Monday, February 11, 2013

When Dealing With Non-Garden Variety Stress

It's that time of year again when I daydream about leaving my job (the one that pays the bills) and running off to a Caribbean for real. Not just in my daily fictional reality on this ship. I know why. January starts off languid but immediately picks up in acceleration as the start of the Spring semester begins, students crop up at the last minute waiting to enroll, files are hastily scrambled together for an early semester meeting, and lucky students are nominated for awards that I'm in charge of getting the packets to the appropriate people.

Most of the problem is a lack of communication. I'm sure you can identify this in your daily lives with people. People are all absorbed in their own dramas and journeys; many are keeping secrets that are none of your business; and there is a lot of last minute action and urgency that suddenly becomes your problem even though it is not your problem. Honestly you're in the middle of a working novel all the time and don't even appreciate it.

I've spent the last two weeks treading water--which is why if this blog makes a point of any kind, I will consider it a moral victory. And much of my problem with the last two weeks is the lack of communication--and the unfortunate coincidence that I'm in the middle of this communication drought. It makes me extremely testy when the lack of communication comes about at work because it makes my job very difficult. I just want to be able to do my work and go home. That's the goal, folks. Do my work just good enough to keep the checks coming so I can be a responsible person in society and come home for a few hours to decompress, write perhaps, and enjoy my sweet life. Most days I can do just that.

And then there were the last two weeks. Now I know this will be a chaotic next couple of months for me. It always is. Applications fly through my office as if they were delivered by owl post, phone calls pour in as if individuals think they're the only people who want to go to school, and it wouldn't be a week day if there wasn't a "fire" to put out somewhere. It is what it is. But then we added a committee to my regular work. A committee in which getting 9 people to agree is like getting the Republicans to pass a budget that expands Medicare and Social Security. On top of it, I have to meet with this committee every two weeks for at least an hour--and it pisses me off for a good three days after. It makes my normal work rather unproductive, but it's not slowing down just because I'm stressed out. No. And I'm certainly not the only one stressed--the rest of my coworkers are freaking out about a division merger and at least twice a day, I have a coworker in my office asking my opinion on the latest conspiracy theory with work. Honestly, my coworkers are giving the head honchos way too much credit for having any idea what they're doing. Oh, I agree, they have an outcome in mind, some pipe dream, but an actual plan to implement to make it happen? No. Because they're all too self-absorbed with their daily stresses to worry about fixing any of ours.

But I can leave work at work. No worries. Then I come home...and Fate has to take a dump in my house as well. My best friend from forever discovered she's sick--and there's not a damned thing I can do about it. Other than threaten her doctors they better fix her good, but I doubt that's very productive.

I can point to a lot of things in the last two weeks that have contributed to my lack of words on my WIP. All legitimate things. But as I look at them, I see something in common: most of them have little to do with me, per se. I need to react differently to these stressers rather than allowing them to steal my energy and strength. I'm not doing myself or anyone else any good by being mad, disorganized, sad, and demoralized about all the things I'm facing. I need to S.T.O.P.

Stop. Think. Observe. Prepare.

Stop doing your Chicken Little routine with everyone else. It's not doing anybody any good. Think of the situation, stripping it back to its elements, to the actual problem and not what you think might happen. Observe and see what steps need to be taken right now and do them. Prepare for victory--because those who stop and get it together and do something are always the ones who win.

Now my first order of business is to sit down and communicate with some of my higher ups so I can get something productive done. The committee will sort itself out later. And my friend? She will be just fine. She's a fighter and a winner--and she is in great hands, surrounded by supportive friends and family. I just need to help her keep positive. And in the meantime, I will not freak out that my writing hasn't been flowing like Niagara Falls this week and know everything cycles and it's never as bad as I think.

Meanwhile, let's talk about the crew? Anyone stressed to the max? Anyone got the winter doldrums and cabin fever? What are your best tips for relieving stress?


Maureen said...


Okay, seriously, walk, get outside, play with the dog, a kitten, find kittens to watch play. Watch dolphins swim...

Stress and I are so close, we can finish each other's sentences.

I've had it all dumped to the side as I've dealt with this lousy stupid cold. I figure I still have a few days of it to deal with, then it will be the insane rush to get the rest of things finished so I can get A Caribbean Spell out in time.

Sounds like you sorta have it in hand, Hels. First, identify the problems...

quantum said...

Helli, I bet you feel much better for writing that!

It is an awful feeling when everything gets on top of you and your world seems to be cavorting out of control. I remember once, a long time ago, before the end of the cold war, I landed in Warsaw for a scientific conference with just enough cash to live comfortably for a week, having pre-paid for hotel and all known expenses.

First shock came when the hotel had not been paid for and I ended up in a student residence, sharing with another conference participant. He turned out to be a sex maniac who was mainly interested in Polish girls and the science was just an excuse to claim travel expenses. We ended up at the Embassy, me to try to obtain cash (no way of communicating with my bank across the iron curtain), and he to obtain treatment against sex related disease. Things went from bad to worse. One day I caught a strange fellow in our room rifling through our bags. The food served to Polish students was awful and the temperature was up in the 90s making sleep very difficult.

The last straw was when the Warsaw taxi drivers went on strike, on the day I needed to get to the airport to fly home. I was climbing the walls yet again when an American sat by me and we started to chat. "Man, just relax and let it all happen" he said. He had obtained a lift to the airport through his hotel and let me join him. Would you believe the car broke down on the way and I just made the check in before it closed!

I was never happier to see the green fields of England once again!

My point? "Helli, just relax and let it all happen". Best advice I ever received! LOL

Marnee Bailey said...

I've got a little cabin fever, for sure. The kids can't get outside because it's either raining or as cold as a witch's left... well, you know.

But, I've had a bit of a crystallizing moment this past couple weeks about characters and good story conflict, so I'm letting that ruminate in my brain some.

As to relaxation techniques.... I usually do crafts. Crochet, knit, sewing. Right now I'm doing house projects. ANd I read. I just read Ter's second book (good lord, so good) and I started Maire Claremont's THE DARK LADY. But, I won't feel a lot better until the sun comes out again.

Sabrina Shields (Scapegoat) said...

Life is overwhelming and stressful right now. Everything seems to be falling apart bit by bit - Maybe a slight exaggeration but it feels that way!

For stress relief, I work out. The more I post on Facebook and Twitter about working out the more stressed you can bet I am. LOL.

Oh - and oodles of wine.

If I had more time it would be reading.

MsHellion said...

*LOL* Mo, I think this sums it up perfectly: Stress and I are so close, we can finish each other's sentences.


Being sick is the worse. Everyone wants a day off, but no one actually wants to spend it actually so sick you can't enjoy it! And colds are such things where you feel more run down for two weeks than flat on your back sick-out. Hope you're feeling better soon! Stress can make you sick, as I'm sure you know, so combating it with fruits and veggies is a good way to go. (Don't pay attention to Terri's face. She'll eat fruit...)

MsHellion said...

Q, that IS the best advice I ever heard: "Man, just relax and let it all happen". *LOL* If you've done all you can do about something, you need to let it ride and concentrate on not letting it stress you out. Of course your American friend probably had some pot so that made his endurance of the thing that much easier... *LOL* I would have been so glad for the green, green grass of home as well after that experience--but I'm glad you shared it. It's hysterical. A sex maniac. A hostel. Bad food. And broken cars everywhere. Oh, I bet you have a snifter of scotch when you got home!

MsHellion said...

Marn, cabin fever is always worse this time of year. But I have been crocheting too--I hope I didn't already mention that in the blog because I didn't reread it just now and I don't remember--I'm trying to stress about it. *LOL* Only the new crochet project, I couldn't get the stitch to work right, so I undid it back to a certain point and have begun working in another stitch instead. I'll make my own damned thing, then. See if I don't.

Huzzah on the new crystalization!! I do find working on other projects that don't require the same kind of thought helps with this tremendously...and nothing makes the Muse more jealous when you're stepping out on her with another craft.

MsHellion said...

Sabrina, I *needneedneed* to exercise again--or as Mo said, take a walk. I'm not going to go full throttle as you--that's some dedication, but a brisk walk and some stretches aren't out of reach. I actually brought my work out clothes with me today! First time in months I actually packed the thing and flung it in the car. That's half the battle right there!

Did you just do your certification training? I imagine that has stressed you out, but I assumed it was going well??

Terri Osburn said...

I'm slightly less stressed today since I turned in the book last night. (Thanks again to Marn & Mo & Irish for reading for me!) Of course, now I start freaking about what the editor will come back with. And I need to start book 3. And I really need to get the next proposal done before I start book 3.

Did I say less stressed??

How do I deal? I clean and listen to music. Music makes everything better. And I'm very excited for the concert kiddo and I are attending in April in Pittsburgh. I can't wait!

The house needs way more work (though I added a large area rug to the concrete last night!) I want to move my desk downstairs and create a night little writing nook. Once I do that and get all the piles of paperwork filed, including the tax papers gathered, my stress levels should be better.

But by then I'll have a book coming out. At that point, I may embrace Mo's advice and just start drinking.

Terri Osburn said...

That's a NICE little nook. Silly fingers.

MsHellion said...

Terri, your optimism is always so blinding, but for your sake, yes, I agree, I think once you get your nook made and your taxes filed, the stress should be settled down to a more garden variety, like "What am I going to wear to meet the boy band!?"

Terri Osburn said...

THEY ARE NOT BOY BANDS!!! Though, to be fair, I already know what I'm wearing. LOL! Skinny jeans and Vans. If reverting to teenagedom is my mid-life crisis, I figure it could be worse. And I'm having a damn good time.

Sabrina Shields (Scapegoat) said...

I am a huge fan of simple walks and stretching! Lately I've been doing some hard core working out because I'm feeling a bit of anger and aggression and needed something to let all of that out.

I have been a spinning instructor for about a year, but wanted to get my Group Fitness Certification so that I can substitute and teach other types of classes like Aqua, Bodyworks and Kickboxing. With the hubby out of work I can use all the extra money I can pick up!

Oh - that reminds me - any and all good vibes anyone wants to send my hubby's way I would appreciate it. Most of my stress right now is related to his job search. Sigh.

Maureen said...

Of all the phrases in the world, I doubt I will ever need to worry about 'What am I going to wear to meet the boy band?'

That is SUCH a load off!

Sabrina...sweetie. Gods, I've been there. Watching the husband go thru the job search thing. Don't wear yourself out in trying to force it all better... Hugs!

P. Kirby said...

I don't have any immediate fires to put out, although I owe someone a blog, like yesterday. Figure I'll work on that this morning, on the job's dollar.

Diet and exercise have been nothing short of a miracle for me. Lately, I'm so mellow, I don't recognize myself. Stuff that would have had me melting down like Fukushima, now slides right off my back. No worries. And, as a bonus, I'm in better shape than I've been in my entire life. (Did it all free, btw. No gym membership or other costs.)

At this point, my workouts take up about an hour a day, so I don't know if that's feasible for you. But here's an idea. Get pedometer. Wear it for a few days, and figure out your average steps, just doing regular stuff. Then add about 500 to 1000 steps to that and voila, new goal. You can easily pick up the extra with a walk around the block, taking the stairs, or by parking in the farthest parking space.

As time progresses, at a little more to that, and so on...

irisheyes said...

I can't remember the last time I've been really, really stressed. Which is good, right? I'd say I'm more antsy now than anything. I'm definitely fighting the winter blahs! I hate winter. I am so hoping one of my kids picks a college in Arizona and we can get the heck out of the midwest. I also have this thing where the end of my fingers go numb when it gets too cold, so I'm ready for summer. I'll even settle for spring. I think I'm just getting old cause we haven't even had a bad winter and I'm already done.

When I get mildly stressed I can read or watch old movies. If I'm really stressed it can go one of two ways - if I'm wired I clean, if I'm sad I sleep a lot! Either way I usually eat anything with cheese or chocolate I can get my hands on. None of that is particularly healthy! I also tend to visit a lot with family or friends. I'm not real good at suffering in silence. :)

I say go work out or walk. The pedometer idea from P. Kirby is awesome. I did that for the DH and it actually gave him a little boost. He found he walks more than he thought and now he's spurred on to walk more.

MsHellion said...

Terri: me doth think you do protest too much! *LOL* But it IS fun, isn't it? *LOL*

Sabrina: Kickboxing used to be good for "aggression" but sometimes I think that just feeds it. I'd almost rather do something more meditative, deep breaths, walking--but I know what you mean. Keeping hubby in my thoughts!

Mo: that's what we're here for--to help you appreciate the things you NEVER have to worry about. *LOL*

MsHellion said...

Pat, I think I have 3 pedometers around my house. *LOL* I should do that...I mean, I literally have a pedometer on my coffeetable! I should strap the thing on and walk around.

MsHellion said...

Irish, you should totally do chocolate and cheese at the same time. I like to grill some baguette bread with brie and chocolate until it melts--so yummy. And then the carbs make me sleepy--and then I get rest too! Win-Win!

We should not suffer in silence. *LOL* I think that's the first lesson we automatically know upon birth (see: crying) but are broken of and made to forget. It's not good for us.

Terri Osburn said...

I have a pedometer somewhere. Who knows where. I've been meaning to tell you, Sabrina, that you're motivating me to get moving. I haven't actually moved yet, but I'm thinking about how good it would feel to do a solid workout that made me sweat.

Too bad thinking about it doesn't burn any calories.

This is one of the bands I'm going to see. No. Boy. Bands.

Maureen said...

Mo: that's what we're here for--to help you appreciate the things you NEVER have to worry about. *LOL*

You don't know how much I appreciate that!

Janga said...

Hellie, my experience with academic committees has led me to conclude that one of their purposes is to increase stress levels.

Reading and time with the grands are my usual stress relievers. In good weather, sitting on the river bank and thinking long thoughts helps too. But my stress level is usually low to moderate. Not today. No stress relievers are working today. A combination of a stomach virus and Achilles tendonitis kept me awake all night, I have a deadline Friday for an article that I haven't started writing, and I am so far behind on book reviews I've lost count of how many I have to do. My stress level has been ratcheted up to the primal scream level.

Sin said...

I live a life of stress. Apparently that's what I eat, sleep and breathe. Only saving grace is that I enjoy my job.

Most of the time.

I think sex is a great stress reliever. But I also think kicking some ass is too. Kicking your own. Kicking someone else. Kicking the Undead Monkey. Just don't slip on a rotten banana peel.

MsHellion said...

Yeah, Janga, I've found myself lately feeling rather sorry for Faculty. No wonder they're so spacey when they come to my office. They just got out of a meeting. They're lucky to find their cars and go home.

Spending time with children rarely reduces my stress, but definitely agree about reading. :)

Don't try to do it all at once. Remember Lamott: bird by bird.

MsHellion said...

Sin! You're alive! Extra rum all around!! *LOL* Glad you came up for air, kid. And I agree about the sex. And kicking the Undead Monkey.

Di R said...

Ah, stress. Let me count the ways.
I'm still reeling over my father-in-law's death, I was eleceted to the board of my local RWA chapter, then there was Christmas, follwed by bronchitis, then trouble at school for one of my kids (really is there NO common sense in our schools?), one of my oldest friend's recent diagnosis, three of my cp's health crisis,...ARGH!

Deep breath.

I have been crocheting. My hubby is very happy with one form of stress relief. Yoga helps.

Finally, finally my story is calling me, and I can't wait to dive back into it.


MsHellion said...

Di, I love crocheting...when I understand the stitch I'm supposed to be doing. If not, I just start making up my own stitches because life is just too short, you know?

I'm so glad the story is calling again. Huzzah, huzzah!