See that photo above? That’s me. Okay, not technically. It’s a stock image but its sentiment is the same.
Recently, you guys, I’ve been stressed out. Cue that Tribe Called Quest Stressed Out track.
Done watching that video? Love throwbacks! Anyway, yeah, I’m stressed out and I think it’s one of the reasons I’m breaking out into rashes (besides my diet). The other day I woke up and literally had a feeling of dread for the upcoming day, although nothing incredibly terrible was planned.
That sort of bummed me out because I use to have that feeling ALL.THE.TIME., especially when I was in high school. Waking up with a perceptual knot in my gut became so common to my existence that when it went away in my twenties, I was actually shocked and sort of terrified by what happiness felt like. It was such a wonderful surprise to have days, weeks even, when I didn’t contemplate throwing myself out of a moving car. Needless to say, I don’t want to start having to live with this sort of feeling again.
Because I analyze things to understand them better, you know I had to spend time trying to figure out why I was feeling like a pissy adolescent. Right now I have three jobs, not counting my online thrift shop or the personal writing project I’ve been working at. I write for a local magazine, as well as creative consult. I’ve also started my own business. I’ve invested money in it and everything. And unlike United States of Thrift or even FITNB, there is a legit staff and contracts and bank accounts. So now on top of creative consulting and fashion writing, I’ll actually running a company and it’s sort of crazy since that wasn’t my goal when I was in school or anything. I never wanted to deal with paychecks and legal contracts but I believe in this idea and am going for it.
I’ve also had A LOT of family stuff going on since May. It’s strange. In my experience, people come from one of two types of families. They either are not close and only come together on holidays (if that) or they are still attached to the umbilical chord long after they leave the nest. I’m in the ladder group. It has it’s perks, for sure. It also has its downside which people who are not close to their relatives can’t really understand. A lot of anxiety, pressure, and generally yucky feelings surround you when your original social group is in turmoil. I don’t want to get into it but there’s been death, disease, and troubles. I’ve been making myself available to be a support and while I know I could refuse I’m not down with that. My family needs me and I can’t watch them suffer for the sake of “being an adult with her own problems.”
Along with my family stuff my boyfriend’s birthday was last weekend. I planned a party for him which was stressful. He always takes the week after off and I wanted to spend time with him but of course, I was given stories to write for the magazine, not to mention dealing with my new staff, looking for seed money and running the business aka content producing- a job which currently entails writing, editing, photography, photo editing, social media, editing the work of others, HR stuff, and being a face of a company. Oh, and I still try to see my friends occasionally, just so they know that I still love them.
I’m not complaining, just trying to give a full picture of what life has been like in good old B-city, New York. The other day while driving I literally started yelling in my car. I just started thinking about all that I had on my plate and I began to sort of howl like a rabid dog. I can only imagine how sketch I seemed to fellow drivers.
Ironically, though I feel on the verge of tears a lot these days I have three tried and true tips for dealing with stress and they have nothing to do with exercise. They are as follows, from last to first.
Stress Reliever, No. 3: Find A Hobby
I’m not talking going to the gym here or learning how to code. By definition a hobby is “an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.” Doing crunches or learning a skill can be fun but if you do these things some days out of pure obligation, it’s no longer a hobby.
Hobbies have no end game. You don’t do them with the intent of turning it into a business or necessarily becoming the best at it. It’s something that you can pick up and put down at will and do for pure enjoyments sake. For example, I use to collage. On any given evening you could find me in my room with a journal and a stack of magazines, glue and scissors, making random phrases and “art.” It was really soothing way to remind myself that there are still simple pleasures in life, like listen to music or seeing something beautiful. Hobbies can help us center ourselves and recall the sweeter parts of being.
Stress Reliever, No. 2: Turn Off Your Tech & See Someone
Technology has made it seem like we’re always connected but nothing can be further from the truth. There have been studies showing how spending too much time on social networks can actually makes us feel crappy because it projects an image of perfection which can be irritating if your life is anything but. Don’t get me wrong, I love Tumblr and Instagram but there’s something to be said about focusing on yourself instead of others. Sometimes looking at images of a bunch of fancy women in their carefully curated workspace can be a bummer when I’m in my gym sweats, toiling away on an unmade bed alone. I start thinking, When am I going to find time to build my home office? and How can I find other people with the same work drive as me? All the time I spend thinking about these asinine things is time I could apply to grants and editing. The fact is that #LiveAuthentic hashtag is bullshit because there is nothing authentic about spending an hour trying to get good lighting and arranging your camera, notebook, laptop and headphones in a symmetrical way so that it looks as pretty as Karie Kloss on a cover of Vogue. Of course, no one wants photos of a hot mess and yes, there is something aspirational about seeing things as the ideal but there’s a time and place for everything. If you’re stressed out, get off your phone and computer.
Photo Credit: We Heat It
A nicer alternative to connecting to strangers is seeing-*gasp*- real people. As mentioned above, I haven’t been able to be social like I use to but it’s nice to plan a visit with a friend. If you’re stressed, pick this friend wisely. You want to see someone who lifts you up and gives you perspective, not brings you down. This is not the time to see your well meaning but competitive chum.
Choose someone who is supportive, honest, and preferbly, will be unloading some of their problems on you as well. Don’t think of it as a bitch fest but a confessional. It’s cathartic and you can gain perspective about your own problems by helping someone out with their own. Sometimes when I’m out to dinner with my BF I just unfurl whatever messed up stuff is in my head and he gives me no-hold back advice. Like recently, when I was actually thinking about getting another job because I never feel what I do is impressive or legitimate enough. I asked him, ” Do you think I should take it?” He looked at me with his eyes wide and said, “You already have your own business! You won’t have time. It’s too much.” Something about him acknowledging my current pursuits and that I was only one person made it all make sense. He’s right, I don’t have to do it all. #IFeelBetterNow
Stress Relief, No. 1: Pray
You may not be religious or believe in God and that’s your business. I’m not out to convert you. However, I am a Christian and believe in God, Jesus, and the power of prayer. For the record, not all believers are like the ones portrayed in the news. Some of us are-*gasp again*- pro-women, pro-equal rights, and are educated and fairly liberal. Of course, no shade to those who are none of those things. If that’s your thing, that your thing. Not sure if that’s exactly Christian but…
Anyway, I’m not going to get into the story of how I became a believer (it’s long) but my spiritual beliefs gives me an entirely different perspective on life. My belief system encourages me to focus on myself from a place of raw honesty. Prayer is how you do that. When I’m alone with God I focus and unravel. It’s confessional, it’s meditative, and freeing- sort of like when you were young and could crawl on your parent’s lap and cry about everything that went wrong that day without fear of being pushed away or ignored.
I’m sure there are some scientific studies about why prayer can be productive but I’m not interested is those as much as I’m interested in the transcendental experience that one can achieve with it. Because really, climbing the corporate ladder or being physically fit or incredibly talented is sort of bullshit in the long run. My meditative periods have showed me that about 90 percent of what we do is vanity (look up the meaning of the word, if you don’t know it) and when I remember that I realize all the stuff that stresses me out is not important.
If you don’t believe in God or prayer, I still have some advice worth taking, though, in all honesty, I don’t believe it will be as effective as with the ladder (just being honest). But here it goes: Spend quiet time with yourself and really think. Don’t think about your to-do list. Instead, think about what’s really bothering you and allow your mind to go wherever. Ask yourself the hard questions. When you allow yourself to slip down the hole of honestly it’s crazy what revelations come to you. For example, about two years ago I was underemployed and scrambling for my “perfect magazine” job. I spent a lot of days and nights crying, panicked and frustrated about my future. I decided to sit with this feeling for awhile and really delve into why I was freaking out. I believe that prayer isn’t always a “Dear God, do this for me, do that for me, please-” sort of thing. Sometimes it’s a “Dear God, please sit with me while I figure this out.” Anyway, so I was deep in thought, pretty zoned out and as I revisited the last few years I began to remember a time when I wasn’t chasing Conde Nast and actually loathed the very idea. Suddenly, very clearly, I recalled a lot of my original desires for myself and none of them included begging nasty editors to give me a chance to research for them and grab their lunch.
Once again, this is a long story but by the time I was through with my alone time, I had an entirely different perspective on my situation and for the first time in months I felt good. I had acceptance and would you know, a little after it happened, I found jobs with employers that were inline with my real goals.
So what I’m trying to say is that sometimes you need time to tune out and then tune in to what’s important. Think of life as a radio simultaneously playing different stations. Kind of ick, right? Prayer, is how you turn off the radio and learn how to readjust the volume.
This has turned into an epic post but I hope it was helpful if any of you can relate to what I’ve shared. How do you deal with stress? Let me know.