Get up. Why is it that so many television programs show young people and adults languishing all over the bed during the daytime, productive hours, with their faces stuck in their phones? They lament they are tired, bored, frustrated, depressed, overwhelmed. As they lay all over a bed, fully-clothed, on a beautiful, sunny day. I’d have probably been grounded for doing that when I was growing up. Well, I’ve got something to say to that. Get up. Get yourself into a vertical position, start making a dynamic plan for every day, and stick to it. You will either master your life or your life is going to master you. One of the most intentional things you can begin doing, today, is simply getting out of bed – and staying out of the bed, and off of the bed, until it’s bedtime at night. Get out of the bed, and make up the bed. We used to have a California king-sized four-poster bed. It took a truck to get around that bed, and when it was unmade, it made the entire bedroom appear slovenly. I got in the habit for a little while of giving myself permission to laze around in the blankets and many pillows with my stack of books or a TV program while in this massive bed. Over time, it began to impact my mood. I never felt dynamic or energetic while lazing on the bed. That only lasted a very short time before I realized my mother was right – get up, dress up, show up. Get outta that bed because that thing has the power to affect your mood, your energy level, your sense of being able to get things accomplished.
Our thoughts influence our feelings and the reverse can be true as well. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel alive or empowered or on top of my responsibilities and tasks list if I am still in pajamas, in or on the bed, at three o’clock in the afternoon when the world is buzzing past. Once in a great while? Of course; it is a decadent luxury, isn’t it? But to make it a consistent practice isn’t always healthy. I’ve spoken with so many good people who begin using this behavior as a form of escapism, feeling overwhelmed by life and daily responsibilities and stressors. I had a professor, a deeply sage person, who asked we students if we were camped out on the sofa on the weekend with movie binges as a needed respite and coming away refreshed, or if we were using it to curl up in a fetal position, totally overwhelmed and dazed, escaping. It woke me up, because I’ve done both.
A good litmus test is this – when you take time to get in or on the bed, do you come away from it feeling restored, confident, and ready, refreshed to tackle things you know need to be done? Or do you use it as a way to procrastinate, run away and escape life’s daily stressors, and yet no matter how long you do it, whether it’s a Netflix binge, sleeping during the day, extended phone-time periods….you still come away from it feeling overwhelmed and not ready to tackle the stuff you need to start? That might be a clue you’re lapsing into escapism. I can tell you that procrastination only gets worse, not better. The longer you put a task off, the more stressful it will be.
I’ve been guilty of sometimes using anything from social media to Netflix to my ever-present Kindle to put off writing an important paper, for example. It’s like a fix - - it relieves the stress. But only for a short while. And, sure enough, it’s right back again, but this time, worse. I knew someone who used to put off writing a paper until the day it was due. I once saw this person sitting on the hallway floor of our classroom, laptop balanced on her lap, frantically typing. The paper was due in an hour. That’s a kind of stress you don’t need, is entirely preventable, and is a terrible habit to get in. Procrastination is a drug that will only relieve the stress for a short while and then, by the very fact the task was put off, it makes the task and anticipation of it more stressful by looming over you until it’s done. Every person I have spoken to who spends a lot of time lazing on their bed during the daytime hours tells me they feel overwhelmed or depressed or bored. There is never an excuse to be bored.
Get thyself down to the public library, and get on the computer, or check out books. Don’t like to read? Every person I have encountered in my life who didn’t like to read seemed to be floundering in one way or another. That’s not a judgment, merely an observation. You’ll never polish your literacy skills by avoiding reading. The point of that sentence is this - - avoiding, putting off, delay tactics, will never instill a sense of mastery and confidence. Just this month I had 3 trainings and two major papers to write. Everytime I walked in my office and saw all those notebooks laid out across my desk, I felt a sense of urgency and stress. I finally concluded that the way to summit Everest is to take it one step at a time. Which one was most important and pressing, time-sensitive? I chose that one first and tackled it. I remembered to give myself a dose of applause and feed myself with good thoughts, never expecting perfection but acknowledging good, old-fashioned hard work and organizational skills. Even a little list of things you want to get done in the day scratched out on a sticky note is better than nothing. Get rid of the notion that it has to be “perfect or nothing”. I was a slave to that for most of my life. Now, I allow myself a much healthier, and more realistic, conceptualization of “Strive for excellence, not perfection”. What needs to be done today? Which part of that can you do first? What do you want done by this weekend? The end of the month?
If I can help, I truly enjoy helping people begin to develop skills that take mastery of their thought patterns, their ingrained ideas or sense of learned helplessness, or habits of procrastination. You’re not stupid – you’re just human, and so am I. We learn by doing, and accomplishing one small task can give you the “mojo” and motivation to do another. Reward yourself everytime you stay away from that infernal bed between rising and bedtime hours.