Saturday, February 27, 2010

stressbusting tips for goatherds

I am neither a goatherd, nor do I play one on t.v., but I do know a little about stress. A year ago, I moved into a new role at work. At first, it was all rainbows and unicorns. It was something new to do, I loved my new boss (and still do), and it got me out from under the thumb of the well meaning but micromanaging woman who had been my boss for the past seven years. Then came the news that there would be a pay cut, no fancy new title and a workload that increased by month. By summer, it was not uncommon for me to be working nights and weekends of overtime. There are days now when I feel myself on the verge of just giving my notice, even if I have no new prospect on the horizon yet. That is just not the sort of thing I do, which says a lot.

Over the course of the year I have stopped writing, playing my violin, singing, reading, taking pictures, going on mini- (and maxi-) roadtrips, and hanging out much with friends. While I know people who have aspirations of clawing their way to middle management or becoming directors before they hit 40, I don't feel any of those things about my job. What I feel is that I want to do something that makes more of a difference and that the job I have is slowly robbing me of all the things that make life worth living. Not that I'm well paid, but no amount of money is worth that. I also feel (and know, thanks to my doctor) that my blood pressure has gone up since I started doing this job. There are times when the whole thing overwhelms me so much that I cry my way home at night.

Frankly, it's not worth a stroke or heart attack, so I have been trying to find little ways to ease my stress level while I look for a new job/figure out if I'm too old to go back to school and make a total career change/determine if my situation at the one I have is worth salvaging. Meanwhile, here are some things that have kept me from jumping off a bridge on the worst days (in case you were wondering, this is where the goatherds come in):

1. Sing. While I love music of all sorts, I find that show tunes interspersed by the occasional up tempo Sweet Honey in the Rock song work best for this. My current favorites by far, however, are The Lonely Goatherd from the original Sound of Music soundtrack (as opposed to the muppet version above, but who doesn't love muppets?) and Storm Large's vagina song, because it's difficult to take anything too seriously while yodeling or belting about vaginas. Usually by the time I get to Julie Andrews' big yodeling finale or the "just the boys" part of the vagina song I'm at least laughing a little. Ultimately, that's really what it's all about - not taking things so seriously. It could just as easily be any kind of silliness that make you feel good.

2. New pajamas to wear while an evening at home reading or watching movies while eating Chinese takeout. I've said it before, but the Nick & Nora line Target carries is an awesome, inexpensive resource for this. Current fave: My new confused gnome pajamas. They have not only gnomes and mushroom caps, but rainbows and pots of gold, because they are apparently part of the Irish gnome diaspora who have adopted social customs from the leprauchans. This does not make them any less fab or any less a part of my birthday month pajama ensemble.

3. Plan a trip. Even if I can't exactly take it now, somehow thinking about where I could go always makes me feel a little better, especially when combined by google earth sightseeing. How cool is that that you can type in an address anywhere in the world (that has pictures loaded, anwyay) and actually see the place. I can amuse myself for hours, just looking up the houses of people I know, the places I've lived, and the places I've travelled and want to travel. It reminds me that there is a whole world outside of whatever passing "crisis" is currently raising my stress level. The truth is that most things that cause drama in a corporate environment are passing and really not that important outside of that microcosm (and that's really true of any microcosm we're in).

4. Leave the real world for a while. This can be via reading, watching a movie, making something, even playing a video game. While I don't find a whole lot of time for these things anymore, when I do, the distraction can be a sanity saver, especially for someone like me who tends to zero in on a problem and obsess over it to the point that she can't eat or sleep. I actually lost 12 pounds during the month of December simply by forgetting to eat, because I was so busy worrying. While I need to lose weight, that wasn't how I wanted to do it!

5. Meditate. Sometimes just taking some deep breaths and meditating or praying (if that's your deal) or even just having a quiet, little talk with yourself can make a world of difference. (And it's even better if you can do it in a hot bath filled with bubbles!)

6. Journaling. It's been ages since I've journaled or blogged regularly at all, but when I do, it helps. Sometimes just putting things in writing can make you feel a little less burdened. It's definitely worth doing more often.

7. Don't let the stresser take over. This is the one where I fall off Mellow Road. I do let it take over my life. I stop hanging out with friends, stop making time to do the things I enjoy and find myself feeling constantly worn to the bone. It's something I need to work on. In the end, I know I won't look back and wish I'd worked more. I mean, who does?