Six Steps I Take to Combat Stress

Tiger

Tiger, my beautiful boy

It’s the 24th day of November, which means it’s Day 24 of NaBloPoMo, and I realize that I’m kinda stressed out. I’d be lying if I said NaBloPoMo wasn’t part of that stress, because as rewarding as it is, I’m also exhausted, and I feel like it’s taken time away from some other tasks. But it’s not the only thing stressing me out. I also spent much of the morning at the vet with my dear sweet Tiger, who’s nearly 17 years old (maybe he is already, I’m not sure), and the sweetest, most loving cat you can imagine (he’s fine, more or less, but I worry about him). My father also took a spill about a month ago and injured his back, and has been laid out on his living room couch since then. It’s possible they may have to cancel their trip out here for Christmas. There’s also been not-the-most-pleasant activity in one of the online communities I’m involved with, not to mention all the wackadoo stuff that’s happening in the world at large nowadays (as we wait for the verdict in Ferguson, Missouri, for example). Add to these the general stress of work and holidays and needing to earn more money than I have (even before taking Tiger to the vet), and things can get kinda hairy.

Aw, poor me, life is rough.

But it is important to take stock of the things that are stressing you out, so you can figure out how to resolve them and make them less stressful. That’s really my intent in writing this post; not to complain about the things I’m stressing over, but to identify what I do to battle stress.

We all have different ways of dealing with stress, of course, and those techniques may vary depending on our moods. If I’m sapped or saddened by the stress, I’ll react one way, but if I’m energized by it, I may use that adrenaline to attack its source. It’s good to identify how you’re feeling so you know which approach to take.

I confess that mostly what I do, especially if I feel sapped by the stress, is run away from it. That isn’t necessarily a problem, it’s important for self care to take breaks from the things that are stressing you out—but denial isn’t always the best course of action. Ignoring a problem often makes it loom larger, which has the undesired effect of stressing you out more. The trick, perhaps, is finding that good middle balance between addressing it and ignoring it, so that you can break the issues down into more manageable pieces, but not drown yourself in the stress.

I love entertainment and the arts, so that’s where I go to escape. Sometimes I’ll watch a little television, but depending on the show it isn’t always an escape from what’s happening in the world. Plus, I could end up spending considerably more time there than I should.

So my other go-to is music. But I don’t just put it on in the background, nor do I just listen to it. I actively sing and dance along. I love music; I love to block out the rest of the world, immerse myself in that recording, and just emote, releasing energy through all my pores. Music has been a huge part of my life since I was a child, but I don’t have as much time to listen to it as I used to. So when I’m stressed, I’ll take some time to listen to some of my favorite stuff. For me, that’s often musicals, especially ones I can belt out at the top of my lungs. Wicked, Shrek the Musical, Bring It On, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Sweeney Todd . . . to name just a few. These are great for lifting my spirits, excising a few demons, and getting my mind off what’s bothering me. I do love to sing to more intense musicals, like Next to Normal, but that can sometimes make things worse before they get better. I can even do some housework or basic organizing while I’m listening, if I feel like it. Moving your body, in any way, is a great way to release tension.

Once I’ve gotten some of that out of my system, I’ll try to get back into the work that I have to do, so that it’s not all waiting for me like some tick that’s about to explode. If I can do something little to chip away at the problem, then it may not look so dire. It may be a matter of forcing myself to do that first task, because I often don’t want to, but once I start, I’m usually able to get into a groove and keep going. Then I can look back and feel like I’ve accomplished something.

So that’s essentially my plan, if you want to try it for yourself:

  1. Identify the fact that you’re stressing out, and what’s causing it
  2. Step away from the problem; close it, hide it from view
  3. Get your mind off it by watching a little TV or singing along loudly to some awesome musical theatre (or whatever music strikes your mood); moving your body simultaneously is even better
  4. Try to do a small task related to what’s stressing you out, so that it doesn’t seem as insurmountable as you thought
  5. Keep chipping away at the problem until you feel you’ve done enough, or you want to step away from it again
  6. Take stock of what you accomplished, so you know you’re a step closer to solving the problem

This may not dissolve all the stress, but perhaps it’ll help you relieve some.

Your turn, readers! What do you do to combat stress? How do you deal with it? What sort of activities make you happy when you’re feeling stressed out? Or do you use the energy stress gives you to motivate yourself?

13 thoughts on “Six Steps I Take to Combat Stress

  1. Alex

    I guess you can add me pestering you when I get home to the list!

    • Which list, the stress relieving or the stress causing? 🙂
      Love you, boo!

    • Anyone who is married has that kind of stress, my man. As long as Luis and I have been together – 25 years in March 2015 – who can drive one more crazy than the two of us? And yet, we have stood the test of time. So when I weigh my stress, he still comes in after money stress, house stress, and health stress!

      • Absolutely! All these stresses would be so much worse without Alex to help ease them.

  2. I love listening/dancing/singing to music too as a stress reliever. It helps so much. I need to remind myself to make the time to do it more often.

    • Me too! I forget how much I love it and how it helps me. Nothin’ quite like it. 🙂
      What kind of music do you listen to, Brandy?

  3. Ok, first of all – way to go on doing NaBloPoMo. I haven’t done that one, but have done Michelle Rafter’s Blogathon (more here: https://www.facebook.com/2014Blogathon) and it’s a challenge.

    As for stress, I pray a lot. And go to a yoga class once a week where we meditate for 10 minutes at the end of class (just think if I meditated every day!). I try to take a walk every day. And also be thankful for all the many blessings in my life – you included!

    • Aw, thanks Jane! That’s great. I’m not familiar with the Blogathon, but I’ll look into it. I should be thankful for things more often, I started making a daily list, but it only last a couple days… not because I ran out of things, necessarily, just time. 🙂

  4. […] done so that I can focus on getting ready for Christmas. I’m excited! Time to put on some of my favorite music, nice and loud, and go attack my […]

  5. I so understand everything you are saying and yes, I have several different things I do to combat stress – and none of them include FaceBook! My favourite things to do are so different than what you do; I love to put on music – we have – no, I have – tons of music in iTunes, and I put on whatever I want and sing, loudly and terribly, to it all. I may have the worst long-term memory on the planet, but I have a massive capacity for recollecting lyrics! Isn’t that bizarre? Too bad I’ve the worst singing voice extant. I’d have made a good one on timing and memory.

    Unfortunately, my dancing days are over.

    But I have other things as well as music. Playing with and petting my little puísin, Luiseach, is a big one. Siobhan, the pissy cat, is not into being petted very much, but she is always in the same room as me. So fur helps enormously in reducing stress and always has been.

    And then there are books, real or e-books, I’m not fussy. For going out, e-books are the best. For being home, either one is good. I have not parted with any of my printed books and never will – I love to still read them, too. I love the smell of printed pages, the wonderful fragrance of a lifetime of reading. I want to scoff at anyone who tells me that they haven’t any time to read; if you love it, you’ll find/make the time to do it. Luis and I always make that kind of time. Another way we are in sync.

    I enjoy working on huge jigsaw puzzles, as you know. Usually 3,000 pieces, although I still have the 9,000 piece one I got when I visited you. I want very much to work on it, but it is too big. If we still live here when Luis’ father, uh, departs (in whatever manner it is), then I will use the downstairs room to set up two huge tables together to work on that monstrously enormous puzzle.

    I could watch the telly, but find that usually there are so many better things to do than that. I might watch about an hour or two in a day – maybe. Some days I never put it on. Other days it provides background noise. But I don’t give it much attention.

    And of course, thanks to you, I have returned to blogging and have been quite productive. All your fault! But Im very happy to back at it. I find that this releases a lot of the stress I have, which is – or can be – considerable. I know how you feel, too. Not enough income, no work (in my case, it isn’t even possible), too much time on my hands. Christmas is hard, too. Not that gifts won’t go out or happen, but it won’t be the same this year, not without seeing you and Alex and your parents.

    • Definitely, spending some quality lovin’ time with the puttins is an absolute necessity for stress-busting! I thought about including that in my post, but didn’t, I think simply to try to focus the article.

      Sorry we won’t see you at Christmas, but I hope you do something fun. Glad you’ve been writing in your blog more. I’ll check it out.

  6. […] Paola Savoia. People brought their pets, including Josie’s cat Max, who is a larger version of my cat Tiger. We all chatted and shared good food. We had wine and cheese, hummus and veggies, chips and dip, […]

  7. […] had some very bad news that week too, on that Saturday, March 5th: my dear, sweetest boy, Tiger, passed away from cancer. He was old, 17 or 18 or so, and lived a good life, but it doesn’t make […]

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