Thursday, October 10, 2013

Stress Reduction

FACT: Stress is one of those things we all deal with.  (Yes, I ended the sentence with a preposition.)

The past two weeks have proven to be one of the more stressful times of this year for me.  And there's another one to follow next week.  Not only am I starting a new book with a deadline for the proposal (first 3 chapters and full synopsis) next month, but one of my daughters is getting married a week from Saturday.  Any woman who has been involved with a wedding knows how that is.  Factor in the usual get-grandkids-to-school and back (3 schools, 5 kids ranging from Pre-K to middle school), which normally is handled with a minimum of teeth gnashing.  Not so, over the past two weeks.  It gets worse.  Thanks to three half-days for the three grade-schoolers and three days off for the pre-k'er, last week, my normal schedule (and body/brain rhythm) has taken a beating.  This week is was the middle-schooler with two early-outs, and all of them out for today and tomorrow.  Next week...well, there's that wedding and all the last minute details.

Yes, I want to bang my head on my desk.  Most of my writing has been done on a yellow pad, while I sit and wait for school to be out--at whatever the particular time.  I finally finished the first scene last night, after several days of writing.  It's hard to get into the heads of characters, while running here and there, jotting notes--when paper & pen are available, and finding more than fifteen minutes of uninterrupted time.

And today is my youngest daughter's birthday.

Such is life.

Or for those who are into French, c'est la vie.

Why have I not offed myself or emptied my bank account for a one-way ticket to a private island?  Well, other than not owning a private island or knowing someone who does, the offing part doesn't thrill me, and the bank account might pay for gas to the airport.

There are ways to beat stress and keep the pounding headache, suicidal thoughts, and need to escape the here-and-now at bay.  I've used several of them.


I did this last year in the morning.  Early morning, although definitely after the sun came up.  There's a small park nearby, with a walking track.  Five times around netted me two miles a day.  Two miles and over a half hour of a brain and body workout.  My Mp3 player is loaded with upbeat music, excellent for starting the day.  I could think...or not.  And even when I didn't think, things floated through my mind without bidding.  Good things.  Like the opening of the book I just finished writing that will be winging its way to my editor within the hour.


I'm not sure what I would do without music.  It's been a part of my life for as long as I remember.  Just a few notes can take me back to good times in the past.  I skip the ones that take me back to bad times.  A lively song has the power to get me on my feet, and I start moving.  A slower song can often lift my spirits.  Music also drowns out the sounds of children. ;)

Deep Breathing

It's hard to be tense when blowing out a deep breath.  Use it when those tense-filled times happen, and stress can be nipped in the bud.  Breathe in through the nose, and blow out through the mouth.  Do it slowly.  Focus on what you're doing, instead of whatever is causing  the tension.  It works great in the midst of an argument.  If that doesn't work, walk away and take a walk, while listening to your favorite music.  Don't choose something to listen to that will bring you down.


I know, I know.  Who has time?  That's exactly what I thought...until I tried it.  I may not be proficient at it, but as it is with everything, practice helps.  Carve out ten to twenty minutes a day, morning or night, and you'll find yourself thinking more clearly, sleeping more soundly, and all the big things that are driving you crazy will become smaller.  I've found that guided meditation works best for least for now.  Deepak Chopra is my favorite and often offers 21-day guided meditations online for free.  Other options are available online at no charge.  Find something you like, whether it be guided our on your own.  Because mornings can be hectic here, no matter how early I crawl out of bed, I've been doing my meditations at night.  Instead of lying awake in bed, until the wee hours of the morning, I'm falling asleep quickly and don't often deal with waking during the night.  I'm sure my blood pressure has lowered, too.


This one didn't work for me, probably because my body doesn't want to bend in the shapes needed.  Weak wrists that don't hold me up are my downfall.  And I do mean down fall.  But I know people who swear to it, and if it didn't require twisting myself into shapes, I'd try it again.  There's a plus.  Yoga and meditation can go hand in hand.


This is the most difficult.  Sometimes there aren't two or three days available to put ourselves in a new and different environment.  Sometimes all it takes is a day with friends, shopping, talking, seeing a movie, or even checking into a local hotel to read a book, catch up on sleep or maybe even take a swim.  I lucked out when a friend offered me a mini-vacation at her home.  We spent the evening watching movies, talking, and imbibing in some spirits...the drinking kind, not the ghostly ones.  After a restful night of sleep, I was grateful for the few hours of getaway.  I've spent weekends with another friend, who was one of BFFs in high school.  Sometimes just getting away from our usual environment can make a big difference.


Some people swear by a regular exercise schedule.  It's something I tell myself that I should be doing.  But, alas, it hasn't happened.  Whether done at a gym, in your bedroom, or in front of your TV, it's one of the best forms of killing stress.  Then there's that added benefit of losing weight or toning your body, in addiction to stress reduction.  A win-win situation.


This is one thing I wish I had more time to do, but when I start reading, I can't stop.  And reading until 3 a.m. causes drowsiness and fatigue when I have to get up at 7 a.m., quickly leading to more stress.  But it is something I try to do when I'm not working on a writing or web designing deadline.  I've filled my Kindle with books to read, but the chance to read doesn't come often.  Still, I'll grab it in a nano-second when the opportunity presents itself.  Reading is an escape, and all it takes is to banish stress, at least for a while is to finish a good book.

Those are only a few suggestions.  Some people choose hobbies to take them away from "the real world."  Try different things and see what works best for you.  And if you've found something not listed above, please share!

Stress can kill, if not our bodies, our minds and our creative spirit.

Take time for yourself.  Demand it, if necessary.  Steal it, if nothing else works.
The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. ~ William James

No comments: