Monday, September 14, 2009

Overloaded with Stress

On my calendar this week are the following: a charity board meeting, a doctor's appointment, dinner at my dad's, evening out at the ballet, mani/pedi, and a going away party for a co-worker. And those are events just Monday through Friday.

If it isn't apparent, I have a tendency to overdo it. I feel as though I work better when I have a lot going on. So in addition to my full-time job, I also serve on two charity boards, co-write this blog, and try to have a social life on the weekdays and the weekends. (Not to mention I have a very full schedule of TV to watch and I like getting at least seven hours of sleep a night).

In the past I haven't viewed my busy schedule as an issue, but recently I've started noticing a pattern of me sleeping in later on the weekends and doing less on my days off as well. In hindsight, it's probably not the worst thing in the world, I mean I could be falling asleep in meetings (ssh, we all know I practically do that already). But for some reason it bothers me that I'm not more productive on the weekends because while I like to think watching a movie marathon on Lifetime is a good idea for a Saturday, it's probably not. And I think I've realized why I do this - it's because I don't deal with my stress levels during the week.

See, I realized that all the things I do outside of work are a mechanism to make me forget work. After a long day at the office the last thing I should be allowed to do is go home and mull it over (while eating Ben & Jerry's). Because then I think about work (or worse do work) which makes me more stressed which leads me to sleeping less. So when I'm busy after work I have less time to think about my job, which in turn makes me less stressed and a better sleeper.

My dilemma is this. I need a stress buster. Obviously what I'm doing right now isn't working. I'm not sleeping very well these days and the stress of my new responsibilities at work are catching up with me so I've started doing more after work which leads me to my vicious cycle of using my weekends for sleeping 11 hours and watching My Nanny's Secret starring Haylie Duff on a Saturday night (yes, that may have been what I did this weekend).

I've thought about taking a meditation class, but me being zen is almost laughable. Massages always relax me but I doubt I will ever in my lifetime just have an extra $200 laying around. Give me wine on a weekday night and watch me complain the entire next day. Watching TV sometimes does the trick until the show stresses me out which leads me to think about my stress and then I'm back to the vicious cycle.

I need your help Working Girls! What do you do to unwind? What keeps the stress at bay? How do I break my vicious cycle?

37 comments:

eemusings said...

I do the same, ESPECIALLY veg out with bad TV! Things that help to relax me: running, baking, reading, reorganising/rearranging my room....and sometimes cleaning? You could try taking up something like kickboxing maybe, and get fit at the same time?

Living and Loving In L.A. said...

It's so hard being Superwoman! I think you are doing a terrific job of it!
Personally, I like to run. Training for a marathon ensures I'm forced out the door several times per week to train, which also releases stress.
Prior to running, I loved to knit. It was a great way to sit back and relax, while still having something, like a beautiful scarf, to show for it!

Liz said...

A little exercise usually helps. A nice 30-45 minute walk will do wonders (it doesn't even have to be that hard of a walk). I always like the lake front path in Chicago. It's a good way to zone out for a bit and also do something good for yourself. I find a sleep better those nights too.

Katie said...

Running or pilates is at the top of the list for me ... though I'm neglecting it all here lately. My friend and I used to take salsa lessons once a week -- and we'd always meet for a drink first. A great way to catch up, vent, de-stress and laugh all in one night ... as well as get a good workout! ;)

talesfromabarstool said...

You sound just like me right now. I feel like I waste my weekends because my weekdays are so busy... I find the gym really helps me relax... or long runs.

Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

Yup - that sounds like me. I fill my weekdays to the brim with school, work, social activities etc. and then on the weekends all I want to do is crash. And I feel exhausted ALL weekend because all I do do is lay around!

Running is a HUGE de-stresser for me, but one of my best ways to destress is just to soak in a hot bubble bath with relaxing music and candles. Sounds lame and corny but maybe a few times a week bubble bath is what you need? OR try to relax during your mani/pedi rather than stress and chat, just sit back and close your eyes while they paint your nails!

Good luck!

L.A. Daze said...

I work out! Running, cycling, and yoga do wonders for my anxious mind. It also keeps my energy levels up, and gives me something to look forward to when i've had a bad day at work. I'll admit, I have days where I laze around and do absolutely nothing but eat crap and complain about work. But those are okay once in a while!

Caz said...

I totally do the same thing as you. Except in a cycle of busy-busy-stress-sleep-do-nothing.

So for two weeks I'll be busy 24/7 with plans every night after work and all weekend. Then I'll crash, exhausted onto the couch on a Monday night and do nothing but watch bad television every night for a week straight before being productive all weekend. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So maybe I'm not the best to give advice. From what it sounds like, it seems that despite a full schedule, you don't have a regular schedule. Board meetings are once/month at most? What if you sign up for a regular, one night a week yoga class, or spin class or whatever gets you relaxed and not thinking per week. Then, on that night do NOTHING but said activity.

Is it possible to leave your laptop/blackberry/whatever at work at least one night a week so you CANT work when you get home? I don't have a work bb or mobile so I can't work when I leave the office, which makes it easy to have non-working evenings and weekends.

Maki said...

I totally hear you. I have two little kids, so even after coming home from work, I still have all kind of stuff to do, so it's really hard to unwind.

But, I love to listen to music and watch some movies when the kids go to bed. Or, simple thing, like taking a nice shower or sitting outside watch the kids play.. The little things help me to calm down.

Gayle Robinson said...

Well, my stres-buster involved going old school. I resorted to knitting... really, it worked for me. After years of fighting going back to the craft I learned at my mother's knee and since forgotten, out of frustration one day, I grabbed my knitting I started a year ago and it calmed me down. I'm still knitting and a lot more relaxed.

Another idea is to start the unwinding process at your office. You can turn your desk into a spa and take five minute spa breaks throughout the day. Try placing a small (table size) meditation fountain on your desk. The sound of a running brooke soothes me. Also add a fragrant lavender plant, that will put also put you in a good mental state. Find funny phrases or words that crack you up and frame them. Put them where you can see them. Once you start relaxing at work, it'll make unwinding a lot easier.

I'll have more tips in my next post at iCafe Woman Moderne - a virtual cafe for intergenerational women.

I hope this helps.

Gayle

Mer said...

Hey there WG! I totally hear you! As a matter of fact, I was just writing about this on my blog the other day - here: http://effectivenesscoach.wordpress.com/
and yeah, I also get stressed from trying to do too many things at once.
What I then do, is try to have a free day of my own. Not a few hours, not half a day. A full day. I know it's difficult, but at the end of it, you do feel you've given so much to yourself. Fill it up with all the things you want to do - hot bath, wine, watch movies, read, take a walk. But close your phone and instant messaging, and be with yourself only.
Let me know if that worked!

Becky said...

Sometimes it's hard to get motivated, but exercising is a great de-stressor. Plus it'll probably give you more energy for the stuff you do end up doing.

squirt said...

run. seriously, even if you hate it, it can be such a good stress reliever. i HATED running when i first started to do it, but i stuck with it, just running for 20 min or so a night, and now i'm hooked. after a terrible day at work, it's the only thing that can knock me out of my funk.

plus, when i get home from a good hour-long run, the only appropriate thing to do is eat ice cream entirely guilt-free.

Kathleen said...

Do you like to read? That's what I do to unwind. I usually spend a bit of time tidying up the house when I get home from work and then relax with a book I know won't stress me out. :)

Addict said...

Run/Jog. Sorry I know everyone said it. IT WORKS. I never worked out ever. Once I started everything seemed to fall into place a little bit more.

Come home take a looong warm shower and veg out in your pjs. :-)

Amy said...

I see my trainer twice a week, on weeknights right after work. Even though I'm completely beat physically afterward, I never feel sluggish when I go home.

I also cook dinner a few nights which I find relaxing! That said, I do need to work on getting more sleep :\

Katie said...

My mental health is dependent on my getting to the gym in the morning at least three times M-F. I prefer to go five times. It's only for a 20 minute cardio or strength workout and then 10 minutes of stretching, but it does wonders!

Other than that I try to stick to a normal after-work schedule of making dinner (I love to cook, so I guess that's a bit of a stress buster), eating dinner while watching a movie or TV and then getting ready for the next day and reading a bit before bed. More than one social outing Monday through Thursday night and I start feeling it, especially if it happens multiple weeks in a row. A schedule and 7-8 hours of sleep followed by a good workout is what keeps me going. Journaling is a good outlet for any remaining stress.

Ms. Attitude said...

I love to veg out on the weekends. My schedule is crazy like yours. I might recommend the gym. There you can "work out" all the stess and sleep better at night. If not that, go for a walk in the evening or morning to clear your head.

Ashley said...

Kickboxing, nothing better then beatting the crap out of an imaginary person and seating buckets to make me feel better

luckygirl said...

i totally tend to overdo as well because i like to being going nonstop! but the stress can definitely get to me! i started taking dance classes for fun and it definitely has helped loosen me up. i'm HORRIBLE at them but it's a great work out and a good way to let loose. i also have been reading a lot lately. nothing like a good book to help forget about your life for a bit!

sharongracepjs said...

Try to find a massage or beauty school near you - I had an AMAZING 90-minute full body pampering treatment this weekend, including scalp massage and mini-facial with Aveda products, for just $34! The salon/school was beautiful and everyone was so professional and friendly - and I felt SO RELAXED. Incredible.

And ladies who say RUNNING - i never would have agreed with you, until 3 months ago. Now I'm addicted - except I run in the morning before work. Never would've ever ever ever thought I'd get up an hour early to run. But I love it, and I miss it on the days I don't go. It gives me great self-esteem and energy for the whole day, plus I can veg guilt-free when I get home.

Wonderful said...

In addition to some sort of exercise, sometimes I'll journal my thoughts, whether that be my stresses, fears, or just plain 'ol bitching. Sometimes that helps, or just a phone call from a friend, where I can just let it all out and have them listen. Good luck!

Sarah Rosemary said...

I try to make something - a scrapbook, an art journal, something creative and with my hands, which is definitely the opposite of what I do at work!

Mishi said...

I can definitely relate. Sadly, I haven't come up with a fail-proof method for dealing yet, but what works for me the best is walking. For example, walking home the last mile, instead of riding the subway. It helps a bit. You can mull, but you have a set beginning and end time. Plus - it's exercise!

lisa said...

I'm in the same boat: I try to cram so much into my weekdays I can't muster the energy to do much more than veg on weekends.

numerounity said...

Alas, my life and schedule is also as similar as yours. But for me unwinding is very important and i do it by taking a good parlor indulgence ranging from mani/waxing/facial to spa or taking loads of sleep on weekends or watching tv mindlessly or having a cheaper home massage or indulging in a long pampering shower.

You can go binging too! :)

Brooklyn Recessionista said...

I have to agree with the consensus and say that running definitely does the trick. Often it's the only thing that will, for me. Especially a longer run, where you have enough time to really zone out. The endorphins inspire a confident attitude that sticks around for hours at least, and you feel ready to take on the world!

Melanie's Randomness said...

Oh yeah I'm there too. I've been seaerching desperately for a de-stresser. Aka why I started to blog. Well my main de-stresser to wind down is go to the driving golf range. I really cant golf but just hitting the golf balls as hard as I can really helps relieve tension!! I don't know if they have many golf driving ranges near chicago but it maybe worth a shot! =)

Erin said...

i did cardio kickboxing for awhile. i have since stopped, but i miss it. you get to meet new people (if you want), get out of the house, exercise, and get more energy (eventually). the only downside is that it can be expensive, depending on where you go.
good luck!

Lauren Tracey said...

I wish I had the answer. I just started a new job and am dealing with the stresses of proving myself and performing at the max. On top of that, I am captain of my kickball team, I am joining a local DC women's charity league, and I have a part-time job that I work 1 day a weekend. Even when I do have time to relax, it is spent hitting the gym or getting things accomplished that have piled up during the week. It is super stressful and causes me to get migraines whenever I do offer myself some downtime. The pressures of being a 20-something woman and the expectations of excelling both professionally and personally are definitely getting to me too...so you are not alone! Take solace in that. :-)

reinventingamy said...

I'm actually do stress counseling, but I know more than anyone saying and doing stress management are completely different things. I feel like I'm just as busy. Last week was particularly stressful on top of my normal work hours, my job was taken to a new level in my personal life. The thing that really works for me is deep breathing. It allows me to keep the busy schedule, but have those zen moments meditation brings. Normally I do deep breathing right before bed every night, but on particularly busy weeks- I'll take 5-10mins 3x a day. Or I put on heels and grab my ipod and dance around my apt ;)

Alex said...

Working out seems to be a popular recommendation - and I definitely think it works. But another thing I find helpful is writing. I get so stressed out during the weeks, and I'll lie awake at night thinking about everything I have to get done by Friday. But I've found that getting a notebook and getting all my stress out on paper really helps. Good luck!

thatShortChick said...

I have found that getting completely lost in a book helps de-stress me. Hit your local library, there are lots of good reads!

Dara Laine said...

I know what it's like, though I'm having employment problems right now (http://daraonthehunt.blogspot.com/).

What do you love? I would schedule time for yourself so it's in your planner and you know you have to do it. I like to run, take a bath or watch an emotional movie. For some reason having a good cry really helps cleanse my emotions and gets me ready for a new day. Like a reset button.

Shikha Khandelwal said...

You sounded like echoin me..Am I findin solace in the fact that its jus not me...many more...??? Well I guess with guilt..Yeah!!!!

But so many of them have found solns to it nd stickin to it... I hadn't but I can take a pick from the so many self practised recommendations!!!!1

Sassy Molassy said...

Yoga or a fun workout class is a great way. Or get outdoors and just breathe the fresh air. Take a hike, go on a walk in a beautiful area/neighborhood/along the lake with a friend or your ipod.

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