I am feeling stressed lately.
There, I said it.
I feel like doing this, saying “I am stressed” is sort of redundant. I mean, isn’t everyone stressed? Doesn’t it go without saying? Did I need to say it?
For me, yes. I think I did. Because typically, I am not that person. The person who, when asked how they are doing, replies “Busy!”. I am not the person who rushes around doing and seeing and coordinating and participating. I am not the person with a full schedule and back-to-back-to-back meetings, the person who is functioning at alarmingly high levels despite not possibly getting more than four hours of sleep a night because how else are they getting that all done?
No. Instead, I am the person that surrounds myself with that type of person because I find their competence both alarming and fascinating. I am the person that person calls to invite for a coffee date in between this appointment and that errand, and then declines while mumbling something about how I don’t have time and as that person, let me tell you that I can almost hear them rolling their eyes and perhaps swearing at me in their head a little.
This is deliberate, I’ll have you know. It’s not just laziness. It’s that some people thrive on stress and do their best when they are powering through multiple projects and deadlines, but I do my best when I am alone, relaxed and quiet. I think a lot. I ruminate. Being busy doesn’t energize me, it deflates me and I find myself collapsing softly inwards like one of those planned building implosions playing in slow motion.
Likewise, everyone deals with stress differently. Some explode out. They become a frenzy of activity, tackling things, taking the bull by the horns, getting shit done. But I become immobilized by it. Stress strands me and I become smaller, I can’t eat, I can’t sleep. I go further and further into my head until all I can hear are my own frenzied thoughts echoing around me. It is not a fun place to be, nor the most conducive to mental or physical health. But here I am. Every morning I wake up with a pit in my stomach, a tight knot that just gets tighter as the day wears on. That’s hard to write, but it’s true and it needs to be said.
(Edited to add: I think it needs to be said for many reasons, but the most important is that I have no interest in maintaining the pretty happy shiny veneer that many blogs do.
Life is not always tulips and great fonts, and we as writers need to do a better job of reflecting that.
I am a whole person, a concept that Hugh Mackay talks about with great wisdom here and I think it’s equally important to write through the bad, as it is to share the good. Let’s just say I am feeling very complete these days, Hugh.)
Anyway, think cataloguing the sources of my stress would be a slightly boring endeavour, somewhat akin to listening to an elderly relative list her many ailments when you only asked “How are you?” as a simple pleasantry, so I’ll skip that part. I’m sure that the items on that list are things I will come back to and discuss more in the future, once I am on the other side of them. I’ll poke them with a stick and do a rough post-mortem, but right now they’re too close.
And although I could tell you many things with great confidence (including how to lose at rock-paper-scissors for diaper changes against your husband literally every single time) I, apparently, don’t know much about what to do to untangle this knot, and chip away at this pit. But I have been trying a few things with limited success, and they are:
1. Hot Water. In all forms. Baths with epsom salts as well as simply drinking mugfulls of the stuff. All day. Because Ayurveda, and also because it’s cold out and coffee is so completely out of the realm of what I can handle right now that I need a substitute. I already feel like my body is on fast-forward, can you imagine me with caffeine? No. Stop it. You’re making me more stressed.
2. Writing. Which is what I have been avoiding doing, on this topic as well as many others, for a while now. But I am doing it now. Hello! I think it’s helping.
3. Talking to someone. I prefer to talk to anonymous someones. I am an emotional person, and when I combine stress and not sleeping with my natural emotional range, virtually anything sets me into tears. Kristen Bell and I are sistafriends on this one, because if I am not between a 4-6 on the emotional scale, I am crying. I’m also far more comfortable in the advice giver, comforter, nurturer role, rather than the advice taker, comfortee, nurturee role. I’m an “er”, not an “ee”. You see?
My time working in social services taught me that everyone can benefit by talking to someone. If that someone has to be an anonymous voice at the end of a phone line, so be it. I’m not messing around here, those people are saints and they are calm and will talk to you as though they love you like your mother, without worrying about you afterwards. It’s very cathartic.
4. Thinking about exercising. Honestly guys, I really haven’t reached past the thinking stage. But I AM thinking. Mostly about how everything I read talks about how exercise relieves stress and is basically a panacea for ailments of all types. So I am giving myself a little while longer to think about it before I start treadmill running or yoga doing.
5. Smelling Olive. I find myself sticking my face into her neck a lot, and just inhaling her baby smell. This sounds all kinds of creepy until you have a child and then you realize that their smell is just like a giant blankety hug. It is such ain indescribably familiar smell, and it reminds me of the days I would spend with her glued to my chest, sleeping. All I felt was the warm rise and fall of her breath, and all I needed to do was be there with her. I’ve only had ativan once (and then tried to hold hands with the doctor) but this is almost as good, without the prescription.
So, sorry Olive. Not getting rid of weird neck-sniffing-mama anytime soon.
Is all of this hot water drinking, writing, talking, thinking about exercising and smelling my daughter actually doing anything? I don’t know. I don’t know how to measure that, I don’t think I will know that something has worked until I realize one day that I can take a full breath and that my shoulders aren’t around my ears. I won’t remember the last time I lay there unable to shut my mind off enough to sleep.
At some point, I’ll look back and all of this will seem strange and overwrought, blown out of proportion, and that’s how I will know I’m out.
For now I will just keep going.
Thank you for posting, Madeleine. I have that same knot… It is probably why I am awake at 3:00am reading this. You cracked me up with the thinking about excercising. I put my shoes on everyday in hopes to actually exercise but life and my obsession to accomplish things takes over. Excercise is always the last unchecked task on the list. There must be a better way. My daughter turns 3 next month… Perhaps a new window will appear. What I do know for both of us is this too shall pass. Living with stress will kill us quickly so we must continue to identify ways to handle stress and the consistency of life’s uncertainties. Come visit my blog. There are some helpful ideas… Inspiration and love for all to share!! Today I post interview with Joshua Becker!! Hope the knot unravels soon for both of us! xo
I can so relate to this! Especially the part about becoming immobilized by the stress instead of “exploding out”. I freeze, become paralyzed…it’s no fun. And sometimes that leads to small bouts of depression because I feel like I’m not accomplishing anything. I am a writer/blogger also and I hear you on all of us needing to be honest. I post my fails and feelings, too, in both my blog and book because THAT is the stuff that makes others relate, and sharing it makes us feel better, too. I don’t want to run a blog I can’t live up to, LOL. Anyway, great post, and I also loved your post about infant sleep (that is how I found your blog.) It is so true! As a new mom to a 4 month old who ALWAYS nurses my daughter to sleep, I can relate!!
Thanks for your wonderful blog posts. I wish I had had your posts to read when my children were younger, as it would have been so nice to hear someone else saying all the things I was feeling. My youngest is nine now and the sleepless nights are mostly behind me, other than late nights with teenagers. But teenagers bring their own stresses and the Christmas season, with all it’s joys, does add so much more stress to my already busy life (I am a single mom with 8 kids, although 2 have grown up and moved out). I find that if I sit down and figure out what things are weighing on me most, I can prioritize better. Each day I pick the one thing that would bring me the most relief and aim at getting that done. For instance, I need to get the Christmas cards mailed out, the gifts wrapped and the Christmas baking done. Yesterday, I decided that I was only going to worry about the Christmas cards. Throughout the day if I found myself worrying about the wrapping or baking, I just reminded myself that those were for another day, today it was just the cards. For some reason this is very freeing for me. I make lists of things that I need to get done, but then they overwhelm me. I can function better if I concentrate on just one thing–one thing is doable. And of course, I have to constantly remind myself that the kids will be happy at Christmas no matter what. It is me who sets the impossible standards for myself. Hang in there, you are doing a fabulous job! And thank you for sharing. Hugs to you!
hugs! keep on truckin!
Oh my love! I wish I could hug you! I hope you’re starting to feel better, but if not, keep writing, keep talking, and keep sniffing 🙂 As for the exercise, maybe try something different…like Zumba, where you can shake your bon-bon happy. Just a thought… as in, I’m thinking I should do it too!
Ohhhh I don’t think anyone wants to see me shake my bon-bon! But I am curious about Zumba so maybe I’ll take your advice…orrrrr just stand outside a class and watch other people do it 😉
I’m feeling a lot better actually, which is a huge relief. It always passes. Thanks for the kind words, Sam.