I am a big fan of the homeopathic Rescue Remedy spray for stress and sleep relief. I can't tell scientifically if it works, I can just say that having a spray bottle handy whenever you are about to take a big hit of stress makes you feel like you are at least DOING SOMETHING. Besides the spray is alcohol based so it gives me a Pavlovian response to having a cocktail after work and thinking the day is behind me.
Unfortunately last week there wasn't enough Rescue Remedy in the world to keep me from experiencing some of the worst stress of my life. In fact, by Friday my neck, shoulders and chest were so sore from clenching I could barely pull a shirt over my head.
I have been around long enough to know that when I feel that kind of overwhelming stress it probably doesn't have much to do with what I think it does. In this case, it was work and unreasonable expectations being placed on me and my team. The key word here is "unreasonable" that's the trigger.
I'm not afraid of hard work, in fact, I believe that it is good for the soul and I'm a gal who is up for a challenge. My motto has always been, "bring it on." So while there is a good deal of stress built into achieving the impossible, it is "good stress."
The "bad stress" is what makes my upper body twist itself into knots and that's when I feel the weight (get it? weight on my shoulders?) of other people's expectations and needs and I make them more important than my own. The demand may be ridiculous, the expectation absurd and the motivation beyond professional but I still think it is my duty to jump through that hoop.
It is one thing to recognize the source of pain, it is another to find the right salve for it (notice how I didn't say cure?) As soon as I realized what was happening I tried to step back and think about what I really valued most about my life and my job and then I did the only thing I know that works. I talked about it to the people I trust.
Talking it through helped me make connections to why I feel that way and why it makes me so stressed. (Hint: it goes back to my childhood -- big surprise!) I also had to hear from others that I needed to relax and take better care of myself. Next, I put myself on a semi-blackberry blackout by taking a drive to Orient State Park and had a picnic with friends. The day was glorious and as we grilled burgers and looked out on the beautiful Long Island Sound I felt the tension melt away.
Sometimes it's easier to keep working than to stop and breath and assess what matters and what doesn't. While I am still very much a work in progress, I am making progress in learning how to find the right balance. I would like to get to the point where I don't let the stress affect me like it does and most of all I would like to make myself a priority in the face of so many ridiculous demands.
For now though, I am content to know I am baby-stepping my way toward that change. In the meantime, I picked up a backup bottle of Rescue Remedy...just in case.