Undoing My All or Nothing Mindset

One thing I discovered about myself in the last year was that I had an all or nothing attitude. It masked itself as being endearing, that if I put myself up for something, I had to do it all in a certain amount of time, all at once, or not attempt it at all. With the pandemic and suddenly having a lot of time on my hands, I found myself getting bored doing one same task, or frustrated with daily life tasks that did not seem to matter in the bigger picture of reality. I was stuck, and eventually got into a cycle where if I mentally did not think I could accomplish it fully, I would not start at all. After weeks turn into months of bad habits there were changes that I could see in myself that I did not appreciate. It would take me hours to decide when and how to start a chore, and it would feel tedious to try and do one thing after another, to be honest all I wanted to do was relax. But when in relaxing my anxiety would speak up and guilt me about all I had not done, and how much time I had to accomplish something but did not. This continued for the better part of the last year and eventually would lead to me do tasks all at once, followed by waiting and putting it off again. The depression and being burnt out created an unhealthy cycle that meant even tasks I used to enjoy, such as my skincare also felt like a chore.

When I started working again early February, it became evident something would have to give. All of a sudden, I had two jobs, school, and myself still to take care of it. But now a lot of hours that would normally be spent on school and life would also be going toward work. That meant my life had to upstart itself again, and I needed to show up feeling myself. I know I used to have a busy schedule pre-COVID but trying to get anywhere near that again felt daunting. I did not know how I was going to manage my time, but inevitably it felt like I would crash and burn if I kept up with my current routine. I was not getting things done until they really needed to, such as keeping my space organized and doing laundry consistently. I was also waiting the last minute to get ready and start homework. I wanted these to change but I did not know where to start but they still needed to get done.

Original Illustration Designed in Canva for Her Campus Media

Eventually I told myself that I needed to give myself some patience, this was not going to happen overnight. I tried to start as small as possible, and if I was in the middle of something and wanted to stop, I simply did. I tried to give myself enough time where things like homework and cleaning could be done over a several days span if needed. And when I wanted to have a break, I gave myself a little bit of time to either clear my head or use it as an excuse to get outside. Oftentimes a 10–15-minute walk was enough for me to mentally restart and the nicer weather brought some motivation. I started to be more forceful with my habits, for example once I was done with a meal, I immediately brought everything downstairs to get washed. I brought my headphones and after realizing it only took 1-2 songs to clean up and be back upstairs, it no longer felt hard. Even remembering to throw out trash right as I accumulated it was something I had to retrain my brain on, it was all collective toward my self-care. But the thing is the days seem longer than the collective weeks. When a really bad unmotivating day hits, I want nothing more to just sleep through the afternoon but then the potential guilt of wasting a potential day hit. It is not a perfect practice and am by no means saying that this can all be fixed on my own, but I know that change starts with me wanting it and trying, even if its not a fully accomplished task at one point in time.

Little by little, if I put in the effort for a bit it will eventually be done. I also tried to bypass my own intrusive thoughts and if I had any speck of motivation for something I would do as much as I could without thinking and let that carry me through the task until I was at an good break or stopping point. In the last few weeks, it feels like the warmer weather has brought better moods out of me, but I want to hold onto these habits and continue treating myself as a priority. It took a while but changing my mindset overtime has been rewarding and I hope to see through the rest of the quarter and beyond. I want to remember my last quarter as being a smooth transition into my life post-undergraduate and part of that for me is being able to look after myself successfully in spite of hardship. To anyone else struggling, I want you to know you are not alone and there are many resources to help, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and there is no such thing as being too far to come back feeling successful.