How (not) to handle stress

 

I was going to write about healthy ways to handle stress until I realized that I covered this topic a few months ago (it’s obviously on my mind), so I decided this time I’ll write what NOT to do because I’m an expert on that!

  1. Spending too much money. One of my biggest stress triggers is loneliness. I know there will be days I will be spending the whole. day. alone. It is healthy to head out and about to be among people in a public place, but it’s not a good idea to go on a shopping spree for cleaning products or office supplies (my two favorite binges besides food – see below). Coming home with stuff I don’t need only triggers financial stress and clutter stress. It would be a much better use of my time to grab my laptop and get some writing done at a café, filling my need for both creativity and human interaction. Fortunately, over-shopping is a rare problem because after all the grocery shopping I need to do, there’s hardly ever time or money left to buy more whiteout and Post-it notes. Sometimes, it feels therapeutic to seek out the very corners of a big store just to see what’s there instead of buying anything. I think of it more like a museum than a store. Hongo Killer, anyone?
  2. Eating too much of the wrong foods. Something about stress makes me reach for crackers. And then chocolate. I want them both, and in that order. The Pepperidge Farm Milano cookie bag says I deserve a cookie. But I think I deserve them all after a bad day. While being lonely makes me go shopping, being angry makes me eat like the Cookie Monster. They’re gone so fast I don’t savor or enjoy them, and I’m left with a stomachache. This is the worst kind of stress for me, because instead of dealing with my emotions productively, I end up stuffing them down with food. I feel much better on the days I sit down and write in my notebook to process those unpleasant feelings.
  3. Yelling at people. Being late is the trigger for this. Usually one of the first things people would say about me (and probably assume, since I’m both a mom and a teacher) is that I’m very patient. Easygoing. Mild-mannered. My kids would tell you otherwise on the days we are running late for anything. I am half-German and I swear there is a clock built into me. The trains must run on time. But when I yell, I end up with a headache and a guilty conscience. And surprisingly, it doesn’t help anyone to be more on time when I lose it. The cure for this is getting more prepared the night before. One of my resolutions for 2016 is to put my clothes out the night before for work instead of staring at the closet in the morning, or worse yet, trying on four things before anything feels right.
  4. Excessive Netflix. Having too much to do usually sets off this very counterproductive reaction to stress. Instead of starting the task, I shut down, crawl into bed, and watch mindless entertainment until I fall asleep. It would be much better to get at least the essential tasks done and then reward myself with some time to relax when I could enjoy it.

Well, that’s it for my true confessions this week. How many vices do you think one person can have? How about making me feel better and letting me know I’m not alone on unproductive reactions to stress?

Take care and enjoy the many blessings left in 2015!

Grete

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

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Healthy things to do when you’re stressed

walking-349991_1280I spend a lot of time berating myself for not doing things better: not being more patient, efficient, and especially for how I tend to fall apart when I get stressed. Too much stress makes me feel like I am stuck in mud – all of a sudden, I’m tired all day, I can’t make decisions, and I start procrastinating big time. Not to mention the days I lie around and eat too much, which only increases my feelings of being bogged down.

It’s easy when I’m feeling good to think of all the ways I should handle stress; not so easy when I’m in the midst of it. So I decided I’d make a little list of positive (healthy – not drowning my troubles in margaritas) ways I can start to feel better right away. Instead of making decisions about how to handle things, I just take a quick inventory of whether I’m more mentally or physically tired and pick one from the list below. What’s on your stress relief list?

  1. Go out for a walk. This is the one that feels hardest to do sometimes, yet it has the most instantaneous effect because I’m getting away from what’s bothering me and getting my endorphins flowing. Sometimes I have to force myself to look around me rather than continue to stew over whatever’s on my mind while I walk, but walking makes everything better.
  1. Clean up the house. If I can’t go for a walk, the next best help is cleaning, which is usually the last thing I feel like doing when I’m stressed out, but again, it burns off some tension and the end result makes me feel better too.
  1. Take a nap. When I’m not productive, I layer the guilt trips onto myself like blankets on a cold winter night. But there are days I am really, really tired and truly can’t make good decisions or get anything done, and then I know it’s time for a break. Paying more attention to my body’s needs has headed off many a meltdown.
  1. Read a good book/do needlepoint/solve a puzzle. Sometimes I’m physically tired but mentally running a hundred miles an hour. These activities take my mind off things. Notice I didn’t add watching TV or movies. I’ve noticed that I tend to feel worse when I lie around watching Netflix or cruising Facebook when I’m down. Something about screen time pulls me deeper into the abyss.
  1. Consult with my higher power. To borrow from Alcoholics Anonymous, it helps to “let go and let God.” The times I feel most stressed are when I think I have to do it all myself, know it all myself, take care of it all myself. Sometimes huge stress is the reset button I need to remind me that I can’t handle everything on my own.

[Image courtesy of public domain images on http://www.pixabay.com]

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

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