As the days grow longer and warmer, I find my calendar filling up with more and more things to do, and time is beginning to feel tight. This is when I begin to feel stressed. I can hear it in my voice because I get louder and shorter with my words. I can feel it in how I hold my body – everything feels tight and held in and I’m breathing shallowly. I can feel it in my energy, which is more frantic and rushed. I sleep less, I eat less, I exercise less (all the things that I know are good for me). And I can feel it in my relationships with others. I don’t listen as well, I get impatient when plans change, I only communicate what is absolutely necessary, and I forget important information.
I’m not proud of any of this, and I hate to see it in myself, but I especially don’t like the reactions I get from other people who know me when I am not feeling stressed. So what do I do about it? The first step for me is always recognizing what is happening. This is not as simple as it sounds. It usually takes me a while to add up all the pieces and notice that the sum total is stress. Then I have to take the time to find out which things are my biggest stressors in the moment. This is also not so easy because the big stressors sometimes change or disguise themselves as something else. The other difficult part about this is finding the time to do this well. Did I mention that I don’t have any time because I’m too busy and too stressed out?!
After identification, I look at what I can change. Then I look at it again. When I’m feeling stressed, I don’t make my best decisions, or I don’t make them for the best reasons. I do what is easy or fast or seems to give me instant gratification or relief, which is not always the best decision. I also have a hard time recognizing what I really can or cannot change. I have a hard time dropping a commitment that I’ve made, but I can if it’s causing so much trouble in my life. I also know that sometimes I can only change my reaction to the situation. And maybe that’s enough to get some relief so I can drop more expectations.
After all of that, my final step is to go back and reconnect with the people I have affected in my stressed-out state. I let them know that I’m available again, all of me. And I reconnect with myself and what is important to me because I’ve lost some of that or changed it along the way. Enough about me – if you’re also feeling stressed as we move into graduation and cookout and playing in the park season, you’re not alone. Check in with yourself about your stress level, and get the support you need to change what you can change.
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