Although life can cause you stress (things act as stressors), life’s occurrences and situations are not in themselves stress. The stress is our response. One definition of stress that I find particularly astute is that stress is the perception that one lacks the resources to cope with a situation. Because stress is a physical response (manifested in the body) to events that threaten or upset one’s balance, stress can make us sick. I have been learning in my nutrition studies about the negative impacts on the body caused by long-term stress. I attribute the high rates of chronic diseases (such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure) among ethnic minority populations to the long-term stress of historical trauma and institutionalized racism. Of course education about nutrition and healthy lifestyle will improve the outlook for good health over the life course for minority populations. But I believe that if we want to make real inroads into reducing minority health disparities, we have to open the conversation about healing from historical trauma. These are general thoughts about the nature of stress. Interesting, but what about when I have to cope in my own life?
I have a lot of stressors in my life this year. I find it interesting that often when I disclose this to someone, they are eager to tell me the things that they do to relieve stress. Their impulse to help is endearing. My stressors? After not getting any grant writing work for several months during the fall, which devastated my savings, I am finally getting work and have taken on an enormous workload to replenish my savings account and pay down debt. So I am completely swamped; working evenings, weekends, pretty much all the time until mid-April. Ron continues to struggle with serious health issues and is recovering from foot surgery (off work on disability), which has him relatively immobile. We need to sell our house this year and move to something smaller and less expensive so that Ron can retire and pay more attention to his health. Next weekend we are having a garage sale (oy, so much work). We are scrambling to get house cleaning and repairs done so we can put the house on the market in April. Confined to a wheelchair (or on crutches), Ron is limited in what he can do in this regard because he can’t reach, lift, or maneuver. I don’t have the time to do this stuff, because I have so much grants work, nevertheless it has to get done. Somehow.
Whenever I can eke out a couple of hours to myself, I spend it doing my nutrition studies homework, which has slowed to a crawl (fortunately, it’s a go-at-your-own-pace program). In the midst of all this, on Wednesday my dear little cat, Ella, had a tumor removed from the top of her head (price of surgery: $1200; value of the antics of my precious imp: priceless). I will find out in a few days if it was cancer. At the moment she is sleeping peacefully in my lap. This weekend I missed Akili and Tina’s engagement party in SoCal because there was no earthly way that I could fly down there yesterday. And writing? Other than writing a million grants, my weekly blog post is the only personal or creative writing I continue to do. For the first time in twenty years I do not engage in creative writing almost every day.
How do I cope with the stressors of 2014? One thing I do is try to enjoy the process of doing all the things that need to get done. Enjoy working on my grants projects. Enjoy clearing stuff out of my house and lightening my burden of possessions. Enjoy the adventure of leaving this house and looking for a more wonderful one. Enjoy my nutrition studies when I have time for them. Enjoy having Ron around to chat with when I take a break. I intend to enjoy the garage sale, to enjoy chatting with the people who come by, unloading some possessions (even though the forecast is rain, but I’m setting it up inside the garage). Other things that I do to cope with stress include the following:
- Drink Tulsi tea. There are many good stress reducing teas on the market. Celestial Seasonings makes one called Tension Tamer that I also like. But Tulsi is my go-to stress reduction tea.
- Walk every morning, which is my personal form of meditation.
- Take Ashwagandha and Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng) supplements. These are “adaptogens” that help the body cope with stress physiologically. I swear by Ashwagandha. It’s terrific.
- Blog about my life once a week. (Thank you for reading.)
- Make lists to get things out of my head.
- Cook delicious, beautiful, nutritional food and eat it with loved ones.
- Drink lots and lots of water, even though it makes me keep running to the bathroom. Oh well.
- Garden or work in my yard. (Once again pruned all my fruit trees myself.)
- Put fresh flowers on my desk and kitchen table.
- Share a leisurely meal with my husband at least once a day.
- Schedule times to get together with friends.
- Communicate with one or another of my children via phone, email, text, and/or Facebook daily.
- Pet my cats.
- Visit the ocean.
- Watch a movie with Ron and then discuss it afterward. If I really need to unwind, we do a funny movie so I can laugh my head off.
- Watch football! (Go Niners.)
- Listen to music, one of the greatest healers of all.
- Limit exposure to the media. I am very careful to avoid violent images and to limit the amount of negative news I read.
- Try not to get distracted by the images, vids, article links, funny or uplifting whatevers, etc. sent to me via email and Facebook. I rarely click on these (sorry folks, if you send it, I usually delete it without viewing). I also limit the amount of time I spend on Facebook.
- Be nice to people I don’t know whose job it is to answer the phone and provide customer service after I have been on hold for twenty minutes and am ready to holler. (Especially challenging when I have been listening to advertising or crappy music while on hold.)
- Read before going to sleep every night.
- Try to see the humor in difficult situations.
- Be compassionate to others. Forgive.
- Feel grateful.
Making this list of things I do to reduce stress has actually helped reduce my stress level. I feel like I’m being proactive about not getting too bent out of shape despite sitting under the avalanche of life. That’s it for today. I gotta go make kale chips, drink more water, look at photos from Akili and Tina’s engagement party, pet a cat, spray copper on my fruit trees, write a grant, and continue to set up for next week’s garage sale. Hang in there folks. I can vouch for the fact that the incredible happens.
This is my computer wallpaper. I find it relaxing. It takes me down a path to peace.