The Cyclical Nature of Stress (and what to do about it)

The Cyclical Nature of Stress (and what to do about it)

pexels-photo-131979Last week was particularly on the fuller side. I had an exam looming over me the entire week which meant that on top of my routine work and home responsibilities I had to carve out time to study. Couple that with some less than decent sleep, and early on in the week I felt increasingly overwhelmed. The overwhelm vortex has a way of making every single task seem that much harder than it really is, and as a result there were a lot of shortcuts. Take-out one night, pizza delivery the next. No lunches made. Zero journaling, getting up early to go to the gym, zero reading for pleasure. My husband was feeling overwhelmed as well as he had his own exam to study for, and had tweaked his neck early in the week making every move painful. You get the picture. It seemed like we were in survival mode. We feel the stress that comes with a litany of unfulfilled obligations so acutely that we forget that it is not the first and certainly not the last time all we wanted to do was lie in bed and escape from having to call the dentist to reschedule for the umpteenth time. In reality, we should have both seen the stress coming, and prepared much better for it. Weeks with exams, a big presentation, or travel just to name a few are inherently stressful. Having a game plan in place ahead of time is really the key to be able to deal (maybe even thrive) in the chaos. What could I have done differently? I should have anticipated that after working a full day, and studying for 1-2 hours straight after work, I was going to have very little gas left in the tank to make a healthy dinner, and lunch for the next day. Instead of reaching for the takeout menu, I could have made one or two large crockpot or casserole dishes on the weekend that we could have reheated throughout the week. Instead of feeling dejected because I skipped my morning workouts all week, I could have taken my dogs on an extra-long walk in the evenings which would have made me feel less guilty and given me a much needed boost from breathing in the just starting to turn crisp air. I could have taken a long lunch one of the weekdays instead of heading straight for my inbox after grabbing a sandwich, and used that time to reflect, maybe journal, and relax a bit in the middle of my workday since my days were longer than usual due to the studying. I could have taken a nice, long, relaxing warm bath after sipping my evening tea, and allowed myself to decompress instead of running through the to-do list in my brain. Stress is inevitable, and hectic weeks will happen, but I feel more confident that I can be better prepared next time the rabbit hole beckons.

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