I've been tracking my time on kanbanflow.com, which if you work from home or generally unsupervised, I really highly recommend. So the seven or eight hours I spend at the office, for example, today from 8:40-5:20, has become genuinely productive. Today I clocked 5 hours and 41 minutes of productivity time, and actually got everything done that needed to be done, and a good head-start on next week's work. So I'm not coming home stressed and thinking "Oh my God, I can't just chill out, I need to finish all the things".
And then I realized today that I don't remember how to live a healthy, balanced life outside of work. For the last year I've been scrambling to manage teaching, my RA, and an overwhelming amount of reading material, writing, and meetings for prelims. Before that, when I was still healthy, I just threw everything I had into my academics, with some time carved out for ballet. I literally haven't had a regular schedule or even seriously made an honest attempt at a balanced life for six years... not since I lived in Tokyo and had a 36 hour a week job with a strict schedule and a comfortable paycheck.
Looking back, I loved to walk around the city in the evenings and at night once it had cooled off. I would sit on my bed or couch and make beaded figures and watch TV. Or play my bass. Or write. Or take classes online. Or go to karaoke or a concert or a bar or do something. I never remember coming home and going "Well shit, what do I do now?" At least not over having time on my hands to fill.
And that was exactly my situation today. I walked partway home because I wasn't feeling well enough to go to the gym. Then I got home and had no idea what to do beyond eat dinner. I took a nap because I wasn't feeling too well, half hoping to sleep through the night. I woke up at 10, of course. Then I sat and watched The Good Place and binged on crackers and cheese, which is pretty much how I procrastinated for the last year when I was overwhelmed with work. I didn't enjoy it. It just filled the time, and as I sat I got hungry, so I ate, and then overate. And here I am, out of the show to watch and probably 500-600 calories above my goal for the day (and of course awake at 2 AM).
So, okay, my crappy sleep patterns aside (I have a referral to a sleep clinic, finally), I need to figure out how to be a human being again. I'm comforted by the fact that I've heard from so many other people who went through this same thing at the end of coursework/prelims, so it's not just me being weird. The most recent advice I heard was that it is important to limit working hours and have a balance, while you can, at the dissertation phase, and to reconnect with old hobbies. With the RA, it's hard not to think about what I can't do anymore, what hurts too much or what I'm scared to even try again, or how tired I get...
With the weekend looming ahead of me (sidebar: I've never had an obligation-free weekend loom before... but it's very definitely looming), I need to make a plan, or at least a grab-bag of options so I'm not standing in the door freaking out about being home and not working until I pass out or have a(nother) breakdown. I don't want to spend my free time sleeping or watching stupid (albeit quite funny) TV shows and making myself even more unhealthy.
So, some of my options:
Bass: Will probably have to relearn where the notes are, since it's been literally four years since I took the instrument out of its case... Will probably hurt my hands, but an option for a day when my hands are feeling okay.
Flute: Same as bass, also have to limit to reasonable hours. I am waiting on a Cherokee flute that I ordered a couple of weeks ago, which is vertical and wooden, and also doesn't have buttons to press down on, so hopefully that will be easier on my hands.
Knitting: A little on the mindless side. Good for when I need to de-compress and not think about anything. Maybe good for headachy days, especially when it's cold and I just want to sit and cuddle the cats. Might hold off on this one until I get in the swing of having hobbies again. This was one of my "I'm too stressed to function" go-to's this last year. Also hurts my hands.
Reading for fun: It's been months... I have a backlog of comic books waiting to be read, and several other fiction books. Maybe try this before knitting. Use a bookstand when hands are hurting.
Work on my German: I'm worried this is too close to "work", even though I'm mostly doing it for fun.
Drawing: I stopped doing this actually more than 10 years ago now. I used to be actually decent... last time I tried was just embarrassing. I could take a class at Michael's or something. Or get together with some of my friends and do this socially. That could be fun.
Writing: I don't know how to flip my brain from "academic" to "fiction", but I used to spend every free moment working on stories. I absolutely loved it. For months it would be all I thought about. But is it good to sit in my desk chair at the same computer I use for work?
Walking: I'm not comfortable walking by myself after dark here, which limits this activity. But if I plan correctly, I could walk home from campus occasionally. It's about an hour or so, 4 ish miles.
Gym: Yeah, this needs to happen no matter what. Not my favorite activity though. I need to find a good audiobook to get back with.
Ballet: This is a given, at least twice a week. I have a few more classes I could take, provided my body and budget will cooperate. I do really love this.
Other dance: Tap was decently fun last year, provided scheduling worked. The tap class I could take now is during my pointe class. Jazz is another option. Same issues as with ballet.
Cooking: I hate cooking. But I need to feed myself better, and since I can't or shouldn't eat most processed foods, this would be a really good option for my health.
100 Days Challenge: What would I even do? I could do something like this again.... (I only remembered this when I looked at my old labels).
Ok, that list was shockingly hard to come up with. But it's a start. Any other ideas?