I’ve recently been thinking about how so many things in life seems to move in cycles, the obvious example is the financial markets, but also life in general seems to move in cycles. Now, I know with my limited life experience I can’t draw from years of examples, but it still seems like there is a pattern. Everything will be going okay, you have your routine and you’ve been rocking that for a while, then something happens. It doesn’t even have to be sudden and unexpected, but somehow you find yourself either stressed/burnt out or having the best most productive time of your life. Then you ride that wave for awhile before returning to a routine. Rinse and repeat. I’ve lately been dealing with one of those down turns, where stress just slowly creeps up on you and one day you wake up and don’t feel fine or the energy is just not there.
I like thinking of this kind situation as the Chaos Monkey throwing you for a loop. The concept originally comes from Netflix and their program Chaos Monkey, which shuts down servers and does other shenanigans at random intervals to test that Netflix’s services can deal with outtages. So it only seems fitting that it’s the Chaos Monkey of your life that comes in and shakes things up. It might mean injuring yourself, having surprise family emergencies or getting a nasty cold, you simply don’t know. But the implications are that you need to do things differently, priorities have to change or goals need to be redefined. Now the trick is to be as resilient to that damned monkey as possible and the first step is knowing that he is out there waiting.
When you know something unexpected can happen at any time, you can prepare for it as best as possible. This means not pushing the things you should do today to another day. Those slides you need to revise or the document you need to fill out, will not be checked off the list if you’re laying on your couch with a terrible headache. So get your high priority stuff out of the way while you know you can. It could also be as simple as doing your most important work in the morning, because you don’t know how you will feel in the afternoon or if something comes up. I think one of the reasons why I’m currently in a downward turn in my life is because I let things like that pile up. That lecture I was supposed to revise was pushed multiple days, the emails I was supposed to send didn’t get sent before I realized I needed those answers last week to fit my plan. Which leads to now, where I’m feeling overwhelmed with all the things on my plate since surprise there is a lot all of a sudden. The worst thing is, not one of the things currently stressing me out are tasks I couldn’t have done earlier or put more effort into. So deal with problems or tasks while they are small, because they become overwhelming when there is many of them.
Another benefit of dealing with things as they come up, is flexibility. You won’t be tied down by all the things on your to do list or at least the pile of stuff you have to deal with when the Chaos Monkey is done wreaking havoc in your life won’t be as big.
One important thing I’ve found that helps prepare for the Chaos Monkey, is self care. It doesn’t necessarily mean meditating or journaling (although I highly recommend that too), but just taking care of yourself. Have a bit of time everyday where you put yourself before everyone else. That could mean playing a game you enjoy, reading or programming a project, it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s time where you get to be 100% selfish. Everybody needs to recharge and you will feel the consequences when the Chaos Monkey comes barraging through the door. But if you have the energy and mental capacity to deal with him when he shows up, it will be much easier to deal with. So do yourself a favor and listen to your body sometimes, it usually knows what’s best for it.
Sometimes though, if you’re stressed or overwhelmed you just need to allow yourself. Not everything has a quick fix solution, actually most things don’t and you should just respect that your body and mind is telling you something. That means slowing down and switching gears, every task you do is a win and not achieving everything you planned when you were on a roll doesn’t mean you didn’t do a good job. So just hang in there, it’s thankfully just phase and by taking one step at a time, you’ll find yourself out of it soon.