Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Taking Care of Myself Through Stressful Times

Well. It's September.

I remember when I used to like this time of year best. It brought with it my birthday, cooler temperatures, and all kinds of delicious fall treats and fashion. But that was before the fall meant my busiest time of year...

As I've mentioned before, I coordinate an annual event in November. This year said event is projected to bring in 1,600 participants. As such, September has come to mark the beginning of my most stressful and chaotic time of year. Typically it goes like this: I start getting freaked out right about now. I worry about every detail and begin working 50-60 hour weeks. Then, by the 2 weeks leading up to the event, I'm in the office for 12 hour days and working from home over the weekend. Along the way I typically develop:

-High blood pressure
-GI troubles
-Canker sores in my mouth
-An eye twitch

Clearly, things wear on me physically, but I push through. Then the day of comes and goes (thus far without any major issues, *knock on wood*) and I go home and rest, finally. For the week following the event I catch a horrible cold and spend a ton of time trying to get well and get back into my normal life. You see, my body and I have a pact. It gets me through the day of with as little problems as possible and then it can demand whatever it needs after the event. So I crash, and I crash hard.

This cycle is pretty obviously unhealthy and it has got me thinking. As someone who advocates for loving my body and taking care of myself, why in the world should this process and this time of year be any different? I'm sure you can tell, I truly struggle with anxiety. It's not something that I have yet sought clinical help for (despite repeated advice from friends and loved ones that I should). But until I'm willing to take that step, I can at least actively work on the things that I can control. (And to cheesily quote the serenity prayer, I really want to accept the things I cannot change...courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.)

As such, I've decided that this year I'm going to do everything in my power to take it easy(er). I'm making a promise that I will engage in self-care throughout the event planning process and not just tend to my metaphorical self inflicted wounds after. I'm going to be proactive instead of reactive and try to really put me first. I want to remember to check in with myself and do things that help me and keep me happy. I will accept that I do get anxious and not beat myself up when it happens.

To put my money where my mouth is, I'm going to be blogging less.

It's weird to type that out because it's not what I really want. If I were doing just what I wanted, I would be producing content every day. I love blogging and it usually makes me happy. I like processing my world through words and keeping content here fresh.

But during the times that I am most stressed, blogging becomes a burden. It feels just like something else on the "to do" list. Even thinking about writing the simplest pieces can feel like an impossible task. However, when I make a commitment, I stick to it. So I end up pushing myself to write when I'd rather be reading, taking a walk, or vegging out on TV. I set a goal in my head (producing 4 posts a week) and I feel that I must keep to it even when it's not coming naturally. And it's weird because the commitment is only to myself. When other people have the ability to see the big picture and easily let go of unimportant commitments or procrastinate, my anxiety ends up forcing me to stick to an arbitrary goal.

I'm not going to do that this year. I'm giving myself permission to write only when I want to and not because I feel I must. That's a strategic choice and one that I have to specifically state, or I will fall back into a pattern of pushing myself and feeling overly stressed about it.

There are a few other things I'm going to remember to do as well...

1) Everything from my "proactive life" list. They're all points that I can stand to remember during this time.
2) Exercise more. Exercise is not only a stress relief, but it also contributes to my overall health.
3) Sleep more. I've been fighting some bouts of insomnia but I'm also doing a few things which are NOT helping me get back into a stable sleep pattern. I need to knock that shit off.
4) Ask for help. People are there to help me, I might as well take advantage of it. I can't do everything. Part of managing this all is acknowledging that first.
5) Choose how I use my time wisely. That means sometimes I will be selfish and that's ok.
6) Breathe, smile, and laugh. Cheesy...I don't care.

So yeah, that's where I am right now. As such, things might get a bit sparse around her until after the first week of November. I'm going to get comfortable with that. I will still be writing, because I do really love it, but only when it "feels right."


  1. Good advice. Exercise, diet change, and massage have all been life changers for me. I've noticed that taking care of your body and mind makes duties (enjoyable or not) more manageable. Good luck w/ the season!

  2. I'm glad you're anticipating your needs in advance and planning ways to take care of yourself. I'm curious about why you're "unwilling" to seek professional help. None of my business but I'm nosy!

    1. I could give you a list of solid reasons (the biggest of which being a shortage of money and time) but at the end of the day, they're all just excuses, really.

    2. In truth, generalized anxiety disorder is one of the more self-treatable conditions. If you are willing to give workbooks a chance, these two are very popular and tend to produce good results:

      The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne is the "gold standard." Almost every therapist I know recommends this workbook to clients struggling with anxiety. It takes a cognitive-behavioral approach.

      The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety by Forsyth and Eifert is a good complement because it adds in the crucial mindfulness piece that's often missing from cognitive-behavioral therapies.

    3. I will check them out--thanks for the rec.


This blog has strict comment moderation intended to preserve a safe space. Moderation is managed solely by the blog author. As such, even comments made in good faith will be on a short delay, so please do not attempt to resubmit your comment if it does not immediately appear. Discussion and thoughtful participation are encouraged, but abusive comments of any type will never be published. The blog author reserves the right to publish/delete any comments for any reason, at her sole discretion.

TL;DR Troll comments are never published, so don't waste your time.