Operation De-Stress: First Steps

Been writing recently about feeling overwhelmed and trapped in my life. I have been avoiding dealing with a lot of things over the last few years. I have spoken about my marriage falling apart. I hid from that by learning programming and throwing myself into my career to avoid having to deal with my life.

I have been alone for nearly a year now. It’s been rather difficult. I have had to learn some basic life skills like making sure I pay my bills. I have never done that before. I am slightly worried about taxes because I know they are going to be complicated.

I am incredibly disorganized. During the years of my marriage I basically wasn’t allowed to keep any of my stuff anywhere in the house except for one room. Even though it’s been a year, it looks like a crazy hoarding squatter lives in the house. I have not had the time or energy to organize my stuff because I was still throwing myself into work to avoid having to deal with my life.

There are a number of things I would eventually like to accomplish:

  • I want to organize my house
  • I want to have a regular exercise routine
  • I want to drink a lot less
  • I want to stop feeling overwhelmed by my life

I discovered recently that the best way to engage me in a project is for me to get to plan it out and write about it. If I don’t write about it, the complexity of a project gets overwhelming to me and I don’t know where to start. If I have to write about it and organize it into a story, I get more excited and engaged with actually figuring out what the first steps are. I also feel more accountable because if I don’t do anything I have to write about not doing anything.

So I am going to start a new series of posts on my blog about me using techniques from programming and applying them to getting my life back together again.

Right now my life code base is fragile. A lot of people suggested to me that I start doing exercise. I do walk for like half an hour a day when I remember to, but trying to implement a running routine was too much for my system and I crashed and burned. I would like to figure out how to fix the underlying stuff preventing me from being able to do that so that I can add running to my routine.

First Steps

Most of my physical and emotional issues are coming from stress. I have had a few periods of my life where stress has made me physically sick. I have given myself symptoms of full blown lupus and multiple sclerosis in the last ten years because of stress. I have gotten so used to the stress from the last three years or so that I don’t know how to shut it off.

I work all the time because I don’t know how not to work. If I have any free time I fill it with more work. I do this until I collapse. It used to happen at convenient times but now it’s happening all the time and it is interfering with the work I have to do rather than the work I am using to fill my life.

I also have developed a drinking problem. I have been joking about it for a few years, but I haven’t really had the energy or motivation to deal with it because there were other things that I made a priority.

Basically, the only way my brain knows it’s supposed to stop working is if I drink alcohol. I had a friend ask me if I started having lunch wine now that I work from home and I don’t because if I do then my brain will stop working. I have hardcoded a really bad habit into my brain that I need to fix before I destroy my health.

Rather than focusing on the alcohol part, I am going to focus on the learning to relax and stop stressing part. I think that is the first step to fixing all of my issues. They all lead back to that.


The first thing I am going to do is make a schedule for myself. I do a lot better on a schedule. I know most programmers don’t like them because it’s like micro-management, but I do better when I have a routine. Going on all of these conference trips has been fantastic and wonderful, but they really mess with my head. It’s difficult for me to get back on track when I come home from them and it’s difficult for me to get any work done while I am there because I have a lot of ritualistic behaviors I need to implement to focus on my work.

I have set up a few alarms on my phone that will bother me every day this week:

  • Wake up and spend some time cleaning the house (8:00 am)
  • Do 15 minutes of yoga (11:00 am)
  • Meditate (3:00 pm)

I used to do meditation before I got married, but I stopped because my pugs would crawl all over me and distract me. I am going to lock them out of my room and make sure I spend time each day not worrying.

I have a couple of yoga apps on my phone. I found a lot of the focus in yoga is to be mindful of your position and of your breathing. I really like running because I can just focus on my breathing and how my body feels, but I am not at the point where I can do that yet. So going to start small for a few weeks and try to work up to something more intense.

Said before that my house is in a really bad state. I have asked my mom to “pair program” with me to help me get the house organized. I need to buy book shelves and various other organizational structures to sort and store my objects because right now I have almost nothing. I do also have to clear a lot of crap out of my house. I have had depression and I tend to accumulate a lot of junk while I am depressed. I also get really bad about clearing out my emails. I used to keep only about 200 emails in my primary account, but I have ten times that and it’s all stupid crap like me emailing my mom that I got home from work safe after an ice storm three jobs ago.

The house part is going to be a fairly long-term project, so for right now I am going to focus on doing small amounts of things every day. Today I cleaned my toilet, emptied the dishwasher, and swept up pug fur. Hopefully tomorrow I can put the laundry away from the load I did back in February. I will spend ten minutes here and there boxing up books I will never read to give away. I still need to schedule time to get rid of the books I box up, but focusing on small steps.

Going to try doing those three things for about two weeks. I am going to try not to worry about anything beyond that. Self discipline is a muscle that exhausts easily and I don’t want to try too many things at once because I will get frustrated and quit.

I will do a post mortem at the end of this week about how often I did these things and if I feel any better. I’ll write about any challenges that prevented me from doing things on a day-to-day basis. I will also brainstorm about what the next set of challenges will be after I have integrated these into my life.

Happy Monday! Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Make the most of it.