This week’s topic: How do you deal with unexpected stress?
I’ve been told I’m even-tempered. My children would probably disagree with that, because they feel I worry too much about what they consider trivial things – like when they insist on driving about even though the weatherman is predicting tornadoes and blizzards, or when they travel abroad. But other than that I think I take things in stride. The last time I felt stress was this past spring when I had about two hundred assignments to grade and I wanted to get them done and recorded before I left town for spring break. I also needed to pack, practice for a concert, and take care of a dozen other details.
How did I deal with that stress? I made a list of everything I needed to do and crossed items off as I did them. I ended up pulling an almost-all-nighter right at the end, but it all got finished, and I had a great time on vacation. I find that I get a lot more done if I write everything down and then cross things off. Writing this blog post is on my to-do list for the Fourth of July weekend, along with ten other things. Every time I find myself wasting time I look back at my list and choose something to work on. Some require getting up out of this chair (emptying out the file cabinet so it can be moved to another room, cleaning the bathroom, changing the bedding), some are quick and easy (phone calls, thank you notes), and some call for more intense concentration (researching regency era postal carriers). Hopefully everything on this list will be finished by Monday!
I don’t usually stress about things I can’t control. There will always be unexpected roadblocks that make it necessary to re-arrange things a bit. In the middle of my paper-grading frenzy my mother caught a bug and was flat on her back for a week, so I had to fit in several trips to her home to shop and clean and cook for her. My to-do list was a bit longer than I liked, but I think being able to see my progress when items were crossed off helped me cope. When things get crazy, I try to make a detailed list each night before I go to bed. Sometimes I have trouble drifting off, but knowing my must-dos are written down makes it easier to fall asleep because I know I won’t forget to do something.
Another thing that helps is going outdoors for short breaks. Sunshine, plants, and water do wonders for my mental well-being. Being around the grandkids helps me relax, too. And being outdoors with the grandkids does even more for my psyche. After some fresh air, I’m always able to get back to my to-do list and get things done. And getting things done makes me feel better.
When my father died, my mother was unable to handle anything except simply being where she needed to be. My brother and I divided the tasks that needed to be done, and since we’re both list-makers we made one master list and decided who would do what. The list grew daily, but I think that keeping busy was our way of handling our grief, which is a form of stress.
I guess I’m fortunate that the things that cause me to worry have not been long-lasting. My mom’s illness last spring was a simple case of the flu and she was back on her feet in a week. The neighborhood fireworks that interrupt my concentration as I’m writing are going to stop (hopefully) in a few days. My teaching responsibilities are done until fall. I haven’t yet had to provide long-term care for anyone. I imagine, though, that if I’m faced with something big, I’ll be able to handle it by sorting out what I can do, and simply doing it.
What is your method of coping with stress?