Sunday, November 25, 2007

Stress 101 Cliff Notes

Except for a Trappist monk or Carmelite nun, I live probably the most stress-free life in America...seriously. It's a state I've cultivated and nurtured for the last 14 years, since life in the corporate world pushed my blood pressure up to Himalayan levels, and it was either reduce the stress or call the Garden Of Memories for their next available plot.

I'm certainly not in the advice business...since I refuse to take it from anyone else, I'm in no position to give it. I am, however, going to list a few things that I think have qualified me to write the opening sentence of this posting. Like anything else worthwhile in life, stress reduction takes some thought, planning and a few conscious decisions... plus time to actually make these changes happen. Some of them may work for you -- others you may think are completely nuts and, by association, that I'm a complete nutcase. I may be... but I'm a non-stressed-out nutcase. So there.

Job stress? I quit my job and started a profitable home business. It's possible... millions are doing it and more join the ranks every day. In one sweet fell swoop I eliminated "the boss" by becoming one. I work my own hours, the money I bring in is MY money, not some corporation's, my jammies are my work clothes and my 24-foot commute doesn't require a drop of $3.50/gallon gas. There are a few downsides, but stress isn't one of them. For me, the benefits have been incredible.

Financial stress? I've learned to live to my needs, not my wants. This doesn't mean I don't dally on ebay and Amazon, but reducing my consumption of "stuff" and slipping down a rung or two on the lifestyle ladder have been good in more ways than financially. This was also a package deal for me -- cutting back on buying also means cutting back on shopping -- which is a HUGE stressor for me. I know it's recreational and even a necessity for a lot of women, but I'm not one of 'em.

Noise stress. After eliminating from my life the unethical assholes I worked for, this was the second most important stressor, but one of the hardest to achieve. This may not apply to anyone else, but I suspect I'm not the only one whom noise makes crazy...if you don't agree, maybe you just don't realize its impact. Noise is EVERYWHERE. I'm convinced that our hunter/gatherer brains are not hardwired for all the input we receive every single minute of the day, unless we consciously control it. I DVR every single thing I watch on TV - no exception. And before God wrought the DVR, I VCR'd everything, primarily to skip the horrendous burden of commercials. Remember the good old days when a commercial break meant one or two ads, just time enough to grab a Hostess cupcake from the kitchen? Now there can be up to 10 ads during each break, and a break every 3 minutes, each with its own mind-numbing music/graphics/narration/video. I miss it all -- and it only delays my (questionable) viewing pleasure for 15 minutes, or so. Now if I could just figure out how to block out the canned music in every single store, restaurant and elevator in the world.

People stress. Nancy Reagan had this one right.. I just say NO. It wasn't hard to learn and I didn't even need to practice it in front of a mirror. N. O. No thanks. No, I'm sorry. I'd really like to, but No, I can't. This may be one of the occasions in life where a little lie is okay for the greater good. This one works for me because I'm a hard-core introvert -- extroverts may not ever be able to say no to social occasions or companionship, but I find it easy and necessary. No thanks, I already have plans that day/night/weekend/year. No. Thanks, but no. (Note: This works exceptionally well with telemarketers and other phone solicitors.)

Diet and Exercise -- yeah, you see it everywhere because it's true. Eating well and exercising regularly WORK to help reduce stress. I'm not even tempted by fast food restaurants, and I have so much guilt about eating other junk food that it's just not worth it. I'm not an exercise freak, but I do manage to walk 2-3 miles a day at least five times a week. You just can't beat those little endolphins.

Sleeping...is a problem for many of us, me included, but sleeplessness contributes to daily stress. You certainly don't want to be around cranky me after a bad night. Hypnosis has helped, as do prescription medications. I'm still up a couple of hours at night, but since this has been going on since 1984 I think it just might be chronic. Thank you, God, for pharmaceuticals.

Stress about national/world current events. This is a toughie. I want to stay informed, but "being informed" also means I must read and watch all of the horrific and sleazy occurrences of our daily lives. So, I turn off the news about every three weeks and leave it off for awhile -- catching only headlines online. My political activism and idealism years are behind me, and all that evil and scary stuff does get to me. I call this my ostrich plan -- and while it may be foolish and socially irresponsible, it does reduce my stress. This is the opposite of apathy -- I really care too much about issues and events, but I'm not convinced that worrying about things I can't influence or change does any good, anyway. For those things I can't ignore, I have this blog. (It's free and easy therapy.)

Well, that leaves holiday stress. This holly-jolly season must be near the top of the list of stress-inducers since I've already seen three online articles addressing this problem, and it's not even December yet. Those articles all talked about the things I've already managed above -- with just a few exceptions. My lights get tangled like everyone else's, and all the fattening holiday food is a constant temptation. I get really tired of all the BAD Christmas music that saturates the atmosphere everywhere I go. (Where is it written that every third-rate celebrity must produce an album of Christmas songs? I don't remember seeing "Trigger Taps Out Holiday Melodies" when I was a kid.)

I guess, as in many other aspects of life, the blessed perspective of age itself is a stress-reducer... priorities are clearer, and fewer responsibilities make the holidays lighter. This is one of those times when I wouldn't be 30 again for anything, with all the inherent stress those young-family years include. It's nice now to be "Grandma" and one generation removed from Santa's stand-in.

Now if someone would only invent a non-veggie appetizer with no calories and no fat grams that tasted like, I don't know....yummy food.

1 comment:

annie kelleher said...

i would beg to differ :). i dont think the key to a stress free life is eliminating those things, because that may not be realistic for most people, and i know a lot of people in your circumstances who are VERY stressed. the key to a stress free life is to be happy with yourself. its the stuff within us that causes the stress, the outside stuff is just a trigger. i got out of the corporate world not because i couldn't take the stress, but because the bottom line profit motive offended my soul.

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