Self Improvement

How I Slowed Down and Found Happiness This Year

Life took some major turns for most of us since the spring of 2020. Things are still wildly different from anything I ever could have expected. Loneliness and peace – life is slower and simpler. I thought I knew what matters but now, I really know. 2021 has been a year of reflection and self-care. Finding myself after going through what I can only hope is the hardest thing I’ll ever go through. I’ve been able to focus on my family and really check in with myself – on what is and isn’t working. On what brings me joy each day. 

It took a life-changing diagnosis to open my eyes to the fact that each day is not promised. I’ve made some big (and small) changes that have changed my life for the better. Today, I want to share some of the things that have helped me slow down and find happiness this year. 

I’m less busy

After spending years talking about finding balance from the general busyness of life and work, I am finally less busy. Down-time used to be minimal and I prided myself on doing it all. The reality (and according to Nancy Meyers) is that something’s gotta give. This holds especially true after becoming a mom, or at least it did for me. We can have success and a family, but saying yes to too much comes with a cost. 

Naturally, a pandemic made things less busy because I couldn’t see anyone, but I learned to embrace my slower days. Having fewer (as in zero) plans was forced on me, but it’s also nice to embrace being less busy.

I learned to say no

This one ties in to being less busy, and it’s something I struggled with in my early thirties. There are commitments we want to say yes to even when we know we don’t have the bandwidth to take them on. Other times, it’s an immediate internal no that leaves us feeling guilty. Always show up for your people, but consider what you realistically have to offer. 

Sometimes, you have to say no to plans, a big project, a date, or volunteering yourself for something. It’s not only ok – it’s a good thing. 

I set social media boundaries

Spend less time scrolling. Set time limits on how much time you spend on social media apps if you must. It’s sad that that’s a thing, but it is. I try to get some work done on my computer and some days, don’t touch my phone until noon, short of quickly promoting a blog post before putting it away. I have made it a rule to only reply to my instagram inbox on my computer since it’s a lot more efficient and means less time on my phone. 

The point here? Scroll less, stop comparing, and make real connections. 

I unplug and consume less information

We’re always connected to our phones, text messaging, and email, and there’s just too much being thrown at us. It’s important to stay informed, but sometimes, it can be too much. I’ve made a conscious effort to be mindful of what I consume and how I connect each day, and have noticed a big difference. Every morning, I leave my phone on my bedside table until our nanny arrives, guaranteeing a minimum of 2 hours of phone-free time. I check email on my computer instead of my phone for the same reason I do so with instagram messages.

Here’s a good example of a consumption boundary. Early in Margot’s treatment, I made the decision to stay off Facebook groups for parents going through treatment because it was just too much, and I started my own support group – a positive place where parents could help each other get through treatment.

The need to reply to email, texts, and instagram messages isn’t urgent – we do not owe anyone an immediate response (assuming it’s not an urgent work email). Unplug. Step back. Spend less time connected to your phone and more time connecting to the people and world around you. 

And speaking of boundaries, I learned to set them

Maybe it’s no longer reading something, saying no, or not explaining why you can or cannot do something. My biggest and healthiest boundaries this year have been clearing my filtered instagram inbox of messages coming from people I do not know. I hate letting people down and this used to cause a lot of stress, but this comes back to something having to give. Not answering every message opened up a few hours a week, and meant a lot less time in front of a screen. I offer to help in a way that feels more manageable, and gain some control (and happiness) over my time, too.

My other big, healthy boundary was not explaining why something is the way it is. “I can or can’t do this” without a long explanation is enough. Explaining why things had to be a certain way during my daughter’s treatment caused anxiety, and in therapy, I learned that it is enough to say “we’d love to see you and here’s what works for us” without explaining why it has to be that way. 

Boundaries are healthy. Set them. 

I know who my real friends are

I’ve really struggled with this one the last year. been especially isolated and will be even more so with cold and flu season. As a result, I have been unable to see friends like I was once able to, which I know was the case for many of us in 2020, and it took a major toll. More than that, I spent the majority of 2020 fully focused on getting my daughter through treatment, and it was months before I could show up as a friend or carry on a normal conversation. 

When you go through something really difficult, some of your friends will stand by your side and others, sadly, will not. Some might even try to benefit off of what you’ve gone through. It can be so hurtful when someone you thought was your friend lets you down, and can be as painful as a breakup. 

Focus on the good ones. 

I’m lucky to have some wonderful friends who stood by me. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for them, and when I came back, they were right here, waiting for me. I’ll always be grateful for them and will always be there for them. Things change in friendships, partnerships, and in marriage. 

Conor and I are fortunate that everything we’ve gone through has brought us together, but it hasn’t always been easy. All relationships take work. Do your best, apologize when you need to, own your mistakes, show up for others, and only surround yourself with people who always have your back. 

I’m taking care of myself

Self-care can look like a lot of things. Yes, workouts and manicures are self-care. But we need to consider the bigger picture. Making sure you do the things mentioned above. Therapy. Breathing. Eat well and drink more water. 

I’m finding my purpose

In my 20s, when I was really struggling with relationships and my career, I hoped that one day, I’d be able to use what I went through to help someone else. Sharing things I’ve struggled with on my blog and helping women connect has been so meaningful, and for a long time, it was my purpose.

Things shifted when I became a mom. Nothing mattered more, but still, work was often priority, but there was a life-changing shift in May 2020 when my daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia. Fundraising and making things better for families in treatment for pediatric cancer has become a big part of who I am and what matters to me. I’ve helped raise over $200,000 and started a support group for moms going through childhood cancer treatment. I know without a doubt that my fundraising efforts are not over, and I have been thinking a lot about how I’ll expand that in the future.

Your purpose will evolve throughout your lifetime. I’ve always wanted to help and inspire women, but did not become a mom until I was 35, and since then, everything changed. It’s ok not to know your ultimate purpose but doing something that feels meaningful and that gives you purpose will make you happy. 

I am grateful for the little things, even when life is hard

Gratitude has been a big one for me, especially in light of all I’ve gone through the last year and-a-half. When things are difficult, I try to remember that there’s still a lot to be grateful for. I’m not suggesting that you always have to be grateful when things feel terrible – it’s ok to just feel the sadness sometimes, but have some perspective. This can be hard, but it always pays off.  

Your perspective shifts when you realize what you have to be grateful for. It opens your eyes to the little things that can bring so much joy. A sunny day, changing seasons, time at the park with your kids, watching someone you love smile, sending a sweet note, and honestly, just getting to experience relationships, love, and each day. It’s all a gift.

I do things that make me feel good

Maybe it’s organizing your home, a side project, movie night, rewatching Sex and the City for the 30th time (I’m doing that right now). Unplug and sip a favorite drink in the sun or by a fireplace. Doing things that make you happy will – shocker – make you happier. 

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