How to get better with stress

Three weeks ago, I knew that sickness was descending upon me. It always begins in the center of my throat, radiating out like a germ-filled sun. Did that stop me from attending Bootcamp at the YMCA?

Of course not because I am stubborn. And, I like to develop theories that I could simply “sweat it out.” This theory became quickly disproven as things worsened, forcing me into bed starting the evening of July 4th until the morning of July 9th – also the morning we departed for our northeastern adventures.

A friend asked me last night: “how do you get an upper respiratory virus in summer?” I didn’t have a great response besides “my doctor said something was going around.” Regardless of what microorganisms are swimming by right now, threatening to cast a dark shadow on upcoming plans and life routines, I had put myself in a vulnerable position by allowing stress and negative energy to consume me.

I recognize that I have never been “great” at managing stress. Unfortunately, it often manifests in me lashing out at people I love in subtle (or not so subtle) ways. I have worked to combat this reaction. While making positive gains into curbing that behavior, I have begun to internalize the stress rather than process it, allowing it to fester and likely eradicate my internal defense systems.

Things have been stressful at work: the CRM we migrated to is an absolute bust, throwing up road blocks every day, which leaves me beyond frustrated that I simply cannot do my job; the NC General Assembly’s ignorance/hate/intolerance/call-it-what-you-like boils my blood; and growing to-do lists and commitments created a fruitless search for more time that simply doesn’t exist.

The truth is: I can control how this stress impacts or doesn’t impact me. It is so easy to remember this now. The hard part is remembering this is the moment when I would rather scream/cry/yell.

In order to get better at this, I am working on becoming a more mindful person, creating space for positive energy to be shared from me and to receive it from the broader universe. Yeah yeah, I know: hippy-dippy stuff, right? I recognize that if I don’t mind this effort, I will allow the cycle to repeat. And no one wants to spend another week in one of two positions: propped up in bed or propped up on a couch, especially while hacking up a lung or two.

As I ease back into this week coming off of vacation, I am especially conscious of initiating new, beneficial habits today. I have added five minutes of mediation to my mornings. When I arrived at the office yesterday, I spent 20 minutes cleaning my desk. Clutter creates chaos, even on the subconscious level. Despite another incident our database provider again (welcome back Katie!), I remained calm, took a few deep breaths, and then worked with my team to sketch out a plan. It would have been much easier (and more fun, let’s be real) to complain and use expletives. But that’s not going to ensure those duplicate transactions get refunded. That’s not going to move us closer into finding a solution. I would only be sharing negative vibes with the world.

And as you clearly know: our nation, our world, needs all the positive energy imaginable.

How else to remain rooted in positivity? Reflecting on the incredible adventure I had the privilege to take with Aaron last week.

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On the water in Portland, Maine

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A look back at Portsmouth, NH, from the bridge

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It’s clear how Vermont earned its nickname

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Vegan ice cream at 10am? Thanks Ben & Jerry’s!

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How did I get so lucky?

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Where do we get one of those?

 

My intention today is to listen with my ears, my eyes, and my heart and be mindful that the loudest parts of my conversations may be unspoken.

Cheers & love.

How are wedding plans coming?

That has to be one of the most popular questions directed at me over the last three months, and for good reason: it’s a major life event. People are kind enough to remember, inquire about said event. However, since the start of 2014, I feel that my answer has not sufficed the hungriest of mouths:

“Fine.”ding

“Good.”

“Well, I really haven’t been doing all that much…”

Initially, I jumped on the wedding blog bandwagon, seeking out ideas for how to create the perfect vintage décor. Mason jars! Burlap!

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I had ambitious goals of crafting invitations, gifts, centerpieces, and the like. Not that I have abandoned such dreams. But, something started to happen the more I dug deeper into the wedding advice channels:

 

I began to panic.

 

Clearly, a major life event will likely be complemented with a good dose of stress, which is not always a negative. Stress can help one focus, follow-up more quickly, and take decisive action. But, the thought of experiencing stress more than six months before the actual wedding frightened me. If I already felt on edge in February, what would I be like in August? Don’t even think about September, the actual month.

Immediately, I enacted a cease and desist order on pawing through wedding publications: in print, online, didn’t matter. I had worked myself up to a frenzy inside: was it okay that I wasn’t having a wedding shower? Maybe I should begin setting make-up appointments. What about wedding shoes? Should I be caring more about flowers? Would I need to hire a calligrapher to do our wedding invitations? All I could see was dollar signs increasing and my to-do list growing.

So, I stopped. I walked away from even thinking about our wedding for a couple of months. One of the many benefits of finding a partner who is a stronger “J” on the Myers-Briggs profile than you is that a great deal of our required tasks were done. We have a venue, caterer and DJ. We have someone to marry us and the rings to symbolize the commitment. We have the desired dress for the occasion, notions of our vows, and our first dance song. What else is there?

Over the last two weeks, we’ve delved back into the world of “wedding planning.” We’re looking at invitation designs, making plans to pick out our cake, creating our desired playlist, and sketching out our ceremony. I’ve allowed myself to start thinking about the more nuanced aspects of the day, from what might be placed in my hair and ears to what song we should use as our exit music.

In the end, it’s about the people who have enriched our lives, and having the experience of celebrating this momentous occasion with many of them. Because in the end, will anyone care if the wedding invitation arrives sans calligraphy or if our floral displays came from Costco?

 

2014: The Year of the Stress Test

ImageIn the last two weeks, I’ve bit off nails, developed a reoccurring canker sore, and permanently frozen my shoulders in an upright and locked position. Hello, stress. It was inevitable that the “s” word should appear, although I wasn’t expecting it so soon. See, everything seemed to be sailing smoothly, swimmingly, insert your favorite water metaphor here. Our wedding plans are nearly complete with deposits placed, outfits selected, and key logistics shared. In my forward thinking at the end of 2013, I thought that event of the new year would be the one to cause the ulcers, the headaches, and the “s” word to rear its ugly head.

Alas, that has proven to be the least stressful.

We will be listing the town home for sale in the next two weeks. Granted, I was a young lass when my childhood home donned a “For Sale” sign, but I recall the stringent requirements of maintaining order and cleanliness for months. At that time, all I had to oversee was the 12′ x 12′ chamber dubbed my room. Now, it’s 1200+ square feet that lingers in some almost ready state. This upcoming weekend will involve final staging efforts (kudos to our designer genius friend Lara!) and continued minimizing/storing/hiding/sweeping/dusting/unearthing. The actual steps to show the home have to remain free from my mind a bit longer as visions of me driving around Durham with two cats howling in the backseat begins to attract the formation of hives.

Speaking of homes, our future abode is not progressing as we had expected due to delays with city permits and poor weather. Originally, our target move-in timeline pegged us at late March or early April. Now, it’s May – when in May? Not a clue. We did a drive by last weekend and sadly saw zero foundations poured. Keeping our fingers crossed good news is coming down the chute…(oooo – good one, Katie).

And then, as life loves to do, other things have cropped up: an initial tax review for 2013 leaves me owing the government more than I could have imagined; a cantankerous gum is prompting an early dentist visit next week; oh, and THE CATS STILL DO NOT LET US SLEEP. I even took Milo to the vet, explaining to her with hands thrown up in the air, that nine months of not sleeping past 4:45am was just not cutting it anymore. Could he have a hyperthyroid? Diabetes? Kidney problems? $250 and a battery of tests later, we find that Milo has slightly elevated cholesterol, but other than that, he is peachy keen. Lovely. Answer? Give him more food. One week later, we’re still waking up at 4:40am.

Finally, there are some other potential changes that may require me to make some tough choices – positive choices, for sure, but ones that stoke the flames of guilt. While still a work in progress, it’s also exciting to have unexpected opportunities that may, or may not, come into fruition.

With all that obnoxiousness out of my system, I can say that I’m fortunate to have such a committed, compassionate partner who allows me to vent but also ensures that I recognize the blessings we have in our lives. Still, this year will not be easy, and it may not always be fun. But darnit, this year will be the best of my life so far, and one cannot ask for any more!