December 9, 2011

How Do You Deal With Stress?

You know when you’re cruising along, feeling holiday, slicing through life like that proverbial knife through the butter, and then wham-o: Stress City? I knew the other shoe had to drop: the sun had been shining for days and days, I was in an unflappable mood, and the tone at home was cheerful and almost annoyingly upbeat. And then this week came along.

On Wednesday I dropped into a nearby coffee shop for fifteen minutes before work just to sit by myself. I scribbled down the things that were weighing on me––some bills that needed paying, a meeting I needed to prepare for––and then still felt that jittery cast of negativity and anxiety. I believe it goes by the common name of stress.

So then I tried to write down a few quick ideas of what would help ease that. The solutions weren’t anything new (exercise, eat healthy food, read an uplifting blog), but I felt a little better for making the list. (And nothing, by the by, seemed quite as helpful as the old-fashioned I drank in a bubble bath that night while reading Barbara Pym.)

Work accounts for some of our stress. Then there’s money, obligations, present-buying, errands, to do lists. For weeks now, Choose Two has been seeing me through. But at this busy time of year, the pressure to do more mounts fast.

Listen to me! I’ve done a complete 180 from my vision of candlelight and Scandinavian textiles earlier in the week. But looking at that collage again, I see so much what it’s really about: simplicity, quiet, nature, and light. So maybe it’s as simple as letting those things in in the smallest way possible, every day: a walk around the block at lunch, a night without television, planting the rest of the paper white bulbs that sit on the counter.

Even after writing that last sentence yesterday, and taking that walk, I still hit a wall. Emails felt impossible to keep up with, little annoyances threatened to push me over the edge. And then that night I lit a candle in the bedroom, laid out my yoga mat, and let myself be led through the sweetest restorative sequence. I resisted at first, feeling bored, wondering what we would order for dinner. But then it was like climbing into bed and hovering in that moment right before sleep; or when you finally relax in a massage long enough to be right on the edge of awareness. All your senses soften and your brain stops its chatter. Afterward, I literally felt drunk with relaxation.

And in a way I have you to thank for that. When I first started writing this post earlier in the week in quick 15-minute bursts, I looked at my list of stress dealers. I knew that if I threw the question to you, someone would say they turn to restorative yoga. And so I gave it a whirl myself, and it did just the trick. There’s something really powerful in that, when instead of more stress talk and anxious chatter, we can start to hear the kind words of our friends in our own heads.

And on that note, happy weekend. I hope you find some moments of quiet restoration, relaxation, and rejuvenation––perhaps using the comments here, which will no doubt soon be filled with brilliant ideas!

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  • Lana: Since I became a stay at home mother “Stress” has become my middle name. Grace turned 18 months old a few weeks ago and I swear her energy is endless. I wish I could say I have been doing something uber healthy to relieve stress, but lately I have been sipping whiskey sours. LOL! I also decided that this year, instead of freaking out about presents, everyone is getting a bottle of wine from our local wineries and I am donating $10 for each of them to

    On another note, have you seen this???

    I made the fried onions and apples the other night. Omitted the bacon and it was still ah-maz-ing. 🙂6 years ago

  • Bethany: This is something that I’ve needed to work on for a long time. It’s dead week, so my stress-o-meter is at the breaking point. Last night, I reconnected with an old friend and I instantly felt better. Talking to friends, not necessarily telling them about my stresses, always gets me through. That and making e-cards with my meanest and most difficult professors as dancing elves. Friendship and laughter are the best coping mechanisms.6 years ago

  • Jen: Oooooh. I’m right there with you about the 180 shift from a week ago! I was so excited that I had kept the stress at bay! Everything was great, and then last night/this morning hit me hard!

    Your description of how you felt starting yoga is exactly how I feel starting meditating after a while of not doing it. Time to get back on that train for me!

    Also, tonight is time for a bath!

    Have a great weekend!6 years ago

  • kristen: This is interesting and helpful (re: restorative yoga); I can most certainly relate–both this week and on countless occasions in the past.

    Also, not sure if you follow astrology, but this week is a noted intense/rough one:

    Especially the case for those who are sensitive to energy…6 years ago

  • Bekah: Sarah, I know just what you mean! It seems that once we have our priorities lined up and feel content with our vision, something comes along to upset us (on purpose, I think, just to see how tightly we can hang on to that vision).
    This week has indeed been crazy stressful, coming off of what seems like months of building stress.
    I tend to take an evening to myself when I feel at the breaking point and either sit and watch something girly via Netflix, take a bath, or do yoga. In fact, I just did yoga over lunch break, and everything is falling back into alignment. There is a lightness there that wasn’t there before.
    I hope you maintain your restful rituals. Thank you for sharing! I do a happy dance inside whenever my Google Reader tells me you posted again. 🙂6 years ago

  • Laureen: man am I glad you posted this today: On Monday I was feeling like a happy holiday elf and today I feel like Scrooge.

    I so agree with getting out of your head and into your body as a way to de-stress and can’t wait to check out that restorative yoga sequence.

    here are some other things I did at the beginning of the week that seemed to help (and wish I would’ve done last night when I felt myself changing into the grinch):

    – Cooked dinner while listening to NPR
    – Night without tv, listened to Winter Solstice cd collection on spotify and read Diane Keaton’s new memoir
    – Watched the new Marcel the Shell with Shoes on like 8 times
    – was in bed by 11 two nights in a row
    – sewed some star ornaments
    – played with my watercolors
    – tried to stay away from the computer/iPhone after 9pm
    – went to two pilates classes

    actually, just writing that list made me feel a little more sane — and kristen, I’m so glad I can blame some of this on the stars! I’m tempted to try to see the eclipse tomorrow morning but they say we won’t have that great a view from the east coast…6 years ago

  • Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams: I definitely need some stress-reducers this weekend. Thinking of popping by the yarn shop after work for a couple of yummy skeins. And some mulled cider is definitely in order.

    Thanks for your honesty, Sarah. Here’s hoping we all get a chance to take a deep breath – or five – this weekend.6 years ago

  • Doris: You know, Sarah, it is sooo comforting to see that I was not the only one who felt overwhelmed this week and in fact has been feeling this way for quite some time now. Thank you for your honesty and your account of how you got through it. This really helps.I was so depressed when I came home from work tonight. Then I cuddled our cat for while, and I began to feel better.

    Hope all of you have a lovely weekend, wherever you are.
    Doris6 years ago

  • wendy: Introverts feel stress so much more quickly than our extrovert friends. In order to de stress, or recharge, I always like to use the poitive form, I put on music with out words, light a candle, have a cup of something warm in my hands and just sit for a couple of minutes. Most of the time not moving gives me the energy to think in a complete sentence.
    If I don’t have time to sit at home, I sit in the car in a parking lot somewhere, and just close my eyes to the busyness around me. My thoughts actually can start flowing in a poitive way if I just give them time. Answers come, reason exists, and stress departs, knowing that I have had time to let the thoughts come out of hiding.6 years ago

  • Tina: Helpful stress relief right now would be that fat envelope for my daughter telling us that “yes, we want you next year”…this waiting is so stressful! Her early decision school will let her know within the week. Prayers, good thoughts are all welcomed right now!6 years ago

  • Tami -- Teacher Goes Back to School: i am SO HAPPY you found some peace in a restorative practice. this is why i teach it – i love seeing people melt into the floor and leave their worries at least temporarily.

    oh how i wish you were on the west coast, you could come take a yoga nap with me!

    i’ve spent all week taking care of a sick baby and then myself. little germy girl! anyway, hot baths, early bed times, lots of naps, cold medicine, slow walks outside and hot water, lemon and honey have seemed to do the trick. we’re all feeling much better.

    perhaps a 30 minute savasana over a bolster?

    big hugs to you!6 years ago

  • Lana, I love the idea of giving wine. Who would turn up their nose at that? And I haven’t seen that cookbook! How fun!

    Bethany, I am laughing so hard at your mean-professors-as-dancing-elves coping mechanism.

    jen, Hope you enjoyed that bath and am so impressed with your meditation practice!

    Kristen, I DO follow astrology (or at least Susan Miller), so it’s so helpful to know that a sense of upheaval was coming straight from the stars. PS that site looks so great!

    Bekah, Just reading our relaxing rituals made me feel more calm. Lunchtime yoga is such a great idea–maybe in this particularly busy time I should do more of that.

    Laureen, I love your tv-free night! It’s so easy to fall in front of it as an easy way to chill, but your evening domestic life sounds so crafty, quiet, and restorative. I was thinking about it last night, actually, when I climbed into bed with my cup of hot chocolate and a book. 🙂

    Katie, I hope you made it to the yarn store, and can’t wait to pop over to your blog for some inspiration!

    Doris, Hope you and your kitty have had lots of cozy, relaxing evenings together.

    Wendy, Your comment about reframing is such a good one! And I LOVE that you will take a moment to yourself in the parking lot if you have to. It’s such a good reminder that you can carve out peace anywhere.

    Tina, I’ll share with you something someone said to me recently that I found helpful: “Things always work out in the end. If they don’t, it’s not the end.”

    Tami, I was totally thinking of you! Would love to one day attend your restorative class. Hugs right back.6 years ago

  • Sara Rose: I’m sort of in the same place. I let myself get VERY behind on about, ohhhh, everything and am now wondering “Do I need to pull some all nighters to get everything done before Christmas- my goodness!” I’ve been trying to just let it go after 8 pm. So I didn’t get laundry folded and 18 other things done? Well. My kids need to go to bed and I need to take a bath, or read, or watch something silly on Netflix with Nolan, instead of giving myself an all night anxiety attack.

    I’m going to have to accept doing a bit less this holiday season, for sanity and health sake. In general, I need to stop making insane to do lists and letting life pull me and those lists all over the place until I’m near tears before collapsing in bed. Because really? Some nights, I do just need to stare and sip a scotch, or maybe read and do some quiet yoga.

    It’s all ok.6 years ago

  • Tina: She got in!!!! Just thought I should follow up:)6 years ago

  • Sara Rose, It’s all OK, and going to be OK, too. Hugs.

    Tina! That’s fantastic! What happy news!6 years ago

  • Tina: Thanks so much:)6 years ago

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