Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stress free? Not a chance.

I teach yoga and I used to be a life coach. It stands to reason that stress should be easy for me to handle. If you listen closely, you'll hear everyone who knows me laughing hysterically. I work well under pressure. I don't deal well with stress. I'm living proof that the two are not mutually exclusive. I do yoga, I try to meditate, I exercise, I eat clean and I take my vitamins. So what gives with the stress?

Part of it is the sheer volume of my workload. I'm writing a 90,000 word novel right now. It sounds doable. Except from start to finish, I'll have written a 90,000 word novel in about 45 days. A few of those days will be spent editing. At least 7 of those days will be spent editing a previous book in that series. Yet another 5 days will be spent finishing details on the first book in the series, answering emails, promotion and any other number of things. None of this includes my full-time mom gig. Or the invites, phone calls, etc., I receive. Or life in general (hello mountain of laundry). If my calculations are correct, I'll be cranking out that novel in about 30 days, give or take. Ever tried to write 3000+ words a day, every day for 30 days straight? This is why many writers are raging alcoholics.

Instead of going completely crazy, I'm looking at it like this: Every day brings a new set of opportunities and challenges. Stress is a fact of life. You'll see countless books, articles, CDs, and workshops on how to eliminate it. Eliminate it? Give me a break. Stress is necessary. I'm not talking about the disgustingly high levels of stress many of us carry around on a daily basis. *raises hand with guilt* I'm talking about the ebb and flow of good times and stressful times. It's cyclical, which gives me hope.

I don't know about any of you, but I always learn from my stressful times. I've learned a LOT over the past couple months. Including how necessary it is to take a day or two off each week. I've also learned that friends and family have a difficult time understanding when I say, "Sorry, I can't go do that because I'm working," or "I'm not answering the phone because I'm on the floor in the fetal position having waking nightmares about deadines," they don't know I mean it literally.

I love my career, stress and all. I love that I gain a clearer perspective with each stressful day. I love that I had a brief affair with coffee, but learned we just couldn't get along. I love that I have my yoga mat to go to when I need a little break. I love that my kids and husband are so understanding of my 12-17 hour days on the computer. I don't know how to live a life 100% free of stress, but I don't think that's the point. The idea is to take each day, and roll with it. Stress happens, but it doesn't have to derail you. Here's what helps me:

1) Don't forget to breathe--it's crucial for things like staying alive, but it also combats stress.
2) Don't forget to eat--proper nutrition is more than dark chocolate, coffee and more coffee.
3) Decompress with a show--my guilty pleasures are reruns of Whose Line Is It Anyway and Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
4) Exercise--this does not include walking to the coffee pot for a refill, or chasing magpies out of your garden because they keep eating the damn...*inhale, exhale* Did I mention breathing also works for anger management?
5) Sleep--I haven't mastered this one yet, but I hear it's important. If you get 8 hours a night, let me know if it helps.

What is your best stress-reducing ritual?


Rachel Firasek said...

Oh, Jess, I'm feeling your stress. My novellas are much shorter, but with deadlines piggy-backing I forget to do everything you suggested. Mostly I don't sleep. It's my lizard background. But, that's another story. lol. Thanks for reminding me about what's important and how to keep myself from that fatal fetal position.

Christa said...

Sleep?? What's that???
Um, do you need a co-author?


Rachel Brooks said...

Writing can be VERY stressful. I completely agree with you that Buffy is an awesome way to de-stress. Buffy + chocolate is the best ;)