4 Seemingly Small Things That Are Keeping You from Living Your Best Life

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Whenever I have felt off, or overwhelmed, or anxious, I like to sit down and take stock of what has been going on in my life. What’s been holding me back? I usually come up with very general and often grandiose things like “I don’t have a five-year plan” or “I’m not sure where my career is going". And while those things do matter and do affect me, it’s often the small, seemingly insignificant everyday things that can really throw us for a loop. The following four seemingly small things are ones that come up for me time and time again, but they are easy to forget about.

Your Environment is Cluttered

Dishes in the sink? Clothes all over the bedroom? Closet overflowing? Messy desk at work? Computer desktop look like a tornado tore through it? You may not realize it, but all of these things can really put a strain on your mental health. Clutter in your life increases stress… and not just stress because you can’t find the shirt you wanted to wear under the growing pile of laundry that’s been sitting in the corner for 4 weeks. There have been several studies that have drawn the connection between a cluttered environment and an increase in the stress hormone Cortisol. In addition to stress, a person in a cluttered environment is likely to be less productive, have unhealthy eating habits, be less likely to succeed at work, and have less of a hold on their finances. The bottom line here is: in order to function at your best, your brain needs a break. If your desk is a mess at work and you go home to a cluttered house, and you go to sleep in a cluttered room, your brain never stops processing visual information. You're never giving yourself that respite you need in order to reenergize.

You Don’t Keep a Budget

I am no expert here – in fact I plan to write a more in-depth article about my struggles with debt – but I can tell you a first person account of how stressed I get when I am constantly worried about money and debt. Let me premise this by saying that I have a good job, and I make a comfortable living wage in a fairly expensive city. However, in the past, my inability to keep (or even make) a budget has caused me to spiral into prolonged anxiety, not just about money, but about life and my worthiness to succeed (yeah… it’s that deep). At its core, keeping a budget is about being in control. If you are out of control with your money, you tend to be out of control in other aspects of your life. Denial, stress, depression, anger, even straight up panic… these are all behaviors that can stem from your finances being out of whack. Fret not though, friends! There are plenty of great tools to help you as you make your way to financial freedom! A simple google search pulls up a multitude of budgeting apps, books, gurus… whatever you might need to start leading a more financially responsible life.

You Say Yes to Everything

So many of our social choices are driven by FOMO or “FEAR OF MISSING OUT” for those of you who have never heard that term before. It used to be easier to decline plans for whatever reason, but now, with social media being so entrenched in our lives, that party you declined is broadcast in front of your face on all of your social networks (and damn did that party look fun). So the next time…you say yes to happy hour, even though you’ve been feeling under the weather, or you say yes to that party, even though you’ve been feeling overwhelmed and just need a night off. This cycle can leave you totally burnt out, not just emotionally, but physically (anyone else ever gotten a nasty cold after one too many nights out?).

Saying “yes” to everything isn’t just a detriment when it comes to your social life. Are you a helper? A giver? A go-with-the-flow-er? Are you someone that puts others' needs before your own? These are all great personality traits... in moderation, however. When you are constantly breaking promises or obligations you made to YOURSELF in order to make someone else happy, that’s where you get in trouble. Have you ever been doing something good for yourself, but stopped because it was inconvenient for someone else? Have you ever helped someone at work, but neglected your own growing to-do list? Our first priority is to ourselves, yes. Not our families, not our friends, not our significant others, but ourselves. If you are not AT YOUR BEST, you cannot GIVE YOUR BEST.

You Spend Too Much Time Consuming Social Media

If you have an iPhone and you go into your settings and then select battery, you can actually see how many hours you spend on your many social media platforms on your phone. Are you shocked? Are you disgusted? I definitely was. Now, for many people, social media is their job or maybe part of their job (Hi my name is Katie and I write for a blog). But even those people must admit that sometimes the constant scrolling through the beautifully curated lives of Instagram elites can get them feeling down. Why does she have more followers than me, why does his life look so perfect, that couple looks so much happier than me and my boyfriend… the comparisons can go on and on and on. And while you’re busy feeling less than, you are also having a breakdown because you just lost seven followers.

You may feel like I’m making fun, but I swear I’m not. I was (and sometimes still am) this person. Over the past six or eight months I have been Instagram obsessed. Tracking my numbers like a hawk, anxiously refreshing my app every few minutes to see new likes or new followers. If a photo fell flat, my day would be ruined. I would lose focus at work, and then constantly be on my phone at home. I spent money I didn’t have on outfits and photographers and events. I behaved like an addict… because I was one. And if affected every aspect of my life.

I know what you’re thinking fam – “wow Katie must be speaking from experience; she seems to have really mastered these things. How can I get my shit together JUST LIKE KATIE?!” You’re not 100 percent wrong… I am speaking from experience, but I have not nearly mastered these things, nor do I have my shit together (can we say shit on here?? I’ve done it three times… assuming my editor will let me know). I still catch myself zoning out, scrolling through social media, I still let things pile up in the house, I still say yes when I should say no thank you, and making and maintaining a budget is a daily struggle for me. But they say knowing is half the battle, and “they” are not wrong. Being able to identify the small things in your life that hold you back, is the first step towards living to your absolute fullest potential. So go forth and thrive babes… and maybe organize your desktop icons while you’re at it.

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As a Commercial Real Estate Project Manager in one of the country’s fastest growing cities, Katie Whelley has made big waves in the Nashville community. With her no-nonsense demeanor and her many publicly-proclaimed passions (not to mention her bold wear-to-work style), Katie is an example for other women who refuse to be put in a neat little box.