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:
- Identify the fact that you’re stressing out, and what’s causing it
- Step away from the problem; close it, hide it from view
- 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
- Try to do a small task related to what’s stressing you out, so that it doesn’t seem as insurmountable as you thought
- Keep chipping away at the problem until you feel you’ve done enough, or you want to step away from it again
- 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?