about it this way ‘Are most of the ingredients here made by G-d and grown in a field? Or made by a scientist and grown in a lab?’ There’s nothing wrong with man-made preservatives. But if you can’t read most of the ingredients, or they are sugar and corn starch- It sounds silly, but I cut out a lot of foods with high amounts of refined sugar ; think pudding, jello, cookies- it made me a new person. Your body takes the sugar straight in and out, so you get hyper, and then crash. Natural sugar breaks down slower, and helps you feel active for longer. This is true even if you are a ‘thiny-mini’.
All the recent studies, no matter what the diet is for, seem to say the same thing. Lots of veggies, fruits, some nuts, plenty of healthy oils (olive, avocado, salmon), and fish and cheese more often than meat. Also drink plenty of water. You’d be surprised how awful you can feel simply because you’re not getting 8 cups a day.
- Improve your connection with Hashem. Step back and think- how can I find meaning in this? How is it moving me forward? Am I doing this by rote, or does it have significance to me?
- De-clutter your brain. Have you ever had one of those days where you’ve got too many random thoughts swirling around your head to concentrate on anything? This tip, courtesy of my dad, is a lifesaver. Write them down. Make a list. Give it a clear title, whatever you want to call it. (I very eloquently named mine ‘Things that are Bugging Me.’) List everything on your mind, no matter how lame it sounds. Hang up the list on your wall or put it somewhere where you know it’s there. Relax for a few minutes and then – Back to work! Later, find a chance to deal with as many of them as possible and cross them off. Some you can’t- I wrote down the name of a book that was getting on my nerves- but some you can, and should.
- Get to know yourself. What stresses you out? What’s been pushing your buttons? When you find yourself thinking or doing something random, ask yourself ‘Why? Why am I feeling like this? What’s causing it?’ Take some time every now and then just to relax and take care of yourself. One day on the bus I knew I had stuff I could be doing. But I just put on my music, put my bag on my lap and my head on my bag, and took a nap. It felt so good just to take a break. Remember, work comes first! (“Sorry, Mrs. Kurtz. I was just taking care of myself. I’ll do the English project another time. See, it even says so right here! Take care of yourself.” I don’t think it will work.)
- Find a few things you can work on. Maybe it’s helping to set the table. Maybe it’s davening Shema with a little extra kavana. (More on that next week.) Whatever it is, wither it’s bein adam l’makom, bein adam l’chavero, or just something you need to do for yourself, make sure you’re trying to improve. “Every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Get used to doing.
- Make a list of everything you hope to accomplish. Some things might be this year’s goals, some might be for next week, and some might just be ‘I’m aiming towards this someday.’ Then review them. Why do you want to, for example, watch the whole series of a certain movie? Will this improve you as a person? Do you really want to wear thick tights from today on, or is that goal imposed on you? Try to think about the kind of person you want to be in twenty years. Are these goals pointing you in the right direction? As funny as it might sound, the teenage years are the best years to mold yourself into a new person. After 25, you’re pretty much set.
This sounds like a lot, but you don’t have to do it all at once, or even all of it. Just sit down and think- where do I want my life to go? Does any of this help me get there? How can I apply these tips to my life?
(You can stand up now.)