Tell me if any of this sounds familiar. Ploughing absolutely every iota of thought into your job, to the point where you're waking up in the early hours after dreaming about some terrible mistake you haven't even made. Routinely wishing you saw more of your favourite people, and feeling immensely guilty and resentful when they say things like "we've not seen you for ages". Being asked a pretty standard question and momentarily forgetting what stuff you enjoy doing outside of the 9-5, and then, thinking a little harder, realising you can't remember the last time you felt passionate about a hobby that didn't involve alcohol, or arguments. Forever feeling like you haven't done enough, or what you have done isn't good enough. Not quite understanding how you've slipped into a carousel of what other people expect your life to be, that seems to be getting faster and faster and you're feeling a little sick.
I feel all these things and more, and quite frankly, it's exhausting.
Unwinding these anxieties over the phone, the best mate reckons our competitive schooling meant we've both been conditioned to never accept the mediocre, but that in turn means we might never be satisfied. It's true, I'll have twelve things go brilliantly, and then one bombshell will completely ruin the day, achievements forgotten.
It fucks me off, this. I work damn hard to prove to everyone else in the world that I'm worth paying attention to, and yet my own subconscious refuses to let me relax. I plan things to pass the time on a Sunday - maybe baking or going for a walk or finally framing those Joy Division postcards which have sat on the side of my bed for a month - and then I fall asleep for three hours, and the day is gone. And then I'm even more annoyed with myself.
I don't really know what the answer is. I don't want to be known as the person who never gets things done, or who doesn't have an hour free for people. Time is flying at the moment and I just want it to slow down, days become longer, sleep become less necessary. Stuff is better though; I've got my anxiety under control. I haven't had a panic attack in three years, and I'm proud of that.
If something feels mad, it probably is (but that's ok)
Doing stuff that scares you is brilliant. I mean, it's horrible, but brilliant. This week, I had to walk onto a stage in front of 116 conference delegates, grab a microphone, and talk to them about my job. I had about fifteen minutes' warning, and I was utterly terrified. I could hear my heart racing, but I knew that after I walked off that stage, everything would be fine. No-one is going to die if you fail. Repeat, no-one is going to die if you fail.
Forget what everyone else is expecting of you
Ohh, to be the girl who doesn't give a toss about making a good impression. I could never sack everything off and run away, despite quite how much I fancy it these days. Saying this, that doesn't mean you should be a sheep, or allow other peoples' opinions get in the way of your happiness. Want another tattoo? Do it. Desperate for a holiday? Book one, and book it today. Everyone has an opinion but none of them live your life. Those who really love you, and I mean really love you, will respect that.
Read more, sleep less
I would give anything to add another six hours to the day. Not the working day, mind, but be able to function on four hours sleep would be so excellent. Instead, I'm always tired (what the hell am I going to be like if I ever become a mother?), always wanting to do more. My new commute has helped hugely, meaning I can actually read my ever-growing library, and it's good for the soul. Even if it is a rather naff collection.
Take time to stop
I guess this is linked to the above, but if you're feeling a bit overwhelmed with everything, stop. It won't make an incredible amount of difference to whatever situation you're struggling with, if you just stop, stick the kettle on, make a cup of Jing tea and sit for a little while. My best 'mull-over' time is when I'm driving, when I can listen to my subconscious. Ask yourself, what do you want? Say it out loud, even. I have given myself some pretty brutal pep talks in the past. Ever had a phrase pop into your mind out of nowhere? Listen to it.
Set dates in the diary and keep them
Haven't seen your mates in ages? Find a weekend and do it. If you're both busy, arrange a three-hour skype with your favourite person, and don't sack it off because you're knackered (we've all been guilty of it). These people are rare and special and know you better than anyone else - don't take that for granted.
One excellent piece of advice I got last week was to help recognise when stuff is going well. We're not down on ourselves on purpose (and I have limited patience for woe-is-me) but it can be really tricky to highlight our successes, especially if we're so used to not hearing it. Try writing down three things every day that are inherently GOOD. It might be a cracking cup of tea, it might be something nice your family said to you, or it might be something you've done you're proud of. Whatever it is, write it down, keep it close, and remember why you're awesome and are worth the position you hold.
So rather than this being a true "how-to", I think it's turning into more of a promise to myself. This is what I'm going to try to do to take control back. And if you ever feel like your life isn't your own any more, take it back. You only get one, and it's yours to do with what you please.