A few nights ago I was sitting in my partner’s room, just unwinding after a horrendously long day full of class, events (I had to help with TWO events within two hours of each other), protest planning (more on that in a week or so, when all is said and done), and an unexpected two hours at work. I had been out of my room from 9:30 that morning until 11:30 that night. So I was just laying back on his bed and all of a sudden I could not catch my breath. My chest had felt funny all day, a little bit tight like something was pressing on it, but all of a sudden it was hurting and I felt like I had just run a marathon because I couldn’t catch my breath, my lungs would not let me get enough air.
Sudden shortness of breath & chest pains are the symptoms for a heart attack. Also, for a free-floating blood clot (thank you Human Biology) so, as calmly as I could, I analyzed the situation and decided the hospital would be the best idea. This is how I ended up in the ER at 1:30am on a Thursday night when T had a paper due and my mother should have been in bed. After hooking me up to a EKG and determining my heart was fine I was left in a room to wait. Eventually the doctor came in and told me that my chest wall was most likely inflamed, due to stress, which meant my lungs did not have the room that they usually had to expand.
Stress. For months now I have been more stressed than I could have even imagined before. The problem is that this stress exists because I am doing things I love. I was stressed about the play I put on, stressed about blogging, stressed about my awesome writing and psychology classes, about work, about being on call for the Rape Crisis Center, about making time to go to the awesome events my co-workers and friends plan, about prepping for Feminists United meetings each week… you get the point. I was stressed, yes, but also loving every minute of it so I had decided to simply stick it out and keep telling myself that one day, things would ease up.
Ironically enough I am due to give a presentation about Women and Stress in a week or so I have been doing a lot of research about stress and its effects on people in order to prepare; it’s astounding how much havoc stress can wreak on one’s body and mind. This website is a great resource if you want to learn more.
I also had an exchange this weekend with Miriam and Jos of feministing at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) conference at Hampshire College. I raised my hand during their Blogging workshop on Saturday and asked how they prevent burnout (specifically in blogging but I was hoping they’d give me an answer I could expand to life in general.) They were really helpful, telling me to get involved with a group blog (which isn’t as possible at the moment, but I am planning to ask for guest post submissions more!) and also to let myself take a vacation.
That last bit has been what I’ve really needed to tell myself, and I am now planning for two blogging and school and work free weeks once this semester’s push is over!
In light of all of this I have developed a few-part stress reduction plan that I want to share because activism can be tiring and this is something we can all navigate better together.
My Stress-Reduction Plan:
- I can’t cut things out of my life, because I love everything I do so much. What I can do is scale back my involvement with everything by taking fewer classes, taking on fewer huge projects at work, getting other people more involved with my big projects (delegating and making committees), and so on. I made a list of all of my commitments & how I can scale back that has been REALLY helpful.
- Planning little breaks (like a day or even a few hours) that are devoted to doing NOTHING has been really helpful to my mental health as well.
- Getting eight hours of sleep a night, at the least, no matter what makes a world of difference.
- Learning to say NO to new activities is vital; I need to recognize my limits.
- Using Google calendar to schedule my life has helped me to stop double-scheduling myself, allows me to remember things far into the future, and provides a fabulous visual representation of where my time is going.
- Choosing my attitude also helps. If I can choose to be calm in the face of stressful situations I can handle them better and won’t tax my body as much. It just takes some mental discipline (and doesn’t always work.)
That’s me; now it’s your turn. How do you deal with stress and prevent burnout/ late night ER trips? Comment away or make your own post & I will link it!