dealing with stress

This post has been a long time coming, but it’s not what I thought it would be. There have been plenty of mounting motivations to write it, but it just takes one, terrible, unexpected, frightening thing to make you realize it’s time. It’s that point when life is just out of your control and you’re left to completely reevaluate who you are as a person, what you’re doing, and where you’re going. If it’s all worth it, if you’re doing it for the right reasons, what’s most important to you. When you’re questioning your values at their core. Are you a good person? What mark will you leave on the world? The things you want, will they truly make you happy? Are you scared? Good. Can you get past it? Possibly.

And just when you think you’re drowning in unanswerable questions, when you’ve resigned yourself to a miserable fate, life has a habit of sending a lifeboat. A lifeboat you didn’t ask for, but you can choose to take with the tide, hang onto for a bit, or sail to a different destination entirely. I suggest you take the boat.

Stress is a part of life. Like anything in moderation, stress can be a good thing. As long as there is a release, channeling stress can help you get things done. Left unchecked, however, it can build on itself until you’re suffocating under a physical manifestation of internal and external unmet obligations. A constant sinking feeling in your stomach from a slow seep of adrenaline.

Until lately, I’ve never not been able to deal with stress. Until I found myself hunched over a bench with a piercing headache, about to throw up, and no communal bug to blame it on, I fully believed in young-twenties-invincibility-syndrome-itis. So here’s to practicing what we preach (or trying to anyway) and making it through the week.

wake up early

Of course, this one also implies going to bed early. Studies are a little conflicted on exactly how much sleep is healthy for you, but it’s pretty safe to say you should at least get 7 hours a night. Some people are morning people, and some people are night people. And some people are crazy all over the place people. I seem to be a morning person. I find I have more luck when, instead of staying up all night to do whatever it is that needs to be done, I go to bed at a reasonable time and start my day (sometimes much) earlier. To each their own, but I find the morning a peaceful time with little other obligations, an increasingly rare moment.

make lists

This one I discovered in the middle of the night, when I was struggling to solve a problem. Only, in my semi-sleepy daze, I couldn’t figure out what problem I was trying to solve was. In my frustration, I wrote down all the things that were causing me stress, and then I easily fell asleep. In the morning, when the sinking feeling started to return, I put the list in my wallet. Whenever it all felt too overwhelming, I’d just look at my list. Fitting on such a small piece of paper, suddenly my “problems” didn’t seem so bit. Just being able to name them all is one element of stress eliminated. In this vein, I’ve started making lists for pretty much everything. Sometimes I lose them, sometimes they don’t make sense, sometimes I purposely throw them away. Regardless, I’ve found lists to be a comforting, productive way to work through a problem.

make time to read

Definitely a preach more than practice one for me, but something I’d like to work on. While lists help you organize your thoughts, reading, preferably fiction, helps you escape them. For a few pages, a chapter, a short story, your problems aren’t your problems anymore. I find myself reading the news most often. Partly because I want to stay informed, mostly because it’s easy and relatively commitment free. But given current events, it’s rarely a stress relief.

exercise

Preferably outdoors. This one’s easy to let go of, to think that it’s not time spent being productive. But similarly to reading, it is an activity that occupies and relieves brain space from whatever is causing stress. It will leave you more motivated to accomplish your tasks and will help combat that sinking feeling in your stomach by moving your blood through your body. If you neglect your health, it will eventually become a cause of stress in itself compounding the effects. Make the time. Nike had it right this time: just do it.

avoid alcohol

Some people reach for a hamburger when they’re stressed. Some people reach for a beer. Neither actually reduce any stress levels. When grappling with crippling stress it can be tempting to search for prescription-free anxiety relief in alcohol, but it only temporarily relieves stress and develops unhealthy habits. Twisted logic might even make you think it can help you get the job done. It might have helped you get one creative job done in the past, but when it comes to managing regular stress, alcohol is not medicine.

change something

Otherwise called productive procrastination. Things that fall into this category: rearranging furniture, getting a haircut, clearing your desktop, write an email you’ve been meaning to send to an old friend. If you’ve got a long list of seemingly undoable tasks, start with one thing you know how to do. Clean something small. Do a load of laundry. Though it might not be one of your main stress points, accomplishing a small task will help chip away at whatever stress is on your shoulders as well as start the ball rolling to accomplish bigger tasks.

 

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