Being an adult not all it’s cracked up to be

Adult life isn’t quite as fun or straightforward as I thought it might be, well, not on a continual basis, writes Jan Aitken.

Jan Aitken
Jan Aitken
While browsing the net I stumbled across a meme that hit home: "I’ve tried adulting ... I just don’t think it’s going to work for me!"

Never before have I looked at a meme and so resoundingly thought "Oh yes. Take me back to the days when all I had to contend with was going to school and figuring out who I would play with".

Luckily, the adults in my life took care of the bills, ensuring food was on the table, appointments were made and that all of the other minutiae of life just happened around me. Of course, as a child I thought adults had it all. They could do what they wanted when they wanted and had to answer to nobody. It seemed to me that they had all of the answers and could handle anything that came along. It’s probably just as well I didn’t know the reality, or I might have been less inclined to want to grow up!

Adult life isn’t quite as fun or straightforward as I thought it might be, well, not on a continual basis.

Life has some tremendously exciting and exhilarating moments, but I’ve figured out they are interspersed with some less exciting and definitely not as exhilarating moments. Truth is that life is peppered with some downright rubbish and some thoroughly unenjoyable happenings.

As an adult, I don’t have all the answers, and I sure don’t get to do everything I want when I want. I’m not the free agent I thought my parents were when I was growing up.

So where did it all go wrong?

Well, it didn’t . Life is just life and that’s a mix of enjoyable and not so enjoyable elements, of fun and sadness, of calm and turmoil and so many more experiences and emotions than my child’s brain could ever comprehend. The "perfect" life is the stuff of fantasy.

Sometimes life gets very "lifey" and being an adult can be hard. Money can be tight, the house repairs careen off plan, the car breaks down, the children have struggles and parents age and their needs change. Meanwhile, all the other commitments outside of the home continue. It can feel relentless and very stressful.

So, what strategies can help us to navigate being a grown up?

Here are some to consider. —

Learn to say "no" or "I’m sorry I can’t help with that" or "I could do x,y or z"

Sometimes we just have to pull back and take a breath.

Start to employ self-compassion and self-care

You can’t run a car on an empty tank, so we have to "refuel" ourselves.

Get enough sleep

Inadequate or poor-quality sleep can negatively affect your mood, alertness, energy levels, mental and physical health.

Learn relaxation techniques and use them

Meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, deep breathing exercises, and yoga are powerful relaxation techniques and stress-busters.

Strengthen your social network

Make time to catch up with your friends. Connect with others by taking a class, joining an organisation or group you’re interested in.

Hone your time-management skills

A little time spent planning your week can really pay dividends. The more efficiently you can handle work and family demands, the lower your stress level.

Try to resolve stressful situations

Don’t let stressful situations fester. Hold family problem-solving sessions and use negotiation skills at home and at work. Take control over what you have control over!

Nurture yourself

Treat yourself to a massage. Take a walk or a nap, make time to listen to your favourite music. Just do something that lifts your spirits on a regular basis.

Ask for help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your partner, friends or a professional. If stress and anxiety persist, talk to your doctor/counsellor or contact your work employee assistance programme.

Life and all its "lifeyness" can be a bit of a roller coaster sometimes. Don’t be afraid to admit when things are a bit tough, reach out to someone you can trust and hang on. There’ll be an up on the way. Remember to celebrate the good bits, those memories can help you through the tough times.

So, in case you’re wondering ... "I officially resign from adulthood. Decisions will be made using the eenie-meenie-miney-mo method and arguments will be settled by sticking out my tongue. I’ll be out in the playground if you need me".

Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach.

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