Taking the Distress out of Stress
At the moment I am dealing with an excessively large workload and so it seemed like a good time to write about stress!
When life has a good rhythm of work, time for family and friends, and time for oneself, then it is easy to write safe platitudes about how stressed people should go about de-stressing themselves. As a reminder of how easy it is to make up advice, I made these up:
1. Keep a good balance between time for work and time for your own life, and do not let these times spill over into each other.
2. Make time for yourself, even if it means blocking off time in your diary, and make sure you spend the time wisely doing things that will bring you back into your best self, emotionally and physically.
Great advice, but have I been taking it in the last few weeks? No!
My current project is the publication of my raw food recipe book, the final part bringing text, photos and drawings together, to-ing and fro-ing with edits and doing all manner of last minute detail tasks in conjunction with different people to different fixed deadlines in a short space of time. It can get like that with any multi-faceted project.
I have spent far too many hours in front of the computer and have neglected my immediate needs in various significant ways, all the while busy with a house move!
Yesterday I cracked and burst into tears because it was all getting too much and I realized how woefully inadequate I was feeling. I took myself off to my favourite café, where I slumped in the background having a good think while supping a large bowl of soup. This was good because I re-jigged how I would spend the next few days and I planned in some proper time out for myself.
I made a very individual choice of how to spend my time off. If you are reading this for tips, I suggest you come up with something just as idiosyncratic.
I had things to buy further afield than my small town so I took the train. I did that in order to relax completely and just let life carry me along. To give my over-activated brain time to slow down, I did not take anything to read. Instead I took a small curtain to hem by hand in order to change my focus from head to hands. By the way, two-handed activities like sewing and knitting not only help integrate the head with the hands, but assist the left and right halves of the brain to work together. The connection between these halves is encouraged and developed that way. That feeds back into being able to think logically and imaginatively about the same things, ‘joined up thinking’. How helpful might that be when back in the office?
Then, I walked all around town getting things done. I wore very comfortable shoes so that this was good exercise for bringing my body into balance.
I managed to tick a few things off a long list so that I had some sense of achievement.
Lastly, I sat down in this café to wait for my train home and gave myself the thinking, planning and writing time I had planned for. I quietly wrote the first draft of this article without rushing.
In all it was a successful day. Of course, I could say, “I went shopping in Cheltenham”! But that would not tell you the whole story.
How do I feel as a result?
• More relaxed
• More together
• Much more adequate to the tasks I have to do
• Not stressed
From my experience today, here is my one Winning Tip for you for de-stressing, for taking the distress out of stress when you have to work exceptionally hard.
Interrupt the Pattern
Trust yourself to know exactly what you need and give yourself at least half a day to meet your needs in whatever ways work for you.
A walk in the country? Re-reading a favourite novel? Ironing to good music? Sitting in the cinema on your own watching a tear-jerker? Swimming? Eating really healthy food? Rearranging the living room? Rowing a boat? Spa day? Aloneness or easy company? Going on strike from domestic activities for the day? Art Gallery? Paint a picture? Dance? Sleep?
These need to be conscious choices that will have positive effects on your physical and emotional wellbeing. It is the upside of escapism, with nothing that will give you hangovers or exhaust you further.
Plan your time and then interrupt your current stuck, stressed, treadmill pattern. Let the world wait for a few hours while you catch up with yourself and re-inhabit every part of your best self.
Having interrupted your recent pattern, then you can get back to working hard in a much better way.
Looking back at my two pieces of advice at the start of the article, here are my comments:
1. Bringing everything back into balance is not always instantly possible. Do not hassle yourself about it.
2. Making ‘time for you’ turned out to be wise advice.
I’ll go with my Winning Tip:
Take the distress out of stress this way: INTERRUPT THE PATTERN, in ways that are right for you.