Monday, July 1, 2013

Ways to Deal with Stress

I think leftover expectations from my school years coupled with the fact that, generally speaking, theatre seasons are Fall through late Spring have combined to make me always expect Summer to be easy-breezy. Vacations, day drinking, picnics and barbeques, flitting about like a woman who laughs alone with salad - I just sort of want to do nothing in the Summer months. But I'm here to tell you that this is not the case. For starters, my day career kicks into extremely high gear round about the middle of June and pummels away at my patience and tolerance until September. For enders, I think we all want to cram as many fun things into each Summer as possible, making every free moment an opportunity to "enjoy the weather."**

What I'm trying to tell you is that I'm a bit of a ball of stress. Not to mention I've been trying to avoid/deal with some low-grade depression, which makes all of this a lot more fun.

Mental Health America's first question to determine whether you are stressed or not is "Do you find yourself 'eating emotionally': eating unhealthy foods or eating when you’re not hungry, as a response to stress or difficult feelings?" I figured I was in deep trouble when my first thought was, "Is there another way to respond???"

So I looked up a few tips on "dealing with stress" and they are, well, kind of hilarious. Spoiler Alert: absolutely none of them recommend soothing oneself with pizza. Damn it. Here are some highlights:

from Mental Health America:
Connect with others
Stay positive
Get physically active
Help others
Get enough sleep
Create joy and satisfaction
Eat well
Take care of your spirit
Deal better with hard times
Get professional help if you need it

from WikiHow:
Work your body out
Get enough sleep
Eat properly
Learn to relax

from American Heart Association:
Count to 10 before you speak.
Take three to five deep breaths.
Walk away from the stressful situation, and say you'll handle it later.
Go for a walk.
Don't be afraid to say "I'm sorry" if you make a mistake.
Set your watch five to 10 minutes ahead to avoid the stress of being late.
Break down big problems into smaller parts. For example, answer one letter or phone call per day, instead of dealing with everything at once.
Drive in the slow lane or avoid busy roads to help you stay calm while driving.
Smell a rose, hug a loved one or smile at your neighbor.

OKAY. So some of these are helpful (breaking problems into smaller parts, sleep, eat actual food, go for a walk) but some of these are TOTAL BULLSHIT. Learn to relax?! Oh thank you, I will do that immediately. Take care of your spirit? What even! Smell a rose!? SHUT UP. That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard, and I used to regularly listen to morning shows on rock stations. I decided to make my own list of tried and true methods that I will be rolling out on the regular. Buckle up.

* Actually, yes, eat actual food that has vitamins and nutrients in it. You will feel better AND if you're eating kale or something like that you can feel all smug and fancy. All the better.

* Actually, yes, go to the gym or take a yoga class or zumba or something that will make you not just sit in front of the couch until you run out of episodes of Sherlock. You can use Sherlock as a motivator, as in  "After I do 20 mins of cardio, I am totally going to watch Sherlock." You guys have seen Sherlock, right? It's a wonderful motivator.

* Actually, yes, sleep. Sleep is good. I don't have a lot of time for people who think sleep is for the weak. I used to be one of those people. To my 22 year old self I say: Self, you are an idiot. Get more sleep. Your skin will look better.

* Two words: Dance. Party. This is the best stress buster I know. It can be a dance class, a night out at some club or something, an impromptu kitchen dance party with some friends, or an all-out, balls-to-the-wall, sweaty-as-you-can-be solo dance party in your room with the door closed. The advantage to the solo dance party is that no one will judge you when you bust out some Backstreet Boys. And maybe know all the moves. And maybe pretend you are a Backstreet Boy. It's fine. No one will know.

* There is a time and a place for this one, but one of the best stress relief techniques I know is, ahem, la petite mort. Helpful AND fun.

* Maybe this has to do with "taking care of your spirit" but I feel very strongly that little things that make you happy are worth the extra bit of time. Nothing makes me happier than looking down and seeing my nails nicely shaped and painted a pretty color. It takes me about 20 minutes to make this happen. It's worth it. (My nails are currently painted a color called "Mint." I had them painted this color for a date a few months ago and the dude I was out with commented in a disparaging way about 30 year old women wearing "teenage nail polish." I held out my hand and said, "Like this, you mean?" You should have seen his "OH CRAP" face. Still not sure if  the "OH CRAP" face was because he no longer wished to be seen with me or because he thought that was going to ruin his chance with me. The rest of his personality was so awful, the nail polish judgment was but a blip.)

* Fantasize about something nice. Whether that means trolling the real estate listings in Paris, or looking up the statistical possibilities of actually meeting and talking to Gloria Steinem, or planning what you would do with three million dollars... just do that for a few minutes. It sucks to come back to reality but it's nice to think about your alternate life where Michelle Obama calls you to see if you think she should grow out her bangs. (Eh, maybe?)

* When all of that fails, just keep this photo handy and know that you'll be okay.

** Not that Philadelphia has had weather to enjoy lately, unless you are like Shirley Manson and are only happy when it rains. PS you guys  - where did Shirley Manson go? I never mastered eyeliner quite the way she did.


  1. So - I can't remember if you are an animal lover/companion? Obviously, you have great taste because you love the picture above, but do you like spending time with animals? I only ask because doing so on a regular basis has changed my whole view on life. I won't say - "get a dog/cat" because having any animal is much harder said than done and should only be taken on with the full understanding of what it all means and if you have time/money. Big responsibility, big committment, etc. BUT - if you don't come home to a furry friend now (and you enjoy animals and are not allergic) - may I suggest volunteering to play with them at an animal rescue or just making a plan to go visit occasionally? Such a stress reliever! OR there is an organization called "Warrior Canine Connection" that breed and train therapy dogs to be companions for vets with PTSD. They have a live cam set up watching all these puppies being rollie pollie and adorable before they are trained (and sometimes after). The current batch is 3 weeks and they are labs and -goosh- they are so cute. For your gooshing pleasure -!/live-cams/player/service-puppy-cam
    That is my contribution to your "how not to stress" post. I just read your blog and laugh, but somehow I don't think that would work for you!!
    ~Erin O

  2. That is amazing, Erin! Thank you for telling us that!!!

  3. When I'm stressed I lay on the floor and pretend I'm a crumb for about an hour.