Combating Stress in 2015

New Year Begins with Plenty to Do and Here's How to Do It (Or Not)

Yesterday's Cardio = Shoveling

Our guests left weeks ago, yet 2015 has hit me hard. My workday and the pressure of "women can (read: should) have it all" continues to challenge me.

More than my 9 hours at the office, plus 3+ hour commute and coming home to a messy kitchen needing to be used to make dinner (you know the drill: gotta get the clean dishes out of the dishwasher, before you can put the dirty dishes in, wipe down the space to prep dinner only to make more mess cooking, rinse and repeat), it's the outside world permeating in my thin skin: world news of hostility in so many places I've lost count, domestic politics (don't get me started), unfinished business of 2014 that everyone seems to have forgotten (e.g: where the hell are those Nigerian girls???) and stressful undertones in the home I share with my husband and two sometimes-moody teenagers. January is the most stressful time at T's job, N&C both have midterms and the fear of C driving on slick roads makes my hair gray and my heart palpitate and, um... who left the milk out? Who left the back door open (and what if the dog gets out)? Where are my shoes, where's my wallet, my keys, my sanity... the voicemail that was left sometime in December, the Christmas cards that didn't get sent (um, I don't even remember who I didn't send to...).

One day last week I actually left my wallet in my car and I didn't figure it out until I was half way to work. My commute is something like this:

  1. House to train station 10 min
  2. Somerville train to Newark Penn Station, via NJ Transit - 47 minutes = express or 60 min = local
  3. Newark Penn to World Trade Center, via PATH train - 20 minutes
  4. Walk from WTC Path to office 5-10 min (then "where's my ID card" - can't get into the building without it)

The first part of my trip I have an app as my ticket so I didn't realize I was missing my wallet until 47 minutes into the commute. My PATH pass resides in my wallet. A stranger paid my way ($2.70) into the city and kind colleagues made sure I could get home (and eat lunch), but I couldn't confirm my wallet's safety after work. Thankfully it was "right where it should (not) be." On the floor of the car. Waiting shotgun.

And I think I Have a Stressful Job?
Work has been stressful too. In the beginning I felt guilty pangs because I wasn't doing enough. Everyone around me swarmed about, overwhelmed with projects while I bopped around like a little girl, did my daily tasks and went home. Not anymore. I love that I have more interesting challenges, but that means more deadlines and higher expectations with just as many hours in my day. I usually work on the train, which used to be my break - time to knit, listen to music or NPR or read - and watch the world pass by. Now I edit, catch up on email and tweak the website, removing the downtime that was the perfect overpass between work and home. Now I often recheck my email after dinner, completely removing the home/work separation.

But don't misunderstand me. It's not all gloom and doom here at Casa Poppet. (And I'm very cognizant that many people have much bigger challenges). But I have found that I need to step up what I'm doing in the 'just for me' category to make things manageable.

These seem to be working:
  • Friday night "sushi with the ladies"... Once a week - usually Fridays - I've met up with a friend or friends for dinner. No expectations. And no dishes...
  • "Me time" is a must. Lately I've tried these mini miracles: 
    • A trip to Dr. Chris at Functional Health in Somerville to fix my rock-solid shoulders plus this time I had a 20 minute massage - instant heaven
    • A manicure or pedicure at the every-wonderful Paradise Nails
    • A hot bath 
    • A "Saturday Matinee Nap" (yesterday I slept from 1:30 pm -3:30 pm)
    • Turn off the news, turn off Facebook. They'll still be there...
  • "Meditation" - I don't actually know what I mean by this. So we'll just say that every few days I've lit a candle, blocked out the world and just listened to my breathing for about 5 minutes. As I've read a little, I'm hoping I won't losing my wallet anymore.  
  • Eating better - Earlier this week I started to use a health app to keep a food log. I'm eating much better because of it - of course, I'm still me, so my log includes traditionally "no no" things like "raspberry pudding cake," "molasses cookies" and "fried plantains."  But it is a good reminder that you are what you eat.
  • Haydn, Debussy, Bach or other classic faves with no lyrics. Anytime for instant brain rest.
Here are a few more I need to try:
  • Stay in the city if I need to. For under $100 I can get a hotel room 5 minutes walk from the office. Cutting out the commute once it a while helps. 
  • Ask to work from home when I need to. I already do this when I absolutely have to, but sometimes when I need it for my mental health I should ask.
  • Journal
  • Use the weekends to recoup. Today - despite the would-be-perfect day for it - I said no to go skiing with a friend. Let's start the week with my batteries at 100%
  • Limit travel on weekends. Appreciate being at home. 
Recently my wonderful boss let me change my hours to an earlier schedule. I now am home by 6:30 pm. (That means, of course, that I have a very early start, catching a 6:23 am train). But the morning bird wants more time with her chicks and this gives 5 additional evening hours per week with the kids

You have your own pluses and minuses, stress-inducers and methods for decompression. Do what's right for you... and feel free to share them. I'm always excited to learn. 

My Work in Progress. Just Like Me!
One piece of advice: pack away the issues you can't face. Like the news, it's not going anywhere, but I can't handle everything at once (so why can you?). You'll note that unlike many years I am staying away from school politics - pushing PARCC testing outside my attention span - and I'm doing my very best to find forgiveness for (or at a minimum, forget as much as possible) someone who broke my heart with her batsh*t-crazy antics this fall. It's hard to fight a mental war when you have limited energy - so I just keep putting that pain on the back burner until it eventually resurfaces or dissipates - and it will - sometime between now and May.   

But for today, Sunday, I'm "being Sunday". Doing what I can around the house. Hoping to see a friend or two. Cooking good food. Maybe baking something yummy (kneading bread is therapeutic) and mixing work and with rest. It's a beautiful day - I will definitely get a run in.

Just remember to be grateful for your small things: for me: the sun is shining. The house isn't too messy. And I'm drinking coffee from my favorite mug in my new pink flannel PJs. 

And treat yourself to yummy PJs. It's the little things in life that make me most happy. Find your simple comforts, too. 

And maybe knit.... it's therapy with a final product. 

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