I’ve been feeling a bit anxious lately. I even responded that I was “so busy” to a friend who asked how I was and what I was up to. I immediately realized it wasn’t true. I wasn’t “so busy.” Yes, I have a lot going on, but everything was, and is, being handled. I was just stressed about some of the things I have going on because they’re a “big deal.”
How we handle stress varies widely from person to person. My mother says I don’t handle stress well, yet I create stressful situations for myself in order to motivate myself and get things done. I can’t argue with that, and here is a chart showing how some stress is necessary to achieve peak performance.
Back in NYC, I remember being home sick with a fever for days and feeling really guilty (another flavor of stress) that I wasn’t being productive. This attitude of self-neglect was part of what I was looking to leave behind when I moved from NYC and to some extent, I have. I’m just now realizing how pervasive it is, and how it will take some conscious effort to retrain my brain to accept self-care.
And there is an elusive balance to that pursuit as well. I don’t’ want to swing too far in the other direction (which is completely likely and understandable) and sacrifice productivity for feeling good. I say it’s likely and understandable because whenever you attempt to correct a strong behavior, it will take another strong behavior to replace it. Think about how evangelical a non-smoker can be when they’ve just recently quit vs. someone who hasn’t smoked in years. Eventually, the goal is to let that pendulum swing slow down and settle into a nice middle ground.
San Diego can certainly make it easy to lay into the relaxed end of that pendulum swing. I am reminded again and again of how diametrically opposed San Diego is to NYC, both geographically and culturally. And that is my current lesson – finding balance between self care and productivity, listening to my body and honoring what it tells me, going with the flow and still getting things done. (To that end, I recommend David Allen’s Making it All Work where I learned to brain dump and create lists that can be used to guide actions. Some things don’t actually need to be scheduled. I simply have a list of projects and chores that I can do as time and mood dictate.)
Stress does not help productivity. Some people believe they need to feel stress to prove that they care about the outcome. Not true. Stress is a reaction to a challenge. Suffering comes from believing that something should be some other way than it is. Both of these conditions originate from fear. Courage is having fear and taking action anyway. Stay clear on your objectives and take the next action towards achieving them.
Remember to breathe and that very few of the decisions we need to make involve life and death.
Walking, calmly and steadily, into your fear is also a great way to grow yourself. Whenever you experience yourself resisting, notice it, stop and say yes. To whatever it is. If there isn’t previous experience behind your resistance, there is probably something there for you to learn.
Some of my favorite ways to deal with stress:
Get outside! Take a walk, go for a run, or even just sit in the sunshine.
Listen to music. Dance and sing.
Move your body.
Spend time with children and/or animals.
What challenges have you walked towards? What are your favorite ways to handle stress?