The ways I deal with Contemporary Stress existing in my life
Collin, myself and about 5 billion other middle class citizens live a daily life of ‘constant’. Constant awareness, constant thought, constant function, constant diplomacy, constant concern, constant calculating, constant rushing, constant … constant stress.
So this topic has been on my mind because Collin and I have each been to the doctor twice in the past few months, each time with different symptoms, but the outcome was always great health. So the assumption is the ulcers in his mouth and under his eyelids, the fatigue giving me headaches, nausea, bad skin and back aches, our low immune systems and restless sleep, all results of stress? Stress. See, it sounds bad when you list it all together like that, but really it’s just daily irksomes that come along with being a middle class citizen in the 20teens. I’m not ranting from any diagnosed depression or self loathing. I’m quite happy, productive and self appreciating, and also stressed. Everyone won’t share our exact symptoms, but I’d bet the rest of my rescue remedies that every single person can tick off several symptoms on this list.
I don’t know if every other time was less stressful. I’m sure it must’ve sucked having to cook without electricity, wear several layers of underwear, wait months for response by mail, know you’ll probably die before you’re 30, or not have a flushing toilet. But, let’s us here in this century just agree amongst ourselves that it’s really awesome and also really freaking stressful to spend a day in our lives right now.
There is pressure in every regard of our lives, and every point feels defendable and necessary. We feel pressured to be healthy, happy, fit, productive, sociable, financially stable, charitable, involved in society, up to date, informative, knowledgeable, polite, energised, connected, loving, safe, protective, over-achieving, interesting, awake, aware, we’re even pressured to feel relaxed. The craziest part is, most of this pressure comes from within ourselves. The pressure to be a ‘well rounded, healthy and happy young adult’ seems overwhelming to me. But I really want to be a ‘well rounded, healthy and happy young adult’. I want to exercise, study, work hard and well, cook healthy meals, shop for those ingredients, keep a neat home, maintain a healthy social life, be a loving and lovable wife.
Relaxing? When I get to the end of a long week and I take that one evening to lie back, eat take-out and catch up on my guilty-pleasure series, in the far back of my mushy mind is a scrolling tick list of all the things I’m not doing right now.
- Why are we doing this to ourselves?
- Are we evolving to cope, or deteriorating as a result?
- Does it calm down in the future, or does it escalate?
- Is the only answer to become an extremist down scaler or buy a small holding and figure out that off grid living lifestyle? (off grid living is another whooole topic I could rant about)
- How do we in today’s version of middle class overcome the grind? There aren’t enough dollars or beaches for 5 billion exotic retirement plans.
- Team Collin and Bron. Being best friends with my husband is one of the most grounding constants in my life. Coming home from a long, hard day to loving arms is a 10 second cure to hours of frustration. We may fight with each other, but when it ever comes to anything versus either of us, it’s teamCollinAndBronForever.com100x
- A job I feel passionate about. I love school holidays when they start after a long, difficult term facilitating or teaching, but I love the first day back the next term even more. I love what I do, I love the kids and the families I work with. Work stress doesn’t feel unhappy, it feels productive, stressful but productive.
- A debt free lifestyle. This is a tough one for middle class because lending is so easy and credit is so necessary. Collin and I had both (before we even met) decided to avoid debt and credit completely in our lives. (We have had help from parents that we have paid back, and we don’t count a bond because that’s a wise investment rather than crippling credit.) To any interest sapping banks, clothing stores, car dealerships we owe nothing, and we’ll try our best to keep it that way. All our financial stress is positive stress, we are stressing about saving enough for our plans, not saving enough to not be in trouble with our lenders.
- Actively choosing to enjoy things that matter. I can be quite a grumbler and complainer on an average day (I just like to have people agree with me that crappy things are crappy), but when something is important, like someone special’s birthday, or a trip overseas, and our wonderful wedding day, I decide in advance that I’m going to utterly enjoy it, and then I just do. Even when things do go wrong, I just feel happy despite, and the atmosphere of my own happiness makes it all happy anyway. I’m not forcing fake happiness, I’m just making a conscious decision not to sweat the small stuff for one day/event, and then I don’t.
- Have people (including yourself) that forgive you. Have friends that know you so concretely that it’s ok to head to bed early while they’re visiting because you’ve had a rough day and they know to lock up behind them when they leave. People that don’t falter their opinion of you when you open the door in your pj’s or you’re having a chubbier month because there’s no time for exercise or cooking during exam season. Those friends that never stop inviting you even though you’ve had to genuinely decline several times in a row. All the friends I still have in my life are these type of people, and I treat myself with the same forgiveness and understanding. This, I feel is a crucial key to not being swallowed up by 21st century stress.
- Have achievable short term and long term ‘dream’ goals. Collin and I plan a trip to another country every 2 years. If it’s a good financial 2 years we’ll enjoy exotic places like Japan or a round trip of Europe. If it’s been a more costly 2 years we’ll do local trips exploring the countryside or hiding in a cabin in the woods. Point is, we always have an achievable short term goal to look forward to. We also plan to buy a house with a big yard where we want to keep a sheep and some ducks and raise the children we plan to have. These are our long term goals, and they’re lovely, but they’re attainable. We know we can make this happen, and we’re excitedly working towards settling down and starting our family. It’s so great to be able to dream, but we need to be careful not to overwhelm ourselves with dreams that will hurt us more than help us. Is the journey worth the achievement? Is the achievement worth the risk? If yes and yes, then change your ‘dream’ into a goal and start planning your steps towards achievement. Enjoy each step.
- Setup a detailed routine. Don’t be bothered that you don’t stick to it longer than 2 days. 2 days is my record. I start every single term out with lists, and schedules and routines. I’m quite good at sticking to them for work where I have to manage other (little) people’s days, but when it comes to my personal life, the routine has never held out more than 2 days. Now when I say detail, I’m talking 15 min intervals of when and what I eat, sleep, drink, wash, shop, drive or breathe. It’s my obsession to list, and its then my obsession to not follow the list. But that’s ok. The therapy of creating the list is enough to kickstart the momentum that carries me through each term. At the overwhelming start, I position myself right on top of everything, and from there I tackle it as it comes with flexibility. Make the routine. Don’t be stuck by the routine.
- Self de-escalating rituals. Everyone knows what works for them to just calm the f@#k down. I have a set of varying degrees of preplanned de-escalating rituals that I put into use when necessary. Like, for example if I’ve had a rough day, I’ll make a cup of tea, put on an episode of something easy going and for the duration of that episode I zone out completely. If I’m having a panic attack (exams are a bitch), I run a hot bath, wallow and allow myself to cry for the whole time I’m in the bath. When everything is just too overwhelming, I put on an emotional tune (Adele and Ed Sheeren know their emotions) curl into a ball, sob my heart out. When the song ends, I get back up, literally and figuratively. These are all obvious methods, but in every instance there are two key things to take note of. #1 I can do it alone. Whilst my husband or a good listening friend do help, ultimately I am responsible for my own emotional well being. I need to be able to calm myself down without making it someone else’s problem. #2 There is a time limit. It is really healthy to give into emotions, let out stress and frustrations and embrace feelings, but it is not healthy to hang onto that baggage. Give yourself a song or a bath or a cup of tea’s worth of time to emotion it all out and then pick yourself up and just be ok.
- Faith. This is not my strongest source of stress relief because I am not that great at feeding my own faith (in a religious sense as well as hope in general). Though, however small my faith is doesn’t really matter to Jesus, I think He’s the one behind the passion I have for my work, the tolerance I muster on a special day, the goals and dreams I have, and the unnaturally unconditional love I have for my husband. I don’t share the same belief system as all 5 billion other middle class citizens, I don’t even share the same belief system as Collin (who’s agnostic just fyi). But faith in a bigger picture than myself, whether it’s God of the Universe, or paying taxes because I know I use the roads and sewerage system, it just helps to not take yourself too seriously. And there’s nothing like a little “the-world-doesnt-revolve-around-me” reality check to take the sting out of stress.