It was another manic Monday here at the Chronicle, or, at least, I was pretty sure it was going to be. Somewhere between deep sleep cycles in the wee hours of Monday morning as I was lying in bed, my mind started thinking about all the stuff that wasn't done for the Tuesday paper, which we print on Mondays. There was this column and a story wrapping up the county general election and the state primary from last week. I had a few features I was working on. There were also a couple of special projects, which you'll be seeing pretty soon.
All of that had my brain cells working overtime. But, it was 3:30 in the morning, and I wasn't going to head into the office quite that early. I managed to quiet those voices and return to my slumber, sleeping right through my morning alarm.
When I did rise and shine, I was in a race with the clock, and the clock was winning. As each minute clicked forward, I started thinking about that list of things that needed to get done, and I started to get a little anxious, a little stressed.
I don't mind a little stress in my life. I like to be busy. I thrive on it. I have a calendar filled with appointments and deadlines, and I love it. I'm a type A personality and I'm not ashamed of it.
But every now and then, the stress gets to me. When the deadlines are looming and there's more work than time, I just feel drained.
That's when I know I need to take a step back and see what can be done, what can wait and what just isn't going to happen.
There is no denying that we live in stressful times. We work all day and work all night. I don't know how people with children cope with everything they have to do. I sometimes feel it's all I can do to keep all my balls in the air as I juggle everything. I can't imagine throwing in basketball practice and soccer games and homework help on top of everything else. My hat is off to all the parents out there who do balance all of that daily. And so many of you manage to make it look easy, though I know it can't possibly be.
But too much stress takes a toll on our health — mentally and physically. The body reacts to stress by releasing adrenaline that will speed up heart rate and breathing and cause blood pressure to rise. Our body is primed for "fight or flight," but in many cases, stress is not an isolated incident, and we'll keep our bodies in this amped up state for days or even weeks at a time.
Medical experts say the link between chronic stress and heart disease isn't clear. I just know that when I get overly stressed, I don't take good care of myself. I eat what's handy, whether that be fast food and candy and sweets kept all to close at hand. Rarely to I respond to stress by saying, "I think I'd like an apple." Nope. I want cookies and a burger. I may leave work feeling exhausted and the chances of going to the gym or going for a run after work go from likely to slim to none. That's a shame because regular physical activity is shown to relive mental and physical tension. Just getting a little sunshine while taking the dog on a leisurely walk can improve mood. I've also found kickboxing to be calming. Some find yoga soothes stress, but it doesn't really work for me. In that last five minutes of class when you're supposed to be breathing, I spend it thinking about all the things I could have been doing for the last hour. If I'm moving and sweating, I find I'm a lot less distracted from my workout.
I also find my stress is relieved when I'm organized. Like I said, I'm a type A personality. Order is calming to me. Knowing what needs to be done and when can help keep me from overreacting about the latest project that may not need to be done right this second.
One healthy habit that is suggested is to try not to worry. I don't think I worry too much, but sometimes, when I'm not even paying attention, my mind will wonder and I'll start getting worried about this, that or the other. But worrying about what could happen means I'm not focusing on what is happening now. I'm allowing myself to steal moments of laughter and fun from my life, and I need those. Those are the moments that really help me deal with my stress. Those are the times that help me to remain positive. Those are the memories I draw on to keep me going when the going gets bumpy.
I hope everyone finds some moments that help them get through the stress that crops up in our lives every day, from traffic snafus to chores left undone. Control what you can, and laugh about the rest, and when your daily stress invades your rest, quiet those voices and go back to sleep.
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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.