October 18, 2006
Vents for Escalating Pressure
Occasionally, I will play a game of 20 Questions with a friend over email. It's actually more like Truth or Dare without any dares. Once a day, we ask each other a question (or series of questions on a single topic) and the other answers it honestly. It's just a way of getting to know some of my friends and a good distraction for the middle of the day.
Today, Ivan asked me the following question. I liked my answer to him so much that I wanted to record it for myself for the future when I have freak out moments. Like yesterday. I was doing "The Mantra" to calm myself down and tell myself that I wasn't going to write 60,000 words in a day or even a week and I should calm the heck down and wait for the contract to be signed before I started any writing.
What do you do to manage stress levels in your life? How do you cope with escalating pressures on your time?
The answers to this question turned out to be a lot more involved and varied than expected. I suppose when working at a place like MS, you need a number of ways to keep yourself from going insane. I ended up having to break it down.
Office - No time to get away (15 minutes or less)
1. The mantra. I'm not sure where I picked this up but when I get really stressed and there is nothing I can do about it. I can't walk away or maybe I'm walking to another meeting, I silently chant to myself, "All will be well. All will be well. And all manners of things will be well." I repeat that until I feel better or I have to stop. This is usually begins with taking a deep breath.
2. The window visit. I walk out of my office (or when I had a window office, turn) to the nearest window. All the nearby windows have a great view of foliage. I will spend 5-10 minutes just looking out the window, counting the different colors of leaves, looking for birds, scanning the sky. Anything that is far away to focus on. One of my favorites, I don't know why, is to scan the tops of trees. I suppose it is the same reason I need to look up at the high ceilings in theaters - especially from the mezzanine seats - because I like being close to height.
3. The bathroom visit. You don't have a private enough window spot and you really, really don't want to talk to or even see people. I go to the bathroom, hide in a stall, put my hands in my hair, close my eyes and just breathe slowly. Either until I get bored or I'm OK again.
4. Music. Big, obvious headphones. My iPod. My music. If I'm angry, I play angry music and let it take my stress. If I'm panicking, I put on something like David Lanz piano music and let it drain my panic away. One or two songs, eyes closed and I'm better.
5. Make a list and check it twice. If I think I have too much to do, I make a list. Sometimes, I add due dates. Usually after I make the list, I reorder it into order of priority. If I see that I can't get it all done - I go talk to my boss, show him my list and ask if the priority is correct. If it is all personal projects, I acknowledge that I may not get it all done and move on. But, I have my thoughts organized. Lists help me.
Office - Time to get away (20 - 60 minutes)
1. The walk. Depending on when you work, schedule yourself a 30 minute walk every day. When I do mine, I usually (if I can) do it around 2:30-3:30pmish. I walk with music and outside if possible. I don't think about work. I generally tell myself a story or fantasize about something in the "wish fulfillment" category. Some real "Mary Sue" stuff where I'm the heroine who gets the gold, the glory and the guy.
2. Take a real lunch. If you don't walk, take a real lunch away from your desk or office. I'm really bad about this. But, do something that isn't work related. Read. Walk. Sketch. Doodle. Write. Anything but work and try to do it away from a computer and/or office.
Home - or in general
1. Exercise. Daily or near daily exercise really helps with stress. It's hard to remember this when you aren't working out (like me right now) but it is something to focus on that is physical. Something for you to work your aggressions out on.
2. Kittens! Often, after I say hello to Esme, I go and play with kittens. It's hard to remain stressed when you have kittens stealing your hair scrunchy or clambering up your legs or sniffing your face or licking your hands and purring. I think this also goes for babies but I'm not a baby person, so I don't really know. I know I like babies in short doses.
3. Shooting. I also like to go shooting. When I shoot, I can concentrate on nothing but it, the target, gun safety, my aim, my stance, etc... It's like meditation. Everything else goes away. I mean everything.
I hope some of these techniques help you. They do help me.
Tarot Card for the Day: The Hermit, Inverted