Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Reducing Stress

Gosh, even writing yesterday's post about all my stress made me more stressed.

The thing is, my life isn't going to get any less stressful than it is now. Sure, some of my stresses are unique to my current situation. Balancing work and Henry is difficult and so is adjusting to my new identity and life post-baby.

But starting a school from scratch is going to be even more difficult. In all honesty, it will be like giving birth to a second child. I'm choosing to bring that kind of stress into my life because I'm passionate about dedicating myself to a worthwhile endeavor. But if I don't learn how to filter the stress in a healthy way, then I won't be living a joyful life.

It seems to me that I need both proactive and reactive strategies for coping with the inevitable stress in life.

Let me revisit a post I wrote awhile ago about de-stressing (at the time, I was preparing for conception and wanted to be as healthy as possible).

Here's an excerpt:
  1. Find a natural, whole foods cookbook (maybe this one?)
  2. Set aside time to relax every night before bed
  3. Practice breathing all the way into my belly
  4. Stop complaining
  5. Do yoga (for crying out loud!)
  6. Start taking walks after dinner
  7. Take 25 deep breaths as I fall asleep
In short, ... "Breathe more deeply, eat more simply, and move more frequently."

As for the good nutrition: Matt and I have been eating out every single night, since our house is on the market and we are trying to keep everything clean, clean, clean. I'm not sure if it actually alleviates stress (since we don't have to do much shopping, food preparation, or cleaning) or if it makes it more stressful because we are eating unhealthier things. Maybe next week we should try to pick meals from our easiest cookbook (I know Matt is supposed to be planning our meals--which he did for two weeks before we started eating out--but I kind of want the control back). Or maybe I should spend half of Sunday making meals that I can pull out of the freezer all week long?

As for setting aside time each night before bed: I've been terrible about this since Henry came along, but the idea is very appealing. I would like to pick up the house, do some quick yoga stretches, study Spanish, and read (for pleasure).

As for the other things on the list: Yes, yes, yes! I need to recommit to doing them as well.

Plus, I think I need to get a massage once a month. We have a massage school that offers inexpensive massages. Perhaps I could do that. And I need a date night with Matt at least once a month!

I think putting these kind of routines into place will help me proactively stay more grounded.

In terms of reactive strategies, I think the deep breathing will help. I also think I need to cultivate more duck feathers and let silly things roll off (like terrible Houston drivers). I also tend to have an over-analytical mind and I like to critique things. I really think focusing more on the positive would help me reduce stress.

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Raquel.Somatra said...

Last April/May, in the span of two weeks, my husband and I were doing finals and graduating from university, hosting a backyard wedding, planning a 40-day road trip honeymoon, and moving all my things out of my apartment. Looking back, I still can't believe we did it.

What really helped me (in addition to family support and deep breathing techniques) was creating to-do lists. I first wrote a list of the "big things", often things that weren't going to be done in one day. From that I would break it down into manageable steps, and create other lists. Finally, I'd have a list I could get done that day which would contribute to the big goals.

And I realized, too, sometimes it's okay to do nothing all day. I wouldn't grant myself this, even if I did nothing I would start to stress about doing nothing-- and then what's the point of a relaxing day to begin with?

I'd say the absolute number one thing that helped reduce stress then, and even now, is meditation. I can't extol it enough.

I can't imagine the stress you'll be going through while creating a learning center with a baby! You're so courageous! Really! Sometimes when I was overwhelmed, I'd imagine myself looking back and saying, "Well, we did it." That was fun because I'd take the load off in my imagination. And, we did. And, you will.

Good luck with it all!

Autumn said...

I do a big food prep about once a week, that might work for you also. You're only really getting your kitchen messy one time, then just eating out of the fridge/ freezer the rest of the week. I take about 30 min. to go through my recipe collection and pick enough for lunches and dinners for the week, make up my grocery list, then come home and slice, dice, and cook. Some things are really easy (just marinating meat or veggies to throw on the grill), others are more complicated (soups, casseroles, etc.). I almost always double recipes (it's usually no more work to make twice as much) and then I can freeze at least part of each batch, especially things like soups that freeze well. I reserve the frozen meals for weeks when it's too crazy to cook all fresh things. I also usually bake 4-6 potatoes and make a big batch of rice or other grain while I'm cooking other things once a week so we have easy side dishes. And frozen vegetables are a gift from the gods. I don't always have the time or energy to prepare fresh veggies, but frozen are still good in a pinch, even just plain green beans or broccoli with a drizzle of olive oil and some spices.

sarah said...

I think I need to write down your 7 "should-do's" and put the list in my pocket because I share those same wishes. Especially the stop complaining one! Maybe we should all just try adding one item at a time and once that becomes routine add the next and so on...?
As for the eating out. I find that my boyfriend and I fall into the same rut from time to time, even though we both love to cook. With our busy work schedules we've just come to the conclusion that cooking a bit extra on Sunday's really saves us on those lazy weeknights when it'd be easy to grab a bite at the restaurant downstairs instead of cooking. Currently my Sunday cooking includes a batch or soup, beans or stew type dish and a couple of homemade pizzas. Knowing after a long day of work that I can just pop tasty (and healthy-ish) leftovers out of the fridge really makes me feel better about my dining habits & it's so quick!

Anna said...

Freezer cooking helps. That way you can always pull at least one home-cooked meal a week out of the freezer. I make big batches of red curry or turkey taco soup that can stretch over a period of a few days. Extra bonus: leftovers to bring to work for lunch! We also go to the farmer's market every weekend to get produce for the week. That helps us supplement meals easily with fresh sides.

We have a four month old, and I so feel your concerns about keeping things balanced. It's easier said than done to get out for a date night once a month! But we do try to take a walk once a day as a family (although here in the PNW the weather won't be on our side for much longer), and cuddle, and read lots of books. It's a different kind of intimacy for now, and there is a lot less "me" time, but I also know that these months and years are precious and will fly by quickly.

Megan said...

This is totally unrelated, but I wondered if you've ever checked out Dana at www.dana-made-it.com?

She is in Austin and is creative, a mama, and is always showing her thrift store finds. Maybe someone to connect with in Austin?

Shawn said...

I am struggling with stress right now, but for a completely different reason. Right now, I'm stressed that I'm doing nothing. I just finished so many big, hard, stressful things - law school finals, graduation with a J.D. and a masters, studying for and taking the 3 day CA BAR exam. As hard as all those things were, I was much happier when I was doing them than I am now. Now, I am waiting for my test results, which takes 4 months, and trying to find a job. I am so used to being a busy, active person and being unemployed is driving me mad. And I hold back on doing fun things because it is so important to not spend any money and because I feel like I need to be spending all my time applying for jobs. Anyway, I just needed to vent, so thank you. Just try to remember how your stress is created by wonderful things that mean something to you and that are going to enrich your life and the life of others. You should be so proud of that, and hopefully that thought will carry you through the stressful moments.

Also, have you ever read Reflections on the Art of Living? It's a collection of Joseph Campbell's writing, edited by Diane Osbon. I find it so interesting and meditative to read. It's a collection of excerpts, so you can just flip to a page and read a quick segment on its own. It's my favorite book to go to when I need a minute to be with my thoughts and to re-center myself. Give it a try!

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