Podcast 58: Special Guest Host, Eliza! Plus, Find an Area of Refuge, the Pressure of Birthdays, and How to Get Up Earlier.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update: Elizabeth is still in New York City, but her schedule is so crazed, as she’s shooting the pilot, that my seventeen-year-old daughter Eliza stepped in as a guest host.

Eliza was a guest on episode 30, and she also has her own podcast, the very interesting Eliza Starting at 16, about the world from a teenager’s perspective. (She does the whole thing herself! Which I find very impressive.)

HenryRecordingLibraryTo make things even more complicated, we had to record on a weekend, and our studio is moving to a different location, so Henry had to a) work on a Sunday and b) record in my apartment. Double gold star for that.

Last week, a listener asked a question about how to solve the problem of “The Chair,” where not-dirty, not-clean clothes pile up. The overwhelming answer from listeners? Use hooks.

1pixarea of reguge signTry This at Home: Find your “area of refuge.” Here’s the photo of the sign I saw at Yale Law School. What’s your area of refuge? I have to say, Eliza’s area of refuge — watching make-up videos — wouldn’t work for me. But re-reading children’s literature doesn’t work for Eliza. We’re all different.

Happiness Stumbling Block: Eliza felt a lot of Facebook pressure related to her recent 17th birthday.

Listener Question: “I’m an Obliger, single, who is struggling to get up earlier. Suggestions?”

 Gretchen’s Demerit: For one day, I forgot about the importance of sunscreen. Note to self: sunscreen is very important.

 Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Perhaps surprisingly, Eliza gives a gold star to her school’s college counseling office. She now feels much better about the college application process.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #58

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  • Mimi Gregor

    Area of refuge… what a great term! Coincidentally, I was very stressed-out today over a variety of things. I couldn’t even read a book, because my mind kept regurgitating everything that was causing me anxiety. So I started doing various mindless chores: a couple loads of laundry, cleaned the coffeemaker, cleaned the oven, inventoried our cleaning supplies and toiletries and made a list of what we needed… things that needed to be done, but didn’t require a lot of brain-power, and yet managed to take my mind off what was bothering me somewhat. When I was finished I felt incrementally better, plus I had a head start on some chores that would have needed to be done later in the week.

    • mom2luke

      I know what you mean, I need a mix of mindless chores too…the tasks that require my full brain exhaust me/stress me out… mindless chores calm me down.

    • RethinkHappy

      I’ve found the mindless chores thing to work for both me and my wife. Also, it doubles as a surprise for my wife if I unload the dishwasher or switch the laundry at home, because usually it’s something she does, but when I’m in that mood where I need the distraction, it is certainly a move that affects her happiness too!

  • mom2luke

    I think it is interesting that make up videos relax Eliza… my daughter modeled for one, maybe Liza will find it interesting?? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xD2zD7tphfQ I know what she means that the music is kind of calming as is watching the transformation. Personally, I used to be calmed by Muzak when I worked at a department store…in the make up department! … but you can’t find that kind of music (muszak) on the radio anymore. But this weekend at a thrift store I found a CD of that kind of music (Henry Mancini keyboard love songs like Moon River, Love Story, etc.) I LOVE listening to it when I’m driving around my son (who has autism) I get annoyed when he starts talking repetitively when I’m listening to NPR, but when it’s muzak I don’t mind his nonsense talk as the muzak is so calming!

  • Lori Shelley

    Another good podcast, Gretchen (and Eliza). I am looking forward to when your: The Best of The Happiness Project Blog: Ten Years of Happiness, Good Habits, and More e-book is available in Australia, being a dyed-in-the-wool fan and all!!

  • mcf

    Eliza, I am the exact same way. I fall asleep most nights to makeup videos on youtube–it puts me into the most relaxed state. I think it’s a combination of the calm voices, the tactile nature of the videos, and the simplicity of it all. You may know of her already, but watch Lisa Eldridge’s videos–she has the most lovely demeanor and voice, not to mention tons of talent. Enjoy!

  • Karin Lahres

    Gretchen, since yesterday I try to purchase the new ebook via amazon.com. By hitting the link I get to the page, but it says “Purchase currently not available”. I tried to get to the book via amazon search but then it’s not listed. Has this something to do that I try to order from Germany? Normally I can buy from amazon.com. Do you know what’s that about?

    • Anna in France

      Hi Karin – it is because e-books are special, and usually specific to the country. I cannot buy Gretchen’s e-book either, because my Kindle is registered as a UK Kindle, and I can only buy e-books via amazon.co.uk, not .com. Many American (and foreign language) titles are available there, but I don’t know what it takes for them to become internationally available. There are some obstacles related to VAT and copyright, I believe.
      In view of Gretchen’s international audience, I’m also hoping for a solution!

      • gretchenrubin

        Stay tuned! I’m working on this RIGHT NOW. Sorry about the inconvenience.

  • Anna

    Have you tried sun shirts/rash guards for your family? My daughter and I both wear them all the time. Land’s End makes a cute black and white striped one (it comes in a tall, too) and my daughter has them from hanna andersson and Land’s End as well. I also have swim leggings that I wear on really sunny days. We do have “normal” swimsuits that we wear if we swim at night, etc. I never have to nag my daughter about sunscreen. My dad survived melanoma, so sun protection is an issue that’s always on my mind. I really can’t blame you for forgetting about the sunscreen, though. It’s so hard to remember.

  • mom2luke

    The stress about birthdays was not what I expected…I thought it was going to be about the stress of bday parties, not social media.

    Sadly bday parties were one of those things before I had kids that I THOUGHT I would enjoy, but the reality was I dreaded them and found them very difficult/stressful. Sad to say I was so relieved when my daughter outgrew parties thrown by mom. My son is 16 now, but due to his autism still expects and looks forward to a party every year so he still gets one. The special needs kids are easy to please and we’ve held it at a bowling alley for the past 4 years, and maybe forever. Way, way less work for me than having it at home.
    But part of me is nostalgic for the old parties at our home…even tho they were so. much. work and so stressful–keeping so many kids entertained indoors (January and March bdays meant the weather was always iffy for outdoor activities so the house was overrun with kids/parents).

  • Amy Hollinger

    Really felt for the listener who is not good at waking up; I’m a natural night owl, and this is a life-long struggle. Alarms across the room don’t do anything for me either….I just crawl right back into bed. But I’ve stumbled on a few things that work slightly better, at least for the time being:

    1. Old-fashioned clock radio, set to a station with a great morning team. They’re loud, engaging and hilarious, so the Obliger in me wants to get up and participate. Then I keep it on as I go through my morning routine with a smile on my face. (It still takes me 20-30 minutes to stand upright, but the laughter wakes me up faster than normal.) I tried an alarm that would wake me up with a podcast, but those weren’t always reliable, unfortunately.

    2. I have a very heavy head when I wake up, usually due to sinus issues, so using the neti pot before bed sometimes helps with that sensation.

    4. I keep a dry erase board on my nightstand, with my morning routine. I’m usually extremely disoriented when I wake up (I sleep like a brick), and I have a variable work schedule so rather than be jolted out of my normal morning fog in a panic, trying to remember what day it is and if that early meeting is today or if I have to go to the remote office or if there was something I was supposed to finish before I got in the car. Now I keep a dry erase board on my nightstand with my morning routine. I plot backwards, starting with the first activity I am “Obliged” to be present for that morning:

    6:00 Alarm (Snooooooooze; that time has to be accounted for, resistance is futile)
    by 7:00 Shower (confession: sometimes I have to lie back down after I take a shower)
    7:45 Downstairs (coffee, breakfast, etc)
    8:15 Leave
    9:30 am Arrive in office
    10 am Meeting about _____

    When I wake up I don’t have to remember anything, I just look over as soon as I’m conscious (which in this case is hopefully before 7).

    If I don’t have any obligations, I’ll “schedule” something on the dry erase board that makes me want to get up, like “Shower by 7, get 30 minutes on [Passion Project],” although truth be told it doesn’t always work. (I’m either a people-pleasing Rebel or in a semi-permanent state of Obliger rebellion…not entirely sure which but I think it’s the latter.)

    On the weekends, I’ll write something on that board that I’m really excited about doing. Scheduling time with myself doesn’t usually work, but if I put the BEST thing I want to do it makes me more motivated to get up.

    As a side note, maybe the foot-dragging is because of Obliger Rebellion….the obligation to go to a job you don’t really enjoy, or you know is going to give you headaches, or … The fatigue of being required (by bills) to do something you don’t like. (This happens to me a lot.)

    (And of course, nope, no kids….any child who tried to wake me up before I was ready would pay a very dear price…! I do have a dog though. I let her out and then go back to bed.)

  • Anna in France

    I know we talk a lot about being either owls or larks. But really, some of us are neither! (Probably there are also those who are both?). I like to go to bed on time, because after work, cooking, washing up etc. I am tired and can’t concentrate on much anymore (except a book). I’m not much good first thing in the morning, either, but very productive from say 10:30 am until 5:30 pm, and especially around lunchtime (not hungry, just give me a banana and I keep going).
    Anybody recognize this pattern?

    • Agnes

      Yep. I’m basically a morning person, but even more an I need 8 hours of sleep person. In college I went to sleep three hours later than i do now.

  • JK Hoyle

    My area of refuge is either the yard outside my chicken coop, watching the “girls” forage and scratch. Sometimes knowing that the most important thing in a creature’s life is simply to find the next choice bug or bit of grass is so soothing. Or, being in the barn, cleaning horse stalls. Yes, I said cleaning stalls. There’s just something about the very physical and yet mindless chore of scooping “poo” – not to mention being around the horses – that calms and centers me. Now, I totally get that tasks one finds at a farm isn’t for everyone. But everyone needs to find his/her own place of the heart. Thanks, ladies

  • Rachel Pozun

    If I’m having a stressful day, trying to tackle a difficult issue, or not able to sleep because of lingering thoughts from the day, my area of refuge is within a sudoku app on my phone. There are different levels of difficulty. I choose the easiest level, and get to work. Working on the puzzle forces my brain to focus on nothing else, which helps me calm down and de-stress. And since the puzzle isn’t too difficult, it does not add to my stress 😉 Within just a few minutes, I feel like I’ve accomplished something, my body has had a chance to relax a bit, and I’m ready to get back into the world again. I’m able to escape for a bit, but it is a finite task, so I won’t linger longer than I expected to!

    • gretchenrubin

      Great idea.

  • Liz

    Gretchen – Just want to say thank you for a lovely model of a conversation with a teenager. I really liked how, in the birthday conversation, you didn’t say to Eliza, “Why do you care what other people think? Why do you let that bother you?” You asked great non-judgmental questions of your daughter. This is something I am focusing on when I talk to my 11 year old daughter – I have to really struggle not to “solve” the problem, but just to listen.

    Eliza – love your podcast, as does my daughter. Thanks for talking about Physics AND makeup. Love the whole-life perspective.

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks for the kind words – about BOTH podcasts!