A few weeks ago I had a Monumentally Bad Day, and today I’m having another one, though this one is not quite as bad. My Monumentally Bad Days usually start with lack of sleep the night before, which is not necessarily a pregnancy symptom—I’ve struggled with insomnia my entire adult life. Right now, everything is compounded by the stress late pregnancy is putting on my bones, joints, and muscles, so I spend a lot of time in a physically and emotionally draining state of chronic pain. Nine weeks to go. Only nine more weeks. I hope.
Add to that my ongoing struggle with the fact that I don’t feel either my writing or my teaching career is where it should be (and teaching’s on hold until we leave Illinois—thanks, ridiculous state certification requirements that don’t exist anywhere else! I really need another Bachelor’s degree now that I’ve been teaching at the college level for years: that definitely makes sense.), the fact that I feel like I miss out on almost everything important in the life of my South Carolina-based family and I’m afraid my child will miss out on even knowing her extended family, the fact that I AM NOT HAPPY about having a baby so far away from home, and a few other areas of dissatisfaction I feel powerless to change because God knows I have tried, and you have the recipe for a disastrous meltdown.
This isn’t meant to be an Eeyore post. My life is very blessed in many ways, and I’m nothing short of delighted that I won’t have fifteen family members in my hospital room taking pictures of me shortly after giving birth and posting them on Facebook, so there is always a silver lining. I don’t know if I even have fifteen close family members—we’re a small bunch, like the Tudors but without the beheadings. These are just the things simmering under the surface that rise to the top when I don’t feel well. Yesterday, I had a Monumentally Good Day, so I guess it all evens out.
But I still need to work, even on bad days, even when I don’t feel well, even when Baby seems intent on spending her entire day repeatedly hurling her full body weight at my vital organs. I’ve tried cutting myself slack, and it’s not for me. I’m much happier when I expect more of myself.
I started this list for myself on my last Monumentally Bad Day, just to remind myself of things I can do to make it better and get things done.
How To Work (Even on a Bad Day):
- Make sure you’re physically comfortable. Make sure the lighting is right for the work. Go to the bathroom if you need to. (I am really bad about this. For some reason I feel it’s a waste of time.) Brush your teeth. Wear comfortable clothes.
- If you are making no progress on one item on the list, for whatever reason, move on to something else. Sometimes the best thing you can do is leave it and come back refreshed. Don’t use this as an excuse not to work on a project just because it’s hard, though. Only switch if you are really blocked. Just make sure you’re spending your time working on something.
- Nap if you’re genuinely tired. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is take a nap, especially if you really are sleep-deprived. This doesn’t have to take all day. Half an hour can sometimes make a huge difference in the quantity and quality of the work.
- Eat if you’re genuinely hungry. The idea of the starving artist aside, low blood sugar never produced genius. But don’t eat too much, and don’t eat junk. Both will make you sluggish, and that will not help you think.
- Exercise. I have a treadmill in my office, a recumbent bike downstairs, and several yoga and strength training videos. I am one of those annoying people who really enjoys exercise for its own sake. Sometimes, when I’m achy or tired or cranky, I have to remind myself that I always feel physically and mentally better if I get moving. Even now. And exercise is really good for your brain power.
- A little caffeine goes a long way. Or it does for me, anyway. I’m limited to one cup of caffeinated tea a day right now because of the baby (I could have two and still be well under the limit, but I’m trying to be as good as I can), but as soon as she’s out, I am going to get so messed up on caffeine. Seriously, it helps. I know some people will get all judgy about caffeine consumption, just like they get all judgy over how long you breastfeed or if you babywear or cloth diaper or make your own baby food or whatever. (These people need to get a life and perhaps some perspective. I will do what is best for my baby, but I shudder at the thought of getting my identity from any part of my baby’s digestive system. Just saying.)
So there you have it. My notes to self about Working Through a Monumentally Bad Day. How do you stay productive at work when either your body or your brain isn’t cooperating?