At various times of my life, I found I was content with my work, with the husband, and with family and friends. I had no real strife with anyone. I was at peace with myself and happy.
But, those peaceful and content times were interweaved with other times when I was stressed and unhappy.
Pausing to recognize the stressful moments was difficult. I made just one resolution – that whenever I felt stressed I will journal about it.
Overall, I noted that, without a doubt, my stressful times were also unhappy times. Here are seven situations that had me unhappy, how I was an obstacle to my own happiness and what solutions I decided to take. I’m sure one of these cases will be relevant to you.
1.Too many roles resulted in being pulled in many directions
Most times my stress was due to being pulled in many directions at the same time. Either my attention was divided among several tasks or people kept checking me for assistance on their projects. I did not have any time to pause, think or check-in with myself.
The problem was that I had too many different roles in my job. Either some roles had to go or I had to find a way to deal with attention distraction and fatigue.
I tried dropping roles. My boss did not allow me too.
Then I blocked off time on my calendar for certain roles. Monday afternoons were for student matters. The administrative assistant dealt with the matters outside of this time but if any student needed to see me they had to do so on Mondays from 1-5 pm. Postgraduate rewriting sessions were on Friday evenings. Sorry postgrad student, drinks with your pals could wait for tomorrow or another week because I could only help you on Friday evenings from 4 pm – 7 pm.
My calendar got blocked off for work. But, I still have to implement this for home.
But one key aspect of time blocking is I got to also block off extended time for myself – Saturday mornings from 6 am to 11 am. I look forward to this time for reflection, self-development, writing, thinking and reading.
Slowly, life started becoming less distracting and less stressful. There were a few hiccups along the way at work but eventually everything worked out.
2. Not making progress on my goals
Other times, I was unhappy with achieving my goals or making the progress I thought I had to make. Some of these goals are important for my career and health.
My problem was that I was not looking at my goals daily and I did not have a plan to accomplish these goals. Also each goal has multiple projects and I did not have a status update for each project.
Also, I did not spend the time or effort to build great habits that will support making progress on my goals.
On top of not looking at my goals daily and building habits to take action, I did not fix how I felt about some of my goals, especially my weight loss goal. My feelings tend to drive this goal and is all wrapped up in it. I have to build some objectivity for making decisions to lose weight.
3. Not having boundaries for work and friends or family
So many people did not respect my need for boundaries.
The worst one was a friend who for some reason wanted to speak every night for two to three hours at a time. My sleep time kept getting pushed later every night. This also encroached on my writing time and time with my husband.
Next was my boss. He would check emails on evenings and then call or message me with things he needed done right away. I spent some nights waking late to write emails for him because he must have had too many things to do.
The pandemic really upset how we did worked. Work and home were no longer separated and bosses felt they had the right to demand a lot from employees over an extended period of time.
So how did I create this problem? By being Miss Nice and by not setting boundaries. I needed boundaries for work and for personal time.
This strategy might not work for you, but what I did was to stop checking emails and whats app messages from work colleagues after 6 pm and on weekends. If I completed one main thing for my boss that day then any new task goes on the next day’s task list.
Also, I had to first do my main work as a lecturer/assistant professor before tending to administrative functions.
4. Not understanding that I could not control the behaviour of other people
For some reason we all think we could control the behavior of our colleagues. I can’t begin to count the number of times most have said they will support a project in my department with people doing a complete reversal when we had to vote. Some of these projects impact on our business.
I used to get upset at the two-faced behavior of my colleagues. Now I accept I have no control over them or their short-sightedness.
Although I accept I cannot change them, this does not mean that I stay still and make no changes. If the time is right, I will make the necessary changes and push the project through.
5. Not recognizing when someone was bullying me
A long-time friend and colleague kept putting me down by supporting someone else, praising that person and questioning the decisions that I was making. My friend’s non-support bothered me. At first, I was not bothered but overtime his repeated back-handed comments started to stress me.
I am an introvert and I hate confrontation. Usually, I would have allowed my colleague to continue without saying anything. So what was different this time? When these events were happening, I was seeing a therapist on dealing with my miscarriage which happened one year before. She allowed me to speak about issues at work.
I began to think through why my close colleague would be questioning my decisions on doing things a slightly different way or with following the requests of the new head of department. I thought it was on ego problem as my friend was the last head of department.
Finally I recognized that my friend was trying to bully me into doing things his way without others knowing that he was trying to puppeteer me.
My therapist encouraged me to confront my friend/colleague.
I confronted him directly on one particular issue and asked him to clarify his stance. I also told him I will continue to make my own decisions but will listen to what others have to say first. If others had problems with my decisions then they can justify their stance. I was also firm in that if I did not have his support then that is his right. I will accept the situation for what it is and press on with my decisions.
Surprisingly, he stopped making comments, at least to my face. This issue is not fully resolved, yet still we have made some progress.
6. Having to learn new skills quickly and doing too much too soon
The COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of universities led to us having to teach online. Although I was trained in blended (mix of online and physical face-to-face) teaching and learning, teaching online fully was challenging.
All lecturers/professors received training within a two week period. Some adjusted quickly and others resisted. Thankfully, I had some prior training.
Online teaching requires a great deal of thought, layout, condensing of material, verifying of valid material, setting up of quizzes and assessments, and ensuring that all materials are properly linked.
It also requires teachers to be more vigilant of their students, their participation, and more one-on-one e-mailing and speaking with students to get them through our courses.
We had a lot to learn fast, adopt new teaching practices quickly and complete a bunch of administrative paperwork for our assessments.
At first, I thought I could handle it all but realized within two weeks that something had to give.
I put this blog and my research on hold to keep me sane with the demands of my job.
7. Not pausing to reflect
I keep a journal. But, I did not use it to truly reflect on what I had been doing or how I was doing things.
My journal contains my daily gratitudes and things I think I need to work on. I give these things some thought. However, I did not think through how I will adopt other people’s strategies to my situation. In the past two months during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, I changed that. Now I consider the insights I get when implementing strategies to my life.
I need to practice reflecting more and evaluating more routes to an outcome. If I could look at what I do and my situation objectively, and evaluate the routes to outcomes to determine if they fit my situation, then I will make better decisions for my life.
Most of the situations that caused me stress required me to pause, reflect on the situation, the intentions behind other people’s actions, my needs and goals, and evaluate different solutions to the same problem.
But like a lot of people, and maybe like you too, I felt uncomfortable reflecting on situations that caused me pain. I am the obstacle to my own happiness.
However, I know practising more in-depth reflections on one area of my life will help other areas.
I have listed seven ways I was the obstacle to my own happiness and how I resolved my situation or planning to resolve it.
In moving forward, I recognize that I need to reflect more.
Now you should consider how you are an obstacle to your happiness and the pick out one area that will bring you the most benefits. Leave a comment below on how you can be an obstacle to your own happiness
Bye for now!
Image is by Ann H., pexels.com