SEVEN: Balancing the Scales of a Social Life

I bought some stocks during self-isolation. That way I always have a bit of company

Me, chuckling into my second tube of Pringles

In a great many ways, life is all about balance. Too much chocolate and we put on weight, too much sun and we get burnt, too many dad jokes and we… actually no that doesn’t work. There is no such thing as too many dad jokes. Did you hear about the one armed criminal that robbed a bank? Wait, no, I’m getting off topic.

Life is all about balance, and the biggest thing I’ve learned since plunging into my new life away from the comforts of my home back in Australia is that now, more than ever, I value my “me” time. Get your head out of the gutter, I’m not talking about that, get your ass to church, ya’ll need the Jesus. I’m talking about being by myself, in my own company, doing things that bring me comfort and relax me. It might be reading, it might be a cheeky Netflix or PlayStation binge, maybe I’ll take myself out for a walk with my headphones on and go swimming. Whatever it is, it’s me, myself and I, in the peace and serenity of my own thoughts. And before you say anything, don’t get me wrong, sometimes being at peace in your own company is a LOT easier said than done.

Growing through my mental health journey, with the help of a professional therapist (because there is absolutely nothing wrong with speaking with a professional. Don’t worry, that’s a whole topic for another day), I was able to see the value in being happy in my own company. It wasn’t always easy to feel that way and it still isn’t, at times the last person I want to be talking to is myself. That’s what makes how you spend your alone time so crucial, because sometimes it’s just as much about escaping your own voice than it is the voices of others. My therapist had me consider, what am I doing to escape my own voice? For me, it’s engrossing myself in a book, or a tv series, or a movie. Sometimes, it’s about making a playlist to suit my mood and getting lost in it. That may not work for you, we’re all different, but you know yourself better than ever. So take a moment to consider for yourself, what do you do to mute your own voice when you need to?

Going back to this balance thing, it is just as important to be social, to spend time with your friends and your family. Because if reading and Netflix won’t do the trick, I’ll bet you my dear Ma’s voice will do it’s part in silencing my internal voice. Love ya mum, don’t be mad (“Timothy James! Be nice to your mother!”). But really, when I talk about big lessons, it’s definitely that you need a balance of both voluntary isolation (bugger off COVID) and social time. You can absolutely have too much, or too little, of both. I say this as I sit here exhausted, and the majority of that is due to my inability to say no to social gatherings. In the space of 12 months I have gone from getting out and being social 2-3 times a MONTH to 3-4 times a WEEK. It’s been quite the adjustment. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love knowing my friends want to include me in the extra-curriculars, but damn it can be taxing on someone who isn’t accustomed to it.

So, how do I know what I’m doing too much of or too little of? By trusting your gut, the same way you do when you’re having dinner. Are you hungry? Then eat. Because if you don’t, you’ll feel rubbish. Are you full? Then stop eating. Because if you don’t, you’ll also feel rubbish, won’t you? So trust your gut. When someone says “hey Tim! You’re so ravishingly handsome and smart, you’re just dripping in charm and wit, why don’t we hit the beach?”, I’m going to consider a few things;

  1. Thank you, I know. But it’s nice hearing it from someone else
  2. How am I feeling physically? Am I exhausted, or do I have adequate energy?
  3. How am I feeling mentally?
  4. Do I feel being in my own company would benefit me more now, or being social?
  5. To put it bluntly, do I really feel like going?

If any of these point towards me saying no, then I’m going to say no. Why? Trick question (Ha! Got you), there is no why. If I do not feel like going somewhere, I’m going to say no. I don’t need a reason, I don’t need to justify it to anyone. I’m just going to say “hey, I would absolutely love to but I can’t right now. But let’s do it sometime soon!”. No one gets offended, if they do then that is less about you than it is them, and I’ve proven to myself that I am prioritising how I am feeling and listening to my mind and body for what I need.

BUT, and I speak from experience, this is not an escape route for the serial flakes out there who always look for a reason not to go to absolutely everything they’re invited to. I used to find a reason all the time to not interact with other humans, it got lonely and miserable. Be your own Salt Bae, season your social life to taste, find your balance, go to a few social things from time to time, it’s good for the soul.

Right, now I’ve said my piece, the one armed criminal. The one that robbed the bank, did you hear about him? They say he did it all…

Single-handedly.

I’ll see myself out.

Right, you got all that? Not too much, not too little, find your balance. It differs according to our personalities. Sometimes once a fortnight is more than enough, other times we need a few little fixes in the same week. Listen to your body, listen to your mind, listen to your gut. No one knows you better than you. Peace out.

Moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance

Epicurus

Mental Health

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