May 26, 2011

I’m a stressball

So you’ve probably noticed I haven’t been blogging much lately. My then-boyfriend used to tease me about being a “stressball” (meaning, “ball of stress,” not “stress-relieving device”) because I wear my heart on my sleeve and you can always see it very apparently when I’m stressed… and that is the case now. I’m super stressed about:

-My health. While I was legit sick last week, I still have chest congestion this week, and I can’t tell if I’m sick or if I’ve suddenly developed a horrendous case of allergies (never had allergies before). I want to try to see a doctor next week if I can find the time.

-My weight. Despite Insanity, it’s ballooning up to the point where most of my favorite clothes are tight – the problem is just that my diet sucks but I’m feeling really pressured at work to go to team dinners every night and drink whenever everyone else drinks.

-My career. Lots of upheaval as we integrate into our acquiring company. We’re now trying to blend the levels/salaries across the two firms, and I am either going to get royally screwed and set back 3 years progression-wise, or get a massive salary increase… but it’s all very confusing right now and I don’t know which.

And a ton of other things besides, including day-to-day life on my project. But… I am now getting ready to fly home, and I am so excited. I thought I’d take a few minutes to share with you my Thursday ritual for de-stressing:

1. Walk through priority boarding lane and get to feel special for getting on the plane first. Pretend like I am a rock star. Sometimes I feel bad for getting excited about this, because it’s just a teeny bit snotty, but then I remind myself that I’ve earned it with all the miles I fly. Either way, this makes me feel as happy as little Jessica.

2. Get to my seat and put everything where it belongs: pashmina around my shoulders, book in my lap, waterbottle in seat pocket, and bag properly stowed under the seat in front of me. A little ritual is always calming.

3. Read until we get to cruising altitude. My book depends on my mood – sometimes I read a business book (currently in the middle of The Facebook Effect, by David Kirkpatrick, which is excellent), or sometimes I read something really light and fluffy to make me giggle (on Monday, I finished the hilarious Jenn Lancaster’s My Fair Lazy).

4. Immediately upon hearing the double ding, pull out my laptop. Now starts the really therapeutic part.

5. Open Word and make a two column table. Left column: “Problem.” Right column: “Action.”

6. Start by writing down every little thing that’s bothering me in the left hand side, no matter how small. It could be something like “I feel fat” or it could be “I don’t have any time to return my old RCN cable box now that I have Fios” – anything goes. I just try to keep it things that are actively stressing me out, and not make it into a to do list.

7. Start to fill in the right column of action items to help alleviate the problems. In some cases, the problem isn’t really something that needs an action item – just writing it down and admitting it’s bugging me is enough to make me feel better about it. Other times, I don’t think of a complete fix for the whole issue, but I just write down one little thing that is a step in the right direction. For example, in the case of “I feel fat,” the problem often isn’t so much my actual weight (I’m not fat!), but more about me feeling like a sloth – so I “solve” it by drafting an email to a friend to take a Zumba class that weekend. It doesn’t actually get solved on the plane, but I have a plan to start taking steps in the right direction – and that’s immensely satisfying.

8. After I finish my “vent list” of everything that’s bothering me, I usually jot down a quick to-do list/schedule for the weekend. It usually starts out specific; for example:
9pm – Land, cab, call XYZ and ABC
10pm – Get home, get mail, sync work emails, unpack
10:30pm – Dinner / Grey’s Anatomy
11:30pm – Bed
As I think further out in the future, my list generally gets a lot more vague:
Clean living room
Do laundry
Kristen’s party @ 9pm
Having all the little things written down helps me focus on the many many things I need to do before I fly out on Monday, and it also keeps me on track when I try to procrastinate (“well, I scheduled laundry for Saturday, and it’s Saturday, so I have to do it by evening”).

Honestly, the process of thinking about everything that’s bothering me can be really upsetting (I once spent the better part of a flight home from Madrid crying to myself!), but I usually feel a thousand times better what I’ve acknowledged what’s wrong and maybe taken some small steps to begin fixing it. Now, I just can’t wait to get on the plane and start the process!!!

What is your method for coping with stress?


11 thoughts on “I’m a stressball”

  1. When I get stressed to the point that it effects my sleep, I have to make a to-do list. Once I have things written down, it’s easier to forget about everything until I have to the time to actually do something about it.

    When I get stressed about running, I just take a break until I feel guilty for not running, and then I start again. Maybe not the best way to deal with it, but it works for me.

  2. Fingers crossed for the big raise option for you!

    I love lists when I’m stressed. I try to write down even the littlest things that I can think of (which can make a list seem long an overwhelming!) and then crossing them off is part therapy, part making sure I don’t forget something.
    My work schedule has been insane the last 3 weeks and I can’t seem to catch a break at all. Tonight, even though I know I had a million things to do, I took half an hour to work on a ‘travel journal’ type thing I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. It wasn’t long, and it didn’t take a lot of effort, but was just the break I needed.

  3. When I am that stressed…two things. Yoga time. A good hour on the mat. Sweaty vinyasa. Breathing good stuff. Then an hour with a list. Easy to tackle things to the tough stuff. And a game plan to accomplish it.

    Hope you are feeling better soon!

  4. I’m a list-maker too…esp when I’m stressed. Sometimes I put stuff on there that’s so ridiculous, but I feel better crossing it off!

    In college I would schedule out my whole day too, which relaxed me too. I don’t do that as much now, except when I’m feeling overly busy!

  5. I like your organizing your stresses exercise on your laptop in word. I am going to try that problem/action exercise! Thank you!
    Hang in there kiddo!

  6. I agree that making lists and thinking about what’s bothering me when I’m stressed out definitely helps. As does writing it all out!!

    Hope you feel better soon – sounds like you need to take an entire day just for YOU – maybe head to the spa or something 🙂

  7. Thanks all for the advice! I feel a lot less crazy knowing that other people are list makers too 🙂

    Vince – either a nap or I start watching some reality TV on my laptop. Basically obsessed with the marathon runner on the Bachelorette right now! 🙂

  8. Sorry that you’re having such a crappy and stressful time Laura! All those uncertainities must make it tough on a day-to-day basis. Whenever I get into one of those periods where things are all so up in the air, I try to just live in the moment and have faith that the future will take care of itself. It works for me most of the time.

    Either way, i hope you have a great restful weekend =)

  9. I am a huge stressball too. About lots of the same issues. I’m not sick, but I am currently stressing out about my clothes being too tight and not being happy at my job.

    I usually go running when I get stressed out. Or lately I’ve been doing yoga which helps too.

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