Z – Oops I Did It Again

For the month of April I’m blogging alphabetically about quick, easy, and practical ways to relieve stress. To see the other posts in this series, click here.

ZI did it agin! I forgot poor, little, ol’ Z. I did the same thing last year. I don’t know why I do that. I guess I get so excited about the challenge ending that I just get a little ahead of myself.

In all honesty, I wasn’t that excited about my Z post this year. I was going to write about ZZZzzzzs. You know? Like sleeping. Haha cute, right? I was going to talk about how, if I’m tired, I need to listen to my body and nap. And not feel guilty about it. Because I need to take care of myself. And if my body says it’s tired, it must be tired. And I should listen.

But it felt like I’ve already covered that. Or at least that general idea.

The fact is, I need to take care of myself. It’s not selfish to take care of myself. It’s imperative. If I ran a factory making some in demand product that could only be made with a specialty machine, you can bet I would take extra special care of that specialty machine. I’m obviously not a factory, or a machine, but I am the only mom my kids have and the only wife my husband has. I need to take care of myself so that I can take care of them the way I should, the way I want to.

Actually, the machine thing isn’t a great analogy. I don’t like a lot of what it implies. All I’m trying to say is that those factory owners would take care of their specialty machine. They would provide it with proper maintenance, they would fix it when it was broken, they would keep it stocked with whatever parts it needed. And they wouldn’t be annoyed about those things. They would want to do those things, and they would budget for those things because they would want to keep that machine in top-notch condition. Surely I can treat myself better than those hypothetical factory owners treat their machines, right?

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Yoga

For the month of April I’m blogging alphabetically about quick, easy, and practical ways to relieve stress. To see the other posts in this series, click here.

yogaI took my first yoga class in college and I was hooked. I love yoga. I love the stretching. The posing. The quiet. The calm. The challenge. The confidence. It’s relaxing and rejuvenating and wonderful. I love yoga. (Full disclosure – it’s a very novice level love, but a love of sorts nonetheless. Perhaps infatuation is a better term?)

One of the most amazing things I’ve learned from yoga, I learned in a prenatal yoga class when I was pregnant with baby number 2. The instructor spent a lot of time on hip opening exercises because, in addition to being good preparation for delivery, she said women store a lot of stress in their hips. I learned that is definitely true for me.

When I’m stressed or at the end of a long day, I still fall back on a lot of those poses. Even though I don’t presently practice yoga regularly, it’s not uncommon to find me in my room or in our library or somewhere else quiet in one of my favorite poses. It’s such a great way for me to unwind, to decompress, and to clear my mind. I can still hear my college yoga instructor teaching us how to breathe and relax. He always talked about breathing out stress and tension. Breathe it out and let it go. That exercise alone is enough to induce calm, but combined with some of my favorite poses, it’s a surefire method for decompressing, relaxing, and alleviating stress.

X – [e]xtreme

For the month of April I’m blogging alphabetically about quick, easy, and practical ways to relieve stress. To see the other posts in this series, click here.

balanceI have a tendency to take things to extremes. I think maybe it’s because I’m a perfectionist. When I realize something is good and I decide I’m going to do it, I do it the very best I am able. But a lot of times that lands me in extreme territory. My husband is always reminding me, “Life is about balance, not extremes.” He’s so right.

At the risk of sounding extreme, I’m going to say that taking anything to its extreme is not a good thing. Good things, when pushed to their extreme, aren’t so good anymore. Healthy dichotomies (work and play; fast and slow; exciting and boring) are what makes life full and balanced and enjoyable. For example, in my world, chocolate is a good thing. A pound of chocolate in one sitting probably isn’t a good thing. A smaller serving of chocolate that just happens to be coating pretzels is a very good thing. Sweet and salty. It’s fuller. (more full?) Balanced. More enjoyable.

In all seriousness, sometimes I do a great injustice to the good things in my life by trying to take them to extremes. For example, I’m a neat person, but when I miss out on play time with my kiddos because I’m trying to make the house sparkle, I’ve gone to an extreme. A sparkling house isn’t a bad thing, but the extreme that caused me to miss out on something else good (playing with my kids) is. In the context of better managing my time, it is good for me to do volunteer work, but, when I volunteer to the point that I’m stressed out and running around like a chicken with my head cut off, it’s no longer a good for me or for my family. Whatever volunteer effort I’m engaged in is still a good thing with good results, but, when taken to an extreme, it’s no longer a good thing for me or my family.

My first priority has to be me, my marriage, and my children. Saying that sounds selfish to me, but it’s not because that is my vocation at this point in my life. When I overly extend myself in other directions, I am doing a disservice to my primary vocation. At the same time, when I become so obsessed with mothering and housekeeping and whatnot that I don’t take time for myself, I’m also doing a disservice to my vocation. (I have to take care of myself to be able to serve my family well.) Both scenarios cause stress. I’m going to have to start checking myself for balance, making sure my stress isn’t flowing from some good things taken to a not-so-good extreme. I’m not very good at that, but, luckily I have my husband to help me out in this area.

Work Hard

For the month of April I’m blogging alphabetically about quick, easy, and practical ways to relieve stress. To see the other posts in this series, click here.

2015-01-15 14.07.43I’ve shared before that when I get really stressed I often take on a “stress project.” I used to think this was a maladaptive coping skill, but I’ve changed my mind. I used to think I was just trying to avoid the real cause of my stress. Now, I see that’s not the case at all.

When I take on a stress project, I am able to see something through to completion. I’m also stepping away from whatever is causing the stress. I mistook this stepping away as avoidance. In reality, it’s balance. When I get stressed about a particular situation, I often allow myself to become consumed by it. That’s not healthy. Stepping away from the stressor to take on another simpler project allows me to gain some perspective and restores balance to my life. Not to mention, it feels really good to step back and see the fruits of my labors.

It’s ok to put my usual tasks on hold so we can clean up the leaves, or take down a fence, or move a bunch of overgrown bushes. Not only is it ok, it’s good for me. It takes me out of my world of extremes, allows me to work off my frustrations, and gives me the opportunity to be proud of a task I accomplished. All of these benefits are good on their own, but they’re all also excellent ways to reduce stress.

Validation

For the month of April I’m blogging alphabetically about quick, easy, and practical ways to relieve stress. To see the other posts in this series, click here.

ValidatedI really like to be validated. Is that crazy to admit? I really like when people agree with me, say I’m right, or tell me I’m on the right track. Really, I just love being complimented in general. That might sound really vain, but, I promise you, it’s not. Or maybe it is. But I don’t mean for it to be.

I walk around all the time second guessing myself. “Am I doing enough? Did I say it right? Am I good enough?” These questions and more float through my head a million times a day. So, when someone offers me some kind of validation, I lap it up. It’s evidence that I can use to shut out all of those self-deprecating questions constantly hammering away at me.

But, the truth is, I rely too heavily on validation from others. If I’m not getting any validation, all those questions nagging away at me get even louder and more obnoxious.  I start to feel like it’s true that I’m not enough, and, more than that, everyone else knows it too.

It’s not healthy.

I have to learn to be my own validation. To be kind to myself. To be compassionate to myself. To be supportive of myself. To encourage myself. To believe in myself. Kind words from other people will never have the kind of power that would come from genuinely loving myself.

Undecided

For the month of April I’m blogging alphabetically about quick, easy, and practical ways to relieve stress. To see the other posts in this series, click here.

2014-08-26 19.24.05I’m a really terrible decision maker. I’m way too analytical, I’m a perfectionist, and I don’t like to have to do things over. All this combined means that I spend way too much time pondering every possible outcome of every choice I might make. I’m not just talking about major life decisions either. Major life decisions probably should be given this kind of thought. I’m talking about decisions like what I want to order for dinner, or even where to go to dinner in the first place. I’m a weirdo.

In all seriousness, this inability to make decisions often causes me a lot of stress. Spending all that time trying to decipher the potential implications of innocuous choices is maddening.

I’ve always known I’m a really poor decision maker, but I’ve just recently realized that it causes me stress. They say that admitting you have a problem is the first step. I’m going to have to hope they’re right. And, perhaps, buy a Magic 8 Ball to help me with my decision making in the meantime.

R,S,T – Remember [to] Say Thanks

For the month of April I’m blogging alphabetically about quick, easy, and practical ways to relieve stress. To see the other posts in this series, click here.

2014-08-24 11.00.39Everyone knows that it’s well-mannered to say, “Thank you.” when someone is kind or helpful. I do really well at thanking most people in my life, but I don’t do such a good job with my husband. I’ve been purposing to thank him more often for all of the wonderful things he does for me and for our family.

As I’ve been saying thank you more (although still not enough) I’ve discovered something interesting. Saying thank you often makes me feel really good.

I’m always appreciative of what my husband does for me, but, when I thank him out loud, something happens. First of all, I can see he really appreciates that I took the time to acknowledge his effort, and that alone is enough reason to do it, but something happens to me. It makes me feel happier and closer to him. Somehow, thanking him out loud makes me feel more connected to him.

You know what happens when I feel connected to my husband? My stress levels go down. The more connected I feel, the more supported I feel. The more supported I feel, the less stressed I feel.

The fact is, my husband always has my back, but, when I take the time to thank him out loud, I can feel that more. It’s amazing that the small effort involved in saying thanks makes me feel better, and it makes him feel more appreciated. I never realized the power of those two little words until recently. I’m so glad I did. I’m going to keep working to make those two words a very regular part of my vocabulary.