Live Well: Stress Less

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Apologies for the lack of a post yesterday. I know it's lame to kick off the week with silence, but...

I arranged this past weekend to allow for maximum laziness, which ruled out the possibility of putting together a blog post. Other than going grocery shopping, I literally did not a single productive thing - and I'm totally okay with that.

Here's the thing - I went into this past weekend feeling completely burdened by stress. I can't point to one thing in particular, but by last Friday night I felt so weighed down by various things at work that I practically staggered out the door.

I'll admit it - I think I let stress get to me far more than the average person. Some people are great at putting the stressful things in their lives out of their minds. I let even the smallest things weigh me down, keep me awake, and make me feel nauseous. I worry about failing, about not meeting expectations even in the smallest things, about people being irritated, angry, or even just indifferent about me. And all of that can add up.

The end result is often me sitting around, feeling sorry for myself that I feel so stressed all the time. And looking around at other people's lives and envying their carefree ways.

But you know what's wrong with that attitude? Just about everything. Besides the fact that feeling sorry for myself accomplishes exactly NOTHING, I am absolutely disgusted any time I catch myself thinking that I'm somehow worse off than others. Because you know what? I have almost nothing in my life that should cause real stress. I have no children to worry about. All of my family members are healthy. I'm in an incredibly happy marriage. I can pay all my bills. I have plenty of food. And my life's on a pretty sweet trajectory.

I think there are so many times in this country, in this culture, where we find perverse pride in how stressed we are. And rather than trying to cut that stress down, we brag about it to everyone we can. For some reason, so many of us (myself very much included) feel like we HAVE to tell everyone we know about how many hours we work and how stressed we are as a result. Because, you know, otherwise how will they know how awesome we are? How messed up is that? Not only does that kind of attitude make us unhappy, it makes us boring. We need to stop.

So, this past weekend, I decided that my stress level gave me the right to spoil myself, but not to bore others with tales of worry. On Friday we met up with our lovely friend who was visiting from Texas (hi Jillian!!) and her sister. On Saturday I fit in a workout, lazed around, and went to Flour + Water for dinner. And on Sunday we turned our apartment into a cave and watched nine episodes of House of Cards. It was amazing. And far more interesting than talking about work.

Also, I need to take this opportunity to give a huge shout-out to the amazing staff at Flour + Water - not only did they NOT give us an attitude for running late (long story) but they crafted a personalized menu for our friend with a milk allergy so that we could all enjoy the tasting menu. It was an expensive dinner, but they made it feel like every penny was worth it. If you're ever in SF (or live here already!) you have to go - they haven't failed me yet.

Have a wonderful, enjoyable, stress-free, complaining-free day. I know I will.

 

Live Well: Keep Calm

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Over the past few weeks, I've had not one, but two doctors tell me that I need to calm down. In retrospect, that probably shouldn't have been all that surprising.

In general, I consider myself to be a pretty self-contained person: I have always had a stressful job (or gone to a stressful school) but for the most part, I think I keep that stress in check pretty darn well. At least, I thought I did. Recent visits with healthcare professionals have made me think otherwise. My dentist, after evaluating my major teeth grinding problem as being caused by stress, told me I should chill out. Stress was not being kind to my teeth. My doctor, after I told her I'd been having trouble breathing, told me that I was just fine - it's just my body was overworked, over-stressed, and was therefore shortening my breath so I would be forced to move more slowly. In both cases, nothing was wrong with me physically - it was all a mental issue.

For the most part, I have a "no pain, no gain" mentality - most of the time stressful school and jobs are the way to get what you want out of life, like financial security and career success. And I want to have a challenging, engaging job. But I'm starting to realize that sometimes it's just too much.

Let's just say things have been crazy for me these past couple weeks. I won't bore you with a laundry list of the hours that I've worked, but I've now spent several nights staying up well past midnight, in front of my computer screen for hours upon hours and yet still not getting everything done. Cue my shortness of breath - the thought of all the hours left to put in, all the things left to do, often leaves me breathless with stress.

They're not going to stop handing me things to do at work, and I don't want them to. But I've decided it's time to focus on taking my doctors' advice, and calming down. So, here's my three step plan for making it through December:

1) Hit the gym. Ever since worked ramped up for me, my gym attendance has ramped way, way down. I mean, how am I going to wake up at 5:30AM when I'm up until midnight (or later) working? I'm realizing that the answer is less work, more gym - I'm going to try to start shutting everything off at 10PM so I can get the exercise that will help me calm down. Sometimes it's totally fine to put things off until the next day.

2) Drink some wine. Is there anything more cathartic? I haven't drank wine regularly on week nights in ages - I think it's time to start again.

3) Count down. Right now, I have 13 work days standing between me and our Christmas trip to Austin. The first thing I will be thinking about every morning will be how many days I have left before we leave (and I get a break) - it'll help me keep my eye on the prize, and remind me that a few work-free days are in my not-so-distant future!

Hopefully I'll have nothing but good things to report these next few weeks. Also, I'd love to know - how do you manage stress?

Be Well: Hitting the Pause Button

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I think it's time for me to hit 'pause' on this whole diet and exercise thing. I know, I know, I'm only two weeks in. But I have my reasons, I promise.

Since I started the diet, I've felt like my body was in a constant revolt against me. Two Tuesdays ago, I had scheduled to go to a CrossFit class at 6AM, only to wake up with a brain-shattering migraine at 5AM. Obviously, I had to cancel. The following day I went to a CrossFit running class, but had to duck into the bushes for a few minutes as I willed myself to keep from throwing up. The following week I signed up to attend CrossFit on Wednesday and Friday, made it to class on Wednesday, but then was up almost all Thursday night/Friday morning getting very sick, which caused me to cancel again.

Basically I've been feeling like I can't win. The trend has continued this week - I was scheduled to go to CrossFit again today, but now I have a really unpleasant cold, so I canceled in favor of sleep. I have no doubt that it was the right decision for my body, but I'm getting pretty frustrated at the fact that I seem to never be able to make it to the gym, despite what I believe are truly my best efforts. My body is just not cooperating.

So, I sat down, I thought about it, and I'm going to hit the 'pause' button for a few days. I've been feeling like someone who can't step into a revolving door because it's swinging around too fast, so I think I need to take a few minutes to myself out on the pavement while I wait for it to slow down. As I've already mentioned this week, my husband and I are going to Seattle with my parents on Thursday night to enjoy a long weekend in that beautiful city. I think it's the perfect opportunity to relax my eating restrictions, stop thinking about the gym, and spend three days outside, eating delicious meals, enjoying beautiful scenery, and laughing and talking with my parents and husband. All I want is to come back from this trip feeling refreshed, and I think if I start thinking about having a good time, and stop worrying about missing workouts or getting sick, I'll feel completely rejuvenated when I come back to San Francisco.

I'll be back on track next week! Until then, have a wonderfully healthy Wednesday.