I've had a week. Stress at my teaching job, plus lots of music to learn, plus soccer starting up for both kids, plus Stuart has work stress, we're about to get the cost estimate for a huge renovation happening this summer, and then this afternoon my car was backed into.
"Oh shit" I said when I heard the crunch and felt the bump, and the kids barely flinched. The other driver and I agreed it was mutual fault; we were in a narrow parking lot in spaces directly across from each other and started backing out at exactly the same time before colliding. Rotten timing, not really her fault and not really mine; we'll see if our insurance companies agree. It was a slow collision, so the damage is minor - the bumper of her SUV has a tiny scratch, while the back bumper of my little Prius is rather crumpled and will definitely need to be repaired. After we exchanged insurance and contact information and went on our ways, Daniel said softly, "I heard what you said, mom" and I replied "Sometimes it just needs to be said." Wisely, he nodded quietly and didn't pursue the matter.
Earlier this week my house was full of big, burly, cordial men in work boots and sweatshirts discussing things like excavation and sewer drains and jackhammers and recessed lighting and siding options until I started getting light headed.
It's too much. Today I can feel my hair turning gray.
A few weeks ago during the spring break that existed for everyone but me, even my dad told me to loosen up. He's right. I'm struggling with this still because I'm being pulled in a thousand different directions, all of which need to be top priority, but for the sake of my own mental health and the people around me, I need to learn how to deal. So here's what I recommend for that:
- Get enough sleep. I don't truly get enough sleep, usually, because I tend to wake up in the middle of the night and quietly panic. But I try to go to bed at a decent hour at least.
- Ten deep breaths. When I got home today with 3 bags of groceries, 2 cranky kids, a crumpled bumper, the knowledge that only a fraction of my to-do list was going to be crossed off, and only the barest idea of a plan for dinner, I actually stood in front of my bookshelf and said out loud, "Breathe, Susan. Breathe." And I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths and it helped. Kind of.
- Get shit done instead of clean the house. I do a lot of work (re: practicing) at home. Sometimes if I want to procrastinate I'll wash dishes or vacuum or fold laundry or dust shelves or invent some cleaning task or other to pretend I'm being productive. Sometimes that is a terrible idea and it's better to ignore it and do the work I really need to do (like learn the orchestral tutti sections for the Dvorak cello concerto...for example).
- Tidy up. I know this looks completely contradictory to #3, but if my people are around and I can't get any actual work (re: practicing) done and I'm feeling stressed about the state of all things in my life, I'll take 5-10 minutes to tidy up some area that needs it and then I feel a little bit better.
- Daydream. Sometimes I just need a few minutes to visualize myself somewhere completely different. Usually it involves me being completely alone in a cozy cabin in the woods with a roaring fire, a good book and NO INTERRUPTIONS. It's a fantasy that will never, ever happen, but thinking about it does calm my mood sometimes.
- A good book. Last week I posted about what I'm reading. I don't have as much time to read recreationally as I'd like, but I always read a little bit before I go to sleep. It gives me something to think about.
What about you? What do you do to cope with stress?