Stress is the kink in my neck and the cramp in my style. Most of my stress comes from not being myself, not doing something I really want to do, or not making the changes that will get me going down the path I feel I was meant to travel. So, for me, reducing stress comes from being true to myself. When I actively do things that feel right for me, I don’t beat myself up.
Luckily, who I am is not a mystery to me. I have been living with myself my whole life. I know me. I am creative, sarcastic, a little angry, a little bitter, athletic and anal-retentive. I love laughing, listening to and playing music, writing, and physical exertion. So what do I do to feed my needs? This little light of mine…
Music. After a day in corporate America, I walk out to my car and immediately begin my recovery mission. Music is powerful. The ability of music to influence my emotional state is indisputable. It can intensify the mood I’m in, or change it entirely. How I am feeling and what I still have to do dictate my selection. Whatever I need, whether it is motivation, focus, or inner-calm, there is a song. I use music to elicit desired responses, and to conjure up certain feelings. Sometimes I just use it as a diversion. Music is what I need, when I need it.
Physical Activity. A good, hard workout releases a lot of tension for me. The higher the level of stress, the more hardcore my physical activity needs to be. If I already have a scheduled activity for the evening, my intensity level will often mirror my stress level. For me, contact sports are best in their stress-relieving capacity. An earth-shattering hit in roller derby or a well-executed tackle in rugby can often rejuvenate my soul instantly. Not every day is a derby day or a rugby day though. On those days, a challenging run, mildly scary mountain bike ride, or killer weight session do fine.
Relationships. Spending time with my dogs and my friends is rejuvenating. Even if I feel overwhelmed with the million things I am convinced I have to do, I feel better if I make the time to maintain the relationships that are truly important to me. My dogs love me unconditionally, and the simple things that clearly make them happy never cease to amuse me.
I can almost say the same thing about my really close friends. There is always a laugh to be had with them over something that might not be so funny if we weren’t so creative and demented. It is nice to remember that I am creative and demented. I am grateful to my friends for reminding me of this, as well as for many other things. Feeling grateful is a very effective stress reliever. In with the positive, out with the negative.
Organization. Organization makes me happy. Filing things or putting things away in a logical manner where it is easy to find them makes my life less stressful. Paperwork is filed. Everything on my computer has a file name and goes into an appropriately labeled folder. My house is organized and free of clutter. I like to believe that you might not expect this anal-retentive quality in me if you had just met me. I can be honest though, it wouldn’t take you long to figure it out. Organization really gives me warm fuzzies. Warm fuzzies overpower cold, steely stress.
At the end of the day, if I have done the things I love to do, or expressed the qualities that make me who I am, I can sleep easy. It is stressful to put up a front. Letting my guard down, being myself, and focusing on the things that make me happy are more deeply and permanently stress relieving to me than any bubble bath or meditation session. More difficult, but more rewarding.