Stress, Self-care, and Finding a way out of the Storm

Stress, self-care, and Finding a way out of the storm

This week may seem a bit weird to those of you who follow my blog regularly, as there have been more posts than usual. The Things I Absolutely Love will be a monthly installation, while this extra post is something I thought I’d save for later, but just felt like I needed to post it now. Because, in a way, posting this is exhaling another sigh of relief.

This post isn’t a listicle or funny or light-hearted. It’s a Real Talk session because sometimes things need to be said out loud (or I guess written on a screen) for them to feel more real, or finished. It’s about Self-Care. Something you hear over and over again in so many magazines, blog posts, Instagram feeds, your friends around cocktail hour. Something you’ll probably hear more about from me sometime in the future because self-care is SO important and everyone must make time for it in their lives. We’re running ourselves into a state of exhaustion and death by pursuing our dreams, our 9-5 (or our telecommute because there is just as much work – if not more at times – in nomad jobs) and trying to keep that work-life balanced, plus look great on Instagram. Everyone has begun preaching this, and even though I’ve no medical background or have done any research, I have to agree…somewhat.
As a migraine sufferer and someone with extremely high anxiety, I am all for self-care. I think it’s wonderful to sit down at the end of the day with a face mask and read before bed, giving myself that extra time to do what I love instead of chores or work (even if that work is my passion). It’s amazing to take a meditation session on the dock on my pond, listening to the birds chirp and the grasses and leaves blow in the breeze. That’s my self-care. I use it as a preventative ‘medicine’ coupled with my real medicine to keep my migraines at bay and myself sane. A lot of people take self-care a little too seriously and a little too far (see: calling into work ‘sick’ or bailing on friends because you’re feeling a little stressed and ‘deserve’ a spa day). While mental health is a real issue in society, using it as a crutch for everything will get you nowhere. And, I’m saying this as someone who finds something so simple as driving to work so stressful, such an anxiety-ridden task (for no logical reason), that if woken in the middle of the night, I have to lie to myself to fall asleep. “No, I don’t need to go to work the next day”. “Everything will be fine”. The last lie is my favourite one I end up telling myself too many times a day.
But, here’s the thing: you can get through it. Without the full spa days and the binge-watching or the numerous yoga sessions. These last two months have been horrible and amazing. So many great things happened, so many things to celebrate and be happy for. An equal amount of terrible things have happened that made our lives busier, more stressful, and shook us. I’m penning this post the day after the storm has ended. There’s still a straggler stressing me out, causing me grief, but the busy schedule and the don’t-stop-keep-going is over.

Guys, I didn’t think I’d make it. Not in a suicidal sense, but in a sense that my body and mind was about to give up and I’d have a nervous break-down. It was too much to handle and one thing after the other kept piling up (much like my laundry and my kitchen table during these last two months). I had written in my notebook at work, usually kept to make lists of things to do that day, that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t keep going. I was starting to break, but I couldn’t show it because there was too much going on both wonderful and horrible that I needed to make it through, enjoying what I could. Looking at the words today, I’m surprised by how broken I had felt. I don’t feel that way anymore; I feel as if I can take on the next big issue and work through it without falling to pieces over something as simple as an e-mail (which had happened in the last couple months). I definitely know that all of that stress wasn’t healthy for me, that some of the food choices I made in the quick minute I had weren’t the best, that skipping a de-stressing routine wasn’t doing me any favours. And, of course, that only added to my stress.

So, where does self-care come in through all of this? It does, and it doesn’t. I didn’t do as much yoga (really, barely any), I didn’t meditate as much as I should have, I didn’t spend mornings or evenings reading on the deck, enjoying those beautiful sunsets I love so much. But, I did sneak in 5-10 minutes on the dock, just listening to nature and letting my feelings be heard and start to work themselves out, unraveling the little balls of stress my brain was storing. I stretched out my neck and did a sun salutation or two, resulting in a 3 minute yoga session. Not 30 minutes or an hour, like normal. I put on a face mask and read for 30 minutes before bed at the start of my most hectic weekend, carving out just that small amount of time specifically for a minute of solitude and comfort. I wrote down my stress and my feelings while at work to keep myself going. It wasn’t the ‘normal’ self-care that everyone talks about. The hours, or days, that I must take to self-actualize and regenerate. It was 2 minutes here, 5 minutes there, 30 seconds on some days. It was catching my breath to ensure that I could keep working on the tasks at hand. It was the idea that, eventually, everything would right itself – it had to – and that the little stresses barely registered. And, guys, I made it.

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