Don't worry, I'm still here!
I have been excruciatingly negligent in posting anything, anywhere on this blog!!!
Truth is, life has been stressful lately, and I haven't had the time, or the ambition to write much of anything!
The musical I was working on had it's opening night last week, so that was very exciting...but leading up to it was becoming more and more stressful. I'm used to the "regular" stress of getting close to a show opening, but there was a lot of tension and conflict between members of the crew, and it was starting to wear on me.
I also have a good friend who has been really struggling with a lot, and, after many scary episodes, she has checked into rehab in Toronto for 6 weeks, leaving behind her husband and kids.
My life has also been interrupted by a new person who has boundary issues, and who doesn't understand that I prefer solitude and order in my day. I can (and do, a lot!) have my days interrupted, I can adjust to changes, I can adapt when I need to - but when the intrusions are everyday - I am just overwhelmed and exhausted.
And early in the new year we (my husband and I) were asked if we would want to cook at a summer camp. The decision was not a simple one at all, and caused me a lot of stress. There are so many parts of our lives that do not lend themselves to just picking up and being gone for a whole summer. Things like our gardens, large yard that needs mowing, horses, cat, dog, son with autism - and my aforementioned need for sameness and solitude!! We kept going back and forth about this decision, but finally (after sorting out some of the obstacles in the way), we said that we would be available to cook for camp. And by "we", I mean "me" because my husband still has a job he has to go to!
Speaking of jobs, money has been stressing us out lately as the money we have seems to be getting dumped into a sieve and pouring out and down the drain! For years we've been pretty good with money, but a few years ago (when we bought our house, really) we suddenly had a lot of things that needed being paid! I feel more stressed and pressured now about money than I did our first year of marriage when our gross income was around $13,000! Yes, I said gross income! And our rent then cost us $750, so didn't leave too much for anything else, but we figured it out, and I don't remember thinking "oh crap...how are we going to buy groceries?".
And in the last few months we have gone to a lot of funerals. And that just wears you down......
Anyway........I'm ranting and venting......and getting to the point......about stress!
I felt like I was getting sucked into the undercurrent of all the things life was hurling at us. Generally I can deal with stress because there will only be one or two things at once, and I can still find a way to cope. But this time? I was drowning.
So, I needed to really dig deep and figure out how I could let off some steam before I blew a gasket (or, blew more gaskets....I had already blown a few)! Here are some things I started doing to keep me going.
Tips for Dealing With Stress
It'll come as no surprise that this is my first tip.
If all you do is get out for a 10 minute walk, that will help! When you're stressed out, your body is reacting with chemicals that signal "fight or flight"! So, using up these hormones by way of physical activity can do a world of good for your stressed out mind and body!
And basically, when your stressed, there isn't (really) such a thing as "too much exercise". Just get moving, and get feeling better!
For me, I exercise everyday, but I tried adding more yoga, and when the weather was nice, taking a walk., and both helped. I also moved my workouts outside. Normally I would wait to start working out outside until it's really sunny and warm, but I decided that getting outside for the extra fresh air (even if it meant working out with a sweatshirt on) would be great. And it was.
This one was a zinger....but I realized the more stressed I felt, the more coffee I was downing in the morning, and the wine I was drinking in the evening. Whomp whomp.
Caffeine is stimulant, which when taken in excess causes a heightened level of stress. And alcohol, when consumed in larger quantities, is a depressant, which is obviously not helpful. Extra stressed all day, super depressed all night. That's a loose/loose!
So, for me, I cut out wine and tried drinking teas at night. It sounds like such a "bleh" switch, but there really are some great teas out there, and they can be delicious and soothing. I also cut my 3-4 cups of coffee (and the cup I use is really about 1 1/2 "normal" cups of coffee) to 1, and sometimes 2 cups. Once I cut back, I actually found that I often didn't even want more than the 1 cup.
Stress causes sleep to be interrupted, and lack of sleep causes stress....so you can see that this is a vicious cycle!
If you aren't getting sufficient sleep, your stress will persist. So, find a method to help you get the sleep you need. For me, it was melatonin.
Melatonin is "a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. It helps regulate other hormones and maintains the body's circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is an internal 24-hour "clock" that plays a critical role in when we fall asleep and when we wake up. When it is dark, your body produces more melatonin. When it is light, the production of melatonin drops. Being exposed to bright lights in the evening, or too little light during the day, can disrupt the body's normal melatonin cycles. For example, jet lag, shift work, and poor vision can disrupt melatonin cycles" (Source).
I find melatonin fascinating, and first started using it for my kids when I needed them to get to sleep, and have a good solid sleep. Then I recently asked myself, "why the heck aren't I taking it too?!?!"
So, when I realized that my stress was becoming worse because of my severely interrupted sleep, I decided to take some melatonin (I buy mine from Vitacost - see the link in the side bar!). Man, waking up after having a good nights sleep made me feel like a million bucks! All my stressful situations were still present, but I didn't wake up exhausted and dreading the day!
If you're not into melatonin, try drinking a "sleepy time" tea. Chamomile tea works wonderfully for sleeplessness. As does giving yourself some time before bed without any very bright lights on (remember your natural melatonin increases when it gets darker). Whether this means just turning off the computer, t.v. or cell phone half an hour before you plan to go to bed, or try taking a warm bath or reading a (non exciting!) book for a few minutes to relax your body, tire your eyes and help you forget about the things that worry you. Something else I found helpful was trying to aim to go to bed at roughly the same time each day. This helped my mind and body get used to a predictable bedtime routine, and made me feel like I had some control over something (which can feel empowering when life seems out of control!)
Get It Out
Whether by talking to someone, or writing it down in a journal, a great way to help beat some stress is to share it.
If you talk to someone about it, be sure it's someone who you can trust to not devalue what you're going through, Most times when we're stressed we just need someone to say, "that sucks! not, "Well, that's not so bad!". Am I right?
You also want to know that if you're stressed about someone, that the person you're talking to can be trusted to not gossip about it because that can make the stress even worse!
If you'd rather write it all down in a journal this can be therapeutic too. Writing it down can also help you pin-point some of the stressors (if they aren't obvious). Maybe write down the date, time and place of each stressful episode, and note what you were doing, who you were with, and how you felt both physically and emotionally. Give each stressful episode a stress rating (on, say, a 1-10 scale) and use the diary to understand what triggers your stress and how effective you are in stressful situations. This will enable you to avoid stressful situations and develop better coping mechanism.
Lay Down & Be Quiet
This one can be hard, but try to find a few minutes a day to just be quiet. I honestly really enjoy the hill right outside of our barn. I walk there, and lay down and look up into the sky. It makes my worries feel small when I can be quiet.
Laying down really seems to make the quiet even better, so try to find a spot you can do that. Maybe you can go into a room and turn off all the lights and lay down. Or sit in your car and put the seat back and close your eyes. Don't let going to bed be the only time you've let your body lay down and be quiet. It feels really (surprisingly) calming to lay down for a few minutes when it's NOT bed time. Try it sometime!
Well, this last one is a little whacky, but just smile! I'm not even talking about when you're thinking of something pleasant, or when reading or watching someone wonderful - I'm talking about smiling RIGHT NOW! Seriously, if you're reading these words, just start smiling.
I've known for a long time that smiling can actually change the way we perceive a situation, and honestly never cared whether it was scientifically true or not because I knew that smiling helped me feel better! This article goes into detail and talks about how there is actual scientific proof that smiling can help us feel better!!!
I mean, it's free, you can do it anywhere, anytime, and it helps! Hello?!? This is a winner!
Truthfully, sometimes I'm grumpy or stressed, so I'll fake smile, and then I'll suddenly start laughing because I realize how crazy I must look! Hahaha, so, in those cases I'm clearly feeling better because now I'm laughing (at myself, but still, it's laughter!) : )
So, these are the methods I use to help me not feel like I'm all tangled up in mangled up knots (The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, anyone???)
I hope that, if you're feeling stressed today, these tips I've shared helped you feel even a little bit better. Pick one or two you can do and see how you feel!
It's Me, Amy-Lyn!
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