I couldn’t be more proud of my tenacious and curious Mother. I was graced with a family of learners and surrounded by smart people who asked questions about the world around us. The very definition of a life-long learner, my mom instilled in me curiosity, patience, and a deep passion for knowing.
When I endeavored to complete grad school, my mother was my champion (along with so many others). When the coin flipped and she faced the challenge of grad school, I was honored to listen to her puzzle through problems and talk about the ups and downs of classes. She finished her Master of Education degree almost one year ago and I am still glowing with pride and awe for the diligence and tenacity she exhibited in her pursuit of the degree. Having taught others most of her adult life (students and other teachers), she has always stayed abreast of current issues and needs in educating, and best practices and pedagogy. To me, and I believe her as well, the degree was a formalized acknowledgement of her lifetime of striving to be better, do better, and know more.
She was recently given an award from her primary professional organization for Outstanding Master’s Thesis. Her research was well reasoned and her passion for students and teachers shone through her work. Here she was, many months after completing school, doing more work; preparing a presentation, creating a research poster, spending time and money to disseminate this work she literally put blood, sweat, and tears into (the blood was from paper cuts!). Momma presented on her research to her professional peers and has no doubt, from this research and her decades of work in the field, made a lasting impact on teaching and the lives of those lucky enough to be in her tutelage.
My mother is always busy and so am I. We don’t live terribly far apart but it is still somehow difficult to make the time to spend together. This year, we vowed to get together more often and have, so far, done a pretty good job of seeing each other every few weeks. We’ve seen comedy shows, gardened, ate food, celebrated birthdays and holidays.. and regardless of the venue or activity I always find myself saying good bye and feeling so fortunate to learn from a woman so full of grace, humility, joy, and love. She and I can talk so pity to the companion who tries to keep up with us or interject (sorry to our husbands!). Basically, I love her. And, I wanted to brag about my awesome mom.
I am a classic stress-case in many ways. I appear as a calm ocean on the outside (or at least I hope I do), but inside my mind runs a lightening speed creating lists of all I have to do at work or at home, phone calls I feel guilty for not making (sorry, Dad!), birthday presents which are late and still not mailed out.. etc etc etc. I can work myself into a pretty tightly wound ball of stress quickly and especially as I get older, I am noticing more physical and mental symptoms associate with my stress. Bad stomach aches, indigestion, jaw popping (from clenching without noticing), headaches, heart racing, general dissatisfaction, and I am really started to develop worry lines:
Why am I telling you all this? Today is National Stress Awareness Day and I thought I’d share some of my tips and strategies for managing my own. I am not a trained expert per se (no LMHC here), but my through my education and profession I am steeped in the concept of self-care and as a seasoned stresser I have developed some pretty decent awareness and reduction practices.
5 Strategies for Stress Awareness & Reduction
1. Say No…sometimes
I love to say YES! This can be problematic because I want to do all the things all the time.When I was younger, this resulted in too many double-bookings and I found that I was not giving myself enough down-time to be alone and quiet my mind. I still enjoy being busy but have learned to look not only at if I am booked for that moment but also the larger pattern of busy-ness, I now take into consideration the recent past and nearing future before saying yes. In fact, if you ask MT, she’ll tell you I’m the queen of non-commitment these days.Learning to say no really comes from listening to multiple needs and not letting my loud extrovert voice take over. I find I need more alone time as I grow older so I am tuning in to my introverted side and saying “No” to more things these days.
The other piece of this is be choosy. Say yes to things, people, and activities that add joy and love to your life. Say no to things that don’t. Mind blowing, I know. But seriously – that person you don’t really like but keeps inviting you to do stuff? You can totally say “no, thank you”. I give you permission to say it over and over again. Fill you life, your hours, and your minutes with less things that feel obligatory and more things that fill you with happiness.
Well, it is how I try to roll, anyway. Despite what we all answer in interview questions, multitasking has been proven to be inefficient and not helpful. Why do we still think that is the correct answer to “How do you juggle competing priorities?” is “I do it all at once!”?! I don’t know. Single-tasking is the way to go. This is not my default, but especially when I am most stressed out, I am extra careful to focus on one task until it is complete. If I remember other things I need to do, I take a brief moment to jot it down so I don’t have to worry about forgetting it, then I go back to my ONE task. With single-tasking I get more done in less time while feeling less scattered and worried.
When I start to feel my heart race or thump loudly I stop what I am doing, take a deep breath, and pause. 15-30 seconds of self check-in does wonders for the body and mind. Sometimes I close my eyes, sometimes I don’t. I do a little inventory/scan of my physical body: where am I holding tension, what muscles are clenched, am I sitting up straight, when was the last time I ate, did I sleep enough last night etc., then do a mental inventory: what am I most worried about, what thoughts or stressors are unnecessary and/or unhelpful that I can let go of, etc. I work to just notice and try not to judge. Listening to yourself and checking in even briefly can tell you do much about what is going on. And when I stop to pause, I begin again better aware and prepared to handle or reduce the stress.
I suppose this is just a longer version of the pause. Particularly in the middle of a work day I set aside longer periods of time to not be on my phone, or tablet, or computer. I take a walk around campus or even just explore and walk around buildings if it is crappy out. Sometimes I listen to podcasts but in general I try to keep this time electronics free and use the opportunity to tune it to the people and nature around me. I let my mind wander and my body loosen. Without fail I come back to my desk more relaxed and positive. While the pause addresses acute stress and symptoms, this disconnect practice addresses overall reduction and stress management.
Really, any kind of exercise will do. It is so valuable to find something that can be a regular destressor and with the wide variety of exercises out there (zumba, yoga, weight lifting, running, biking, swimming) there really is something for everyone. For me, it isn’t about doing the most, or being the best, or going the fastest – it is about taking care of this body and mind and getting the most out of everyday. It is about shedding the day’s challenges and creating a mental and physical break in the day. When I spend the time and energy to exercise all sorts of other things seem to come easier, too: I eat healthier, I drink more water, I sleep better. No surprise – those things all help reduce stress.
These 5 stress awareness and reduction strategies help me appreciate and notice myself. Getting reconnected and in-tune with my body and mind helps me make better choices all around and is the best way to honor all the gifts they give me. We are all amazing and a little self-love goes a long way.
What are you favorite stress awareness and reduction strategies? When you get most stressed, what is your go-to for relief?
Also, isn’t Amy Poehler the greatest? I just adore her acting and her admire her commitment to helping young girls develop emotional intelligence, resiliency, courage, and confidence. She is a class act. Check out Amy’s Smart Girls if you haven’t. I bet she has some good times on stress reduction…
These are the newest member of my training team – Brooks Ghost 6! Now if I could just find the time between the new job and the moving to get my buns out for a run in them! Tonight for sure – no excuses and rain be dammed.
Aren’t they gorgeous!!? I’ve been running on Brooks Glycerine 10s since January and after my long run two weeks ago I just knew they were shot. The bounce was gone, they felt flat and heavy. I put about 250 miles on those shoes and they are tired and spent. I went to get new shoes and needed to special order these because they are an 11.5. Oh, huge feet, why do you do me like that?! I was tempted to just buy the 11s that were at the store and not have to wait 4 days, but I’m so glad I was patient. I got to do a farewell run on my Glycerines with my running buddy, MT, last weekend. The 8 miles seemed like a fitting send off and I’m ready to lace up and head out with my cushy, wonderful Ghosts! Gotta break them in before the half in September!
My u-pick berry haul from this weekend. Only took an hour to get ~11lbs of fresh, delicious, GIGANTIC berries. Can’t wait to clean and freeze them tonight so I can make jam soon!
So pretty in their buckets!
My berry picking partner!
The blackberries are HUGE! Also, the blackberry and raspberry bushes had no thorns on them! I’d never heard of such a wonderful thing. They were so easy and pleasant to pick! I’ve always stuck to blueberries and strawberries because I hate the thorns, but a whole new world was opened this weekend. I cannot wait to eat the jam.
- 44.3 = Miles I ran (or 71.3 Kilometers, or 233,904 Feet, or 2,806,848 Inches, or 38.5 Nautical Miles).
- 5 = States I set foot in (Arizona, Colorado, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington – listed in alpha order not awesomeness order)
- 3 = Siblings I hugged (That is all of them – a feat considering we live in Washington, Iowa, and New Jersey)
- 3,751 = Approximation of the times I kissed my newest family member (my nephew) (Sadly, I did not get to hug and love on my two intelligent, funny, kind, wonderful nieces)
- 3 = Lbs lost (slow progress is the best kind when it comes to healthy weight loss!)
- 1 = New jobs accepted (can’t wait to start it!)
- 14 = Days spent with Mr. (Summer traveling is fun but I miss him!)
- 3 = Times I ate Dunkin Donuts (4 times I drank coffee from D&D – (There aren’t any in WA and I love them so! With all my travel I had to get as much as I could!)
I’ve been on the job hunt since last summer when I was finishing up my MEd in Student Affairs Administration.. My diligence about constantly applying places has come and gone but essentially I’ve been continuously looking for a year now. I’ve rewritten cover letters and resumes time and time again. I’ve had interviews both on the phone and in-person. I’ve swallowed my pride and called to ask why I wasn’t offered jobs and what I can do to improve only to hear I was their finest interview and it just boiled down to not having a PhD or experience doing this exact task for that exact office.
When asked me about the job search I simultaneously wanted to hug people and say thank you for your empathy and interest, and then reenact this scene from a TV show I love, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia:
Well, it is with great pleasure that I announce I have accepted a new position that is going to bring lots of new adventures to Mr. and I. I have accepted a position as a Resident Director (RD), which, for you non-student affairs folks, means I’ll be supervising a staff of student Resident Assistants and managing one of the largest halls on our campus containing approximately 600 students. I was a Resident Assistant when I was in college and I’ll be returning to the exact dorm that began my path to a career in student affairs. Both Mr. and I are very excited.
We’ll live in the hall in a 1bdrm RD apartment in the dorm and we are in for all sorts of dorm living shenanigans. We will have to down size quite a bit as we are currently living (filling) a three bedroom house. I’m definitely the pack-rat in this family so I’ll have a much harder time eliminating excess than Mr. will. His inclination is to toss all belonging sans a few pieces of clothing every 6 months. One of the many ways we balance each other so well.
This new job will provide me with all the professional development and growth I was looking for in addition to guaranteeing I’ll have some pretty interesting stories to tell the rest of my life. Needless to say, the next several weeks will be very busy as I end my current position, start a new position, and host garage sales, pack, and move, but I’ll be around and so excited for all the changes ahead!
I love cold showers. Not freezing cold, but quite chilly and brisk. I know that might make some of you cringe, but it is so refreshing – especially after coming home from a warm, humid, sticky, sweaty summer run. In general, I like to shower and I like cooler rather than hot hot showers (although sometimes hot feels SO good). I often shower twice a day just because. Getting into bed all clean makes me sleep better and helps me wash away the day’s worries and frustrations. Combine that clean and renewed feeling with having just gone for a run and I am pretty much superwoman.
I went for a quick run yesterday and it was a steamy warm day. It had rained through the morning and the afternoon warmth turned it in to a bit of a humid mess here in the evening. Despite that, and perhaps with the motivation of escaping the banging above me from the roof repairs being done, I laced up and set out. It was a short run day so I pushed myself to run just a little faster and I was happy with my effort afterward.
My ankle has been feeling a bit better so I even did this short jog without my ankle brace. As it heels I’m giving it little tests here and there, but my longer runs and in races I’m still wearing the brace for good measure. The bruising is gone but it is still a bit swollen (it’s been 11 weeks for those of you counting along with me) and there are some movements where I cringe and remember that it is not at full strength. My patience is wearing thin, but my desire to be healthy and back at 100% is strong so I’ve been mostly behaving and taking good care of it!