“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress
into a positive one” – Hans Selye
When the school district where I work is talking about “staff reduction” for the third straight year, a task of writing two papers (6 or more pages, citing two external sources and only peer-review journals qualify) and the usual weekly reading of 75 pages in the psychology textbook and 50 pages in the other textbook hangs over my head, I confess, I feel a tad tense. “Just a tad” (says Jillian Michaels on her “30 Day Shred” workout video) completely understates the anxiety level I feel.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I’m not the only middle-aged co-ed to experience any stress in my life. After all, who would even attempt to juggle a full-time job, a full-time family and a full-time load of college credits? Only a mentally unstable person would think such a feat possible.
Apparently, my mid-life crisis meant returning to college. Instead of going out and buying a fancy hot rod (which would probably be cheaper, by the way) or getting some reconstructive surgery (ouch! The car is definitely more fun than this), I enrolled in college.
Making this decision wasn’t an easy one for me. My mother returned to college to get her nursing degree when I was 14. I didn’t see her for two years. I know you think I’m exaggerating, but I kid you not, she was at school all day and when she came home, she took her dinner into her bedroom, shut the door and came out once a week for an hour to watch “The A-Team.”
One time, I went in to talk to her about a problem I faced at school. She handed me her flash cards and asked me to quiz her on the skeletal system. You think I’m making this up, but that’s the last time I went in there to talk to her. I just tried to deal with my life and problems the best way I knew how (which wasn’t very effective, as many of my poor decisions from that time testify).
Before I decided to go back to school, I had been encouraged to get my teaching degree for three years by every teacher at work. One of them brought the subject up at least one time per week. I refused to even consider it until my sons were out of high school. As it turned out, I started college classes during my youngest son’s senior year (but I didn’t turn him away or ask him to quiz me). Sometimes we talked about literature I was reading that he had/would soon read in school, or we’d discuss some historical events.
Tips for Stress Management
While this hasn’t really read like proactive stress relief, I do have some tried and true ideas for reducing stress.
- Work out every day. I meet with Jillian at least one morning per week, do a little Tae Bo or Turbo Jam or plug in the Xbox Kinetic “Your Shape Fitness 2012” game; something on each weekday. On Saturday morning, I walk the treadmill (I didn’t make that up in my first post). Working out boosts endorphin levels, keeping energy level (and mood) up. Make time for this one!
- Indulge yourself with something small. For me, this means high quality dark chocolate. Maybe you want a double shot mocha from Starbucks, or Snickers satisfies you. When you feel the tension rising, stop and get your treat. Savor it and then get back to work. You’ll have a new perspective, I promise.
- Pamper your body. Stress takes a toll on our physique and that means we need to give this house of clay some TLC. I get a pedicure every month. While my feet soak, get massaged and eventually beautified, I talk. A good esthetician offers better therapy than a therapist (and for substantially less cash). Maybe a massage or facial will be more to your body’s liking. Whatever the case, love your body and it will serve your increasing demands.
- Get away from it all. Sometimes, you just have to say, “I’ll worry about it tomorrow.” This is my Friday evening mantra. I come home from work, check the discussion board, mark out my reading for the next day and then walk away. Sometimes I hang out with a rented movie (and my husband), or sometimes we meet friends for dinner or indulge in rousing games with some other friends. Find what works for your schedule and budget, and then mark it on your calendar. It’s a date!
- Vent. Go ahead and let it all out, but don’t direct it at your spouse or significant other. Spout off to your heart’s content: to the dog, the empty car or a friend who understands you’re not yelling at them.
- Sleep on it. Sometimes this can be a difficult one. When all the projects are lined up, my brain is working on them even if I’m not in front of my laptop. At times, this means I wake up at 3 a.m. with no hope of getting back to sleep. Give in to the impulse and get your thoughts on paper, but once the yawning begins, go back to bed. Sleep deprived, middle-aged brains don’tfunction well.