Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Insane in the Membrane

Coincidence? I think not.
I have to be honest - I have been feeling anxious and stressed this past week or so. I'm not sure exactly why, but I think I can attribute it to various factors - generally speaking, I have been taking on a lot of new things, which is great and is something I love to do! But I think I spread myself a little too thin and exhausted my brain a bit.

Do you ever have phases like that? Where you feel mentally exhausted? I think we all do - really, it's a part of life - but it's important to pay attention to these times. Listen to what your body and mind are telling you - you will know in your gut if you are burned out and need to take a breather. I think my brain and body were giving me that message loud and clear Saturday night because I was up for hours just pacing restlessly, anxious and unable to sleep, with a sore throat and ear.

So, what did I do? I pulled out of a volunteer commitment that I made for early Sunday morning (I wasn't proud of this, but again, you have to listen to your body sometimes), slept in and spent the first part of the day just relaxing (i.e. watching a movie and laying down). I felt much better by the afternoon and definitely feel I was better equipped to tackle the week because of it.

If there is anything I have learned about myself as I've gotten older it is the importance of taking care of myself. I have discovered that - even though I am generally an active person who has to be "on-the-go" and have things to look forward to in order to be content - I am not someone who can go-go-go non-stop. I have to have balance in my life and I try to structure my time to ensure that I have this. Obviously this is sometimes easier said than done, but I try my best.

I have learned to place "quality" over "quantity" in terms of the activities I pursue in my life. What good is having 50 things on your plate if you only feel luke-warm about each one? Why not have 5 things that you feel really good about? Does that not make more sense? To me it does, but for some reason our culture (and I would say this is particularly a North American affliction) has this focus on doing MORE - like the more busy you are, the more productive you are, the more you contribute to society.  It's like we are all competing to have the fullest resume or the most experiences to brag about so we are pressured to just keep running on to the next thing.

There is this implication that if you take time for yourself and time to relax that you are somehow lazy or selfish, and I just don't get it. Taking time for yourself does not make you a bad person. If you sincerely feel you cannot follow through with something 100%, then it's ok to say so. Obviously I would never advocate making a habit of pulling out of commitments or dropping plans with friends at the last minute (that's just rude), but there is nothing wrong with putting yourself first once in a while.

If rushing around makes you happy then, by all means, do it! But it sure doesn't make me happy. It makes me stressed. I would love to be one of those people who can "do it all", never rest and seem ever-content, but I just can't. I am an anxious person by nature, so it takes conscious effort on my part to slow my brain down and "eat the elephant one bite at a time", as my mother says.

The thing with relieving stress is, it doesn't have to be a lot of work. There are a lot of small steps you can take to bring a little more balance, peace and calm into your life.

Here are some of the ways I like to relieve stress:
* Schedule at least one night per week to stay home and either relax or get things done around the house. Also, schedule at least one night per week for a social engagement - doing something fun with a friend, family member or the boy. If I have a day that I know will be rushed and busy, I try to keep the next day for relaxation and rest. This seems like a simple thing, but I think a lot of people forget that THEY are the ones that control their schedule - their schedule doesn't control them. It is your choice how much free time you have when it comes right down to it (obviously if you are a parent or have a high-profile job, this doesn't really apply to you, but free will still comes into it on some scale).

* Read a fashion magazine or book

* Sit outside and "people-watch"

* Cross something off my "to-do" list that I have procrastinated on for a while (it can sometimes take some extra motivation for this one, but if you can muster it up you will feel really good afterwards)

* Make something - a craft, paint or draw something, etc

* Go outside - a walk around the block, a hike, a road trip - something unstructured with no particular schedule or agenda except to move and take in the scenery

* Go see a movie I have been looking forward to, or watch one at home (some fav pick-me-up films: You've Got Mail, Julie & Julia, Juno, Yes Man, Kung Fu Panda). Or watch a fun tv show (some favs: Friends, Sex and the City, Glee, currently watching Season 1 of Angel with the boy-never seen it!-and enjoying it very much)

* Put music on and dance around my apartment

* Cuddle an animal

* Visit a funny and cute website and browse the videos and photos. These are a few of my current favourites (be careful - this could easily end up wasting several hours)

* Bake or a cook - this can be very therapeutic - especially if you are doing it for no other reason than to eat something tasty

* Write a blog post!

What I do to relieve stress really depends on my mood, the weather, and circumstances, of course, but these are a few things I try to incorporate into my week, every week. Everyone should have times where they don't HAVE to be anywhere or do anything, and they are not obligated to another person so that they can just enjoy their own company and renew their spirit and mind.

Obviously, different people need different amounts of stress-relief and "down-time" but I do think it's something that everyone needs at some point or another (a lot of people just don't realize just how much they need it).

What about you - what do you do to relieve stress or relax? Do you find that you like being constantly busy, or do you like to try your best to find balance like I do? Any stress-relief tips?


Sara Elizabeth said...

I know what you mean. Work is kicking my butt, I am figuring things out to go back to school, and my relationship is finally on-track so I am obviously focused on that right now as well. I also have my dogs, two BIG dogs, that require me. I do get mentally exhausted. I do not feel guilty or lazy when I take time out for me to just breathe and relax anymore, but I used to. On my days off I even sleep in now. WOW! My ways of relaxing are similar to yours. I so enjoy those simple things in life. Just being outside, playing with my dogs, people watching, reading a good book, and maybe even taking a nap under a shady tree. Ah, it's Heaven after a long hard week. Heaven!

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