So Long Summer, Hello Stress

Its that time of year again: summer is ending and (for many of us) that means school is about to begin and life is about to resume a more hurried and busy pace… or maybe that’s just me. Regardless, I’d like to devote a post on this blog to starting a conversation about stress and stress relieving techniques, because I have a feeling this is something many of us deal with.

I’m not shy about the fact that I have a lower anxiety threshold than many people. I am a worrier by nature, a worrier who regularly piles her proverbial plate so high with commitments that it is almost but not quite ready to topple over. If I’m not careful I tend to fall to pieces fairly quickly but, in general I like the business of my life and choosing between my commitments is impossible… I love them all, so taking on less isn’t really an option here. Thus, I’ve had to develop some tricks over the years to maintain a level of sanity even during the craziest times. Here’s what I’ve learned…

Take mini-vacations. During finals week we decorate the Women’s Center where I work with a festive theme, turn down the lights, put out snacks, and provide fun little distractions like bubbles. This quick makeover provides a quick change-of-pace for all of us, patrons and employees alike, that gives us a chance to get away from the stress of finals.

To apply this principle to my day-to-day life I like to take fairly frequent breaks from working, studying, etc.  to recharge. A five minute walk, or a cup of tea consumed alongside a chapter of a good book, a twenty minute nap, a quick dance break… you get the point. These things help me to feel much less over-extended when things get rough, plus they tend to make me more productive as I am more energized when I have something to look forward to.

In the same vein, scheduling a whole day of NOTHING every so often (usually after finishing a HUGE project) also really helps me. I make sure I have enough food and entertainment the day before and then just spend a day in my pyjamas. This only happens once or twice a year, but it’s just enough that I go back to work genuinely excited about everything ahead.

Have  something handy at all times to jot down reminders. When you have one central place for all of your appointments, deadlines, random ideas, etc. to go then you are never scrounging around to figure out just where you wrote that reminder, and you never have to worry about forgetting the brilliant idea that just jumped into your head! As someone with an awful memory, my cute little planners are a godsend because I never have to worry about what I am forgetting.

Develop a routine. I lay my outfit out the night before. When I leave the house each day I check to make sure my straightener is unplugged, lights are off, air is off, door is closed, etc. When I come home each day my keys go in a specific place. You get the idea… even if these routines are not followed perfectly (and believe me, they rarely are) doing these things regularly makes them easier to remember and gives you less to worry about.

Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, figure out what type of diet makes you feel best, find and use an emotional support system, amd get up and move every so often (I keep a hula-hoop right next to my desk for quick breaks!) Taking care of your body helps you to feel healthier and, in turn, reduces stress because you feel physically up to everything that lies ahead!

Break overwhelming tasks down into smaller, less intimidating chunks. Say you have a twenty page paper due three weeks from now… that’s less than a page a day if you do a little work every day! Anyone can write a page a day, but twenty pages the weekend (or night) before it’s due? Now that’s intimidating. I fall prey to this with cleaning especially, I tend to let messes grow and grow until I feel as if my room is going to swallow me whole… if I just picked up a little each day it would never get scary, and never take more than a small chunk of my time. One day I’ll manage to stop failing and take this advice… and then my mother and my grandmother will get to say “I told you so!” Speaking of failure…

Don’t beat yourself up for your failures. This blog post is a day late, mostly because I didn’t follow my own advice. When I realized late last night that I hadn’t posted anything yet today, I quickly found myself paralyzed and unable to write. I felt so guilty for not sticking to the posting schedule I set for myself that I couldn’t even tack down a topic, let alone write a whole post… it sucked and that negative feeling stayed with me today until I sat down and told myself it didn’t matter, so what if it’s a day late? Better I choose something and start writing now.

I’ve seen friends so paralyzed with the guilt of requesting a paper extension, that they can’t seem to write the paper even after getting more time. I get that mentality… but I don’t want to let it get me. Whatever has already happened is in the past now, it can’t be changed (unless I wanted to be sneaky and backdate this post on wordpress to make it look like it went up yesterday!) so it does you no good to focus on it; instead, think about what you can do to achieve the best possible outcome from the situation at hand and then let that be good enough.

With that, I’d really like to open this up to the comments: How do you relieve stress in your life?

One thought on “So Long Summer, Hello Stress

  1. This is a brilliant list for pedantic workaholics like me, but I have one more thing to add: keep in touch with your friends. It’s easy to think “But they’re busy too and I have nothing to say and I don’t want to bother them”, but isolating yourself, although sometimes tempting, doesn’t make you more productive. Social capital is good for mental health, and other people can bring perspective or common experience to a big stressful project.

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