Sunday, November 10, 2019

Weekly Inspiration: Under Pressure

I had a rare day to myself on Friday (my son left early for a weekend away) that I had been looking forward to, but within a couple of hours I was feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and out of sorts. I stopped to consider why I was feeling like that and realized it was due to several different sources of pressure all converging on me at once.

I have spent the past few months rushing to finish editing my book, Finding a New Normal: Living with Chronic Illness, and now that I have one last review of the 5th and last round of edits from the editor I hired, I am suddenly realizing that the timing isn't right for publishing it now. We have a week-long vacation coming up, and I don't want to publish my book and then not be around to promote it and market it. At the same time, my mom had surgery recently, and I had planned to visit and help her out this week, but her husband will be there this week, so she actually needs my help next week ... and we leave on that trip at the end of next week! She wanted me to stay for longer than I thought I could manage, with needing to prepare for (and not be exhausted for) the trip. And, silly me, I was hoping to walk a 5k on Saturday! It's a goal I have been working toward for years, and--thanks to a variety of treatments for exercise intolerance and a lot of hard work--I am ready for it. But squeezing it in this weekend, with everything else going on, was just too much.

I was feeling pressure from all of these different sources and thinking of the David Bowie/Queen song, Under Pressure (which is a fabulous song!):

With all that going on in my life, no wonder I was feeling out of sorts and stressed! Once I had pinpointed the sources of tension that were bothering me, I realized it was not all out of my control. I could take steps to reduce my own stress and relieve some of that pressure. So, Friday afternoon, I decided to:
  • Postpone publishing my book until after our vacation, in December. That deadline was completely self-imposed. That's one less thing to deal with before we leave!
  • Cancel plans to walk the 5k this weekend. Again, it was a self-imposed deadline because I really wanted to meet my goal before the end of the year, but it was just plain stupid to attempt such a big milestone (and heavy exertion) with so much else going on. Besides, it ended up being in the 20's (F!) Saturday morning - definitely a good decision.
  • Hardest of all, I told my mom I could come from Sunday through Wednesday but would have to leave after breakfast Wednesday, as I had originally planned, in order to get ready for vacation and not end up crashed for our trip. I so want to be there for my mom, so this was the hardest step of all, but I realized I have to take care of myself, too. This is our dream trip that we've been planning and looking forward to for ages, and I don't want to spend the first few days in bed. The travel days will be hard enough, without exhausting myself ahead of time.
With those decisions made, I felt like a weight had been lifted! Next, I embarked on Part 2, leaning into that release of pressure and relief of stress by relaxing. This weekend, I:
  • Went to my massage therapy appointment on Friday afternoon. This therapy is more painful than relaxing, but I really needed my massage therapist to work out some trouble spots and loosen up my muscles (hmmm...another result of all that stress?).
  • Came home and told my husband we were ordering pizza for dinner! This is a BIG treat for us, since I am intolerant to dairy and don't usually eat grains, either. Plus, we had no cooking and no dishes. The pizza was amazing, and we watched an extra TV show while we ate it.
  • Had a date night with my husband Saturday--went out to dinner with our oldest friends and watched a fun movie at home.
So, now it is Sunday, and I am feeling better all around. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our "empty nest" weekend together and also got caught up on some long overdue stuff at home. I still have a lot to do in the next two weeks, but it feels more realistic and possible now.

I realize it is ironic that I am writing a book about emotional coping and daily living with chronic illness, yet I got into a situation where I felt out-of-control and stressed! In the end, though, I applied some of the tenets from my book--like considering what I can control, adjusting my plans to meet my needs, and allowing myself some downtime--and it worked. I am feeling better now and am ready to tackle these hectic couple of weeks ... and then enjoy a much-needed vacation with my family.

How do you handle pressure? 
What do you do when stress becomes overwhelming?

Clearly, I am still learning, so I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.


Suzanne said...

Hello and thanks for your post which I’ve found helpful to read. 
I have several mental health conditions, damaged nerves and very poor sleep which all leads me to feel overwhelmed and strained very quickly. For me stress always leads to depression, sometimes quite severe, so it is important that I manage it as best as I can. 
Over the years I’ve managed to identify what triggers my stress and I reduce and avoid those things when possible. This usually involves lots of thinking ahead, being very organised and also being honest with people about my limitations. 
Of course sometimes things don’t work out as planned and life throws a curve ball - this is very difficult for me and I use different coping techniques to help myself. Finding a space on my own away from the source of stress - even for just 5/10 minutes - to breathe and calm down can help me cope. It helps if the space is outside and in nature. If I can’t get myself into a peaceful space (for example if I’m on a train which gets crowded) then I’ll use self-soothing, controlled breathing and visualisation to help me through.
I find talking about how I feel often helps - I am lucky to have a supportive husband who is usually able to listen, understand and respond kindly. If I’m on my own then expressing  how I feel in a message or online can help a little.
If I am stressed too often or for too long then I become very unwell and that is horrible. The good thing though is that with time alone in nature (sometimes it can take days or even weeks) I am able to recover myself and feel better again. 
Reading your post I realise I need to be more aware of my own self-imposed deadlines as I tend to put pressure on myself to achieve things in a certain time. I can relate to your feeling of relief on being able to identify things that can be delayed or dropped. . . What a wonderful weight off that can be!
Thanks again for your good words and I wish you a lovely vacation and safe return. 

Sue Jackson said...

Hi, Suzanne -

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and share your experiences - so much good advice in your comment! I agree wholeheartedly, especially with planning ahead, being honest about my limitations (that was the key to reducing stress last week about helping my mom), and the self-soothing tips you provided. I learned how to meditate (TM) when I was a teen, and I find that even if I can't get the nap/rest I need at the moment, closing my eyes and meditating can help me make a little "calm bubble" around myself.

Thanks so much for sharing!