Stressed And Less Happy – Monthly Happiness Report – January 2019

Well. This is not how I wanted to start 2019.

At the end of December - right after reviewing 2018 - I knew I needed to take things easier in 2019. I called the last update "Stressed But Happy?", since I was still feeling very happy despite the stress of December. This new monthly update is called "Stressed And Less Happy". This might spoil the surprise, but I FAILED to take it easier in January...

My average happiness rating was still a 7,25, which isn't bad perse but significantly below my average.

At the end of December 2018, I specifically said this: I need to do my ABSOLUTE BEST to take it easier in January.

Let's have a look at how that panned out... 😉

Monthly happiness

The chart below visualizes exactly what my happiness ratings looked like throughout January. Like always, I have added some comments to this chart to add context.

You can see that I messed up right at the start.

I drank a tiny little wee bit too much on NYE. It was a pretty fun night - it'd better had been - but the morning after was just awful. Why? Here's why:

  • It started with a crushing headache. It felt like I heard every heartbeat ring through my head like a massive GONG.
  • I was nauseous. I drank a combination of alcohol which isn't the best plan. Insert here the fact that I'm a rusty drinker (I don't go out much) so my body was logically quite messed up because of it. Oops.
  • My sleep was messed up (I wonder what caused that...) so I felt VERY tired.

And that was only the first day.

Starting work again

In December, I got saved by the bell. As I started to crumble under the heavy workload, the Christmas break started right on time.

When work started again - on the 2nd of January - it was miserable right from the start.

Before continuing, let's have a look at what factors influenced my happiness in January.

Happiness factors

The table below shows all the happiness factors that influenced my happiness during the first month of 2019.

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Let's go back to that second day of the year.

I made sure to go to bed early that previous evening, but somehow couldn't manage to fall asleep. I lied awake until after midnight, which was extremely frustrating.

Here's what I wrote in my happiness journal on the 2nd of January. I rated this day with a 6 on my happiness scale.

As expected, today was meh. Woke up 07:30 with my girlfriend but felt miserable. I was actually afraid I would fall asleep behind the wheel on my way to work. I felt like a zombie and thought I was going to faint or black out or something. Luckily, that didn't happen.

I forced myself to be an extravert at work. I introduced a new colleague to our department and showed him around a bit. But there was not a lot of time, since my deadlines are still there... The next 10 days are going to be madness probably. My brain feels like a pudding at the moment.

As usual these days, I was exhausted when I got home. I'm just tired. I'm noticing more nervous traits, twitches and muscle vibrations as well. Fucking annoying...

Well.

That wasn't exactly how I wanted to start 2019. Especially after having said that I need to take things slower.

That next day was luckily much better!

NOT.

I rated the next day with a 7,25. This is what I wrote down in my happiness journal:

I finally slept again this night. And it feels like I'm living in a different world. Went to bed at 22:00 or something. Woke up at 5:30 thinking "Fuck, I'm probably wide awake again at midnight". But it was already 05:30! Nice! So I woke up and got to work.

Today went exactly as it should have, meaning that I did everything that I had to do to reach my deadlines. I was extremely productive, which feels nice for once. 

Spent the night with my girlfriend, walking around the block, playing a little Battlefield (which is getting more fun) and went for a run. I took it easy and only ran 5 km. And now I feel good. I'm going to continue working on my laptop until I absoltely feel tired as hell, since I don't want to lie awake in bed anymore.

(later that night:)

Here I am again... It's 03:30 and I can't sleep. I tried for a long time, with music, without music, tried a lot of exercises but nothing worked. I even got white flashes in front of my eyes again. So fucking weird. Got out at 01:45 to go for a walk again. I ended walking for 6 km and now that I'm back it's 03:30. And I'm still afraid to go back to bed, so I'm going to try and make use of my time. Tomorrow is going to be hell. January is turning out to be pretty awful already. What the fuck man. I feel pretty desperate... It's 04:00 now, gonna try to sleep again.

This was my biggest struggle in January: finding peace of mind.

Work had never been this busy, and here I was, not being able to get my much-needed rest. I honestly felt desperate for some sleep, which only made me more stressed.

It was a vicious circle which I didn't manage to break:

  1. I know I need my sleep, so I go to bed early and try to do everything right
  2. I can't sleep because I can't get the thoughts in my head to stop rushing around
  3. Now I'm stressed out because I know how much I need my sleep
  4. The stress in my head only increases
  5. Repeat this loop for a couple of times, and WHOOPS it's already 03:30...

This struggle during these first 10 days in January. It resulted in quite some bad days.

One of these bad days was the 9th of January, which I rated with a 5 on my happiness scale:

Worked from 06:00 untill 19:00. Add another 90 minutes in traffic and there's not a lot of time left at the end of the day, eh? I'm way too busy at the moment, but I'm finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel. I'm gonna reach those fucking deadlines. It won't be my absolute best, but I bet everybody will still be quite impressed. They better be...

Booked the holidays with my girlfriend this evening (10 days to Bosnia!), just relaxed a bit and went to bed. Thank God I'm sleeping better now. I better be, since I feel ab-so-lu-te-ly broken.

This was definitely a crappy day because of the stress at my work, but there's a tiny silver lining here: the finish line is in sight!

I eventually reached this finish line on the 10th, which I rated with a 7 on my happiness scale:

Today was chaos again. But it was actually good. I managed to do a lot and finished EVERYTHING. For fuck's sake, FINALLY. It's over. It'll be alright. PFEW.

Went home to relax and cook dinner. My girlfriend was exhausted as well, so just spent the evening running, gaming, making music and relaxing on my laptop. It was actually just what I needed. I still felt stressed and on-edge after work, especially on my way back due to the intense traffic. But overall, today was a good day again!

Finally done with work

After this day - the 10th of January - my work finally returned to a normal state. And with that, my life quickly returned to normal. Here's one of the better days I had in January: it was the 13th and I rated it with an 8,25 on my happiness scale!

What a nice day. I want more of this, please. My girlfriend and I had the entire day off: the apartment was already cleaned up, no visitors, no stuff on our to-do list. Just great.

We both slept in late, had a nice and quiet breakfast and went for a run. I managed to run 12 km again, which went really well. It was raining and pretty windy, which would normally bug me. But I didn't really mind the weather this time. I was like FUCK IT. I ran through the crappy weather with a enormous smile on my face. 

Spent the rest of the day relaxing. Worked on the website a bit and played a lot of music. John Mayer is my latest crush. New Light is such a cool song, it's been stuck inside my head for days now. I don't really mind it.

Went for a walk in the evening together and just relaxed on the couch together. Yes, this was a great day. I need more of these.

So this is where my life finally returned to normal. You can clearly see this period in my happiness ratings. It lasted untill the 24th.

Why?

Because that's when my employer decided to fly me out to Lithuania to visit one of our projects. There we go, down the rabbit hole again!

So before I'm even used to my happy and quiet life again, I find myself on a plane to Lithuania with a mission.

flying to lithuania january 2019
Beautiful view while flying to Lithuania for work

What the hell am I supposed to do in Lithuania?

Well...

My job requires me to occasionally visit projects around the world to "optimize" certain processes. This sounds rather vague, and that might be for the best because I'll probably only confuse you if I tried to explain it. Simply said, I visit a project for a few days, look at some signals and data and see where a number of processes could be improved, write a huge report about it and give some recommendations to the project.

It sounds pretty exciting on paper, but it's far from glamorous. You are on the job at least 12 hours a day, seven days a week. The only sightseeing you'll do is from the airport to the project and back. That's it. Work, sleep, repeat.

These visits usually don't last more than 2 weeks. My visit to Lithuania was only going to take me 5 days, so I was back home before I knew it (luckily).

I obviously continued to track my happiness while abroad. I rated my second day on the project - the 25th of January - with a 7,50:

So I'm now offshore as I'm writing this. It's pretty cool to be out of the office again. Woke up extremely tired, like I needed at least another 3 hours of sleep. Great... Coffee it is! It's not the best timing, since I'm reading "Why We Sleep" now and the book made it clear to me on the first 10 pages just how bad a lack of sleep can be for you. Hurray...

I continued to do my thing today. Which is funny, because my imposter syndrome always rises when I go on these trips. Like, what the fuck am I actually doing here? I had the same feeling 1,5 years ago when I went to Germany and Mexico. I look at some signals, try to record a couple of things, try to steer the process by awkwardly talking to the project team and present myself as a super-extravert person. WHICH I'M NOT. But really: what am I doing? Not a lot, I can tell you that. Surely, some day, somebody is going to expose me, right? I feel like I'm just not good at this...

Anyway, that's my work lol. Managed to watch a soccer game and run on the treadmill (40 minutes this time!) after work. All in all, it was a fine day. What can you expect, really?

icy weather in Lithuania january 2019
Icy sunset in Lithuania

These 5 days in Lithuania were are the same;

  • Wake up at 06:30
  • Work from 07:00 till 19:00
  • Spend 30 minutes on the treadmill
  • Eat
  • Watch a soccer game
  • Shower
  • Work some more
  • Sleep
  • Repeat

It's good that this trip was pretty short because I don't believe this rhythm could result in long-term happiness, especially after the hectic days I had already survived! I was longing for my happy, quiet and uneventful life.

So just like last year, January was a relatively difficult month for me. Let's see which happiness factors had a positive influence on my happiness in January 2019!

Positive happiness factors

The chart below shows all the positive happiness factors of this last month.

These happiness factors are pretty familiar now. Spending time with my girlfriend, running, relaxing, playing music, spending time with friends and family: these are all things that I love.

I just wish I had more time for these happiness factors in January...

Unfortunately, my month was negatively impacted by other happiness factors a little too often.

Negative happiness factors

The chart below shows all the negative happiness factors of January 2019.

So yeah, I wanted to work on taking it easier in January. Well, that failed.

I can write a book about all the things that I should've done better in January, but that won't help me. The happiness journal entries that I've published in this post paint a pretty good picture of what January was like for me.

Let's hope February will be better! No more insane deadlines, no more ad-hoc trips abroad, and more time spent doing the things I love!

Closing words

I hope these posts give you a general idea of what tracking happiness means to me. Because I'm tracking my happiness ratings and factors every single day, I am fully aware of what I need to do in order to become as happy as I can be. With that said, I hope I can somehow inspire you to also start tracking your happiness. 🙂

If you have any questions about anything, please let me know in the comments below, and I'll be happy to answer you!

Cheers!

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