Making friends with stress

Stress is bad. We hear this everywhere; our culture is filled with pressure to be productive and efficient and all kinds of obstacles that prohibit our success, but doctors are always telling us to “reduce stress.” I guess…get a massage, take a bath, take a long walk, say no more often, “unplug,” do aromatherapy, adult coloring…etc–the list of “stress” treatments goes on and on.

I envy people who can go with the flow, or who would describe themselves as “laid-back” (every guy on Match.com, if memory serves). But I’m a naturally high-strung person. I’m worried, reactive, and paranoid. My brain is a constant flurry of “what ifs.” Sleeping is hard because my brain wants to remember every incident in my life, however irrelevant to my current circumstances. I am always worried about what needs to be done. I’m a type A personality, but also an expert procrastinator. Being in college for four years has helped me somewhat with “time management,” and I’m used to functioning under high stress situations–my job, for one.

As graduation approaches, I’m tentatively taking steps into what my future holds. For the longest time, I assumed I would apply for grad school, not even pursuing teaching certification without a Master’s degree. Now, I’m not so sure. Having a Master’s can earn you more pay, but it can also price you out of a job when districts don’t want to pay that extra. Maybe I should go through the steps to get certified pre-grad school, and keep that on the back burner as an option? Part of me wants to keep the momentum going of being in school because I love it, and not that much in my life has to change–I can still work full-time and take my online classes, and I’m used to the routine of having homework all the time. I have no idea what I’m going to do, but I suppose I’m going to start by contacting the New Hampshire DOE to see what their process is for alternative certification. I wish SO hard that I had done the “normal” thing and gone to college right after high school…maybe things would be easier now and I would already be doing something rewarding/fulfilling. Alas, that was not my path.

uncertainty

The uncertainty of what comes next, combined with daily stressors (work, mid-March blizzards delivering 20+ inches of snow) has made me feel like I’m about to explode. Rather than eliminate all stress (unrealistic), I’m trying to make friends with my stress and help it help me achieve my goals. According to Psychology Today, moderate stress can be a good thing: it helps motivate you and prepares you to better handle other stressful live events better than those who experience little to no adversity. A study at UC Berkelely found that exposure to moderate stress actually increased brain activity.

Questions for you, reader: How are the stress levels in your life? What stresses you out the most? What tools do you use to deal with stress? Please share in the comments!

what’s happiness worth?

leapoffaith

Most Americans hate their jobs. Think Office Space. Let’s present a strictly hypothetical situation:

You work 40 hours (Mon-Fri) at a cubicle-type job. The work is tedious, the interactions frustrating, and draining. Management is cracking down and becoming increasingly punitive and micromanagey. Your colleagues are quietly complaining at the water cooler and in whispers; morale is low. When you get home you (wrongly, of course) tend to take your frustrations out on your significant other and find it hard to focus on your schoolwork (as you do have aspirations beyond this desk job) or other hobbies and passions.

You have no emotional connection to your work. It depletes and exhausts you mentally. You are absolutely the “wrong fit” for this type of job and you know it isn’t serving your mind or spirit. Yes, It’s “easy” and bearable at certain times, and you get some downtime to play on the internet, you’re allowed your phone at your desk. You get paid decent wages (but not a lot) and have good health benefits, allowing you some basic financial stability. But bottom line: you HATE your job.

officespace

Let’s just say (hypothetically) you got an opportunity for a job that was less hours, odd hours (possibly weekends/holidays), and less pay. But, it was a job that aligned with your passions and interests, something you think you could really be happy doing, something that would allow you to use skills and knowledge that you already have. The decrease in working hours would allow you to spend more time on your coursework, thus allowing you to graduate from college sooner and work harder on your eventual goals.

If you had the (hypothetical!) support of your family or significant other, would you take a leap of faith into the “unknown” into a job that could fulfill and satisfy you, or continue to “play it safe” at the job you loathe with a passion? The economy is a reality, sure. But what about happiness? What about achieving something greater than just a bank balance and “stability?” What’s it worth?

As usual, I find great truth in Gabrielle Bernstein’s vlogs. I actually put off watching this video because I knew I WAS “dancing around the perimeter of who I want to be.” I’ve been looking from the outside in at people who have careers that I want, and live creative and satisfying lives. I need to think about what’s holding me back and make those changes happen now. Life is too short to be complacent. That may be fine for others, but I know it’s not for me, not anymore.

Please share your own thoughts & experiences on job (dis)satisfaction and career “leaps of faith.” x

comparing is toxic behavior

comparing

In light of recent events – my boyfriend getting a teaching job and me being extremely bitter/jealous/resentful of his success due to my dead-end job and being at the very beginning of my education – I’ve found myself gravitating towards “positive” blogs. I used to be much more spiritual, much more aligned with love and light, and my intentions were better. I don’t know what happened, but I’ve definitely lost that spark. I hate who I’ve become. I feel completely inadequate and ashamed of my choices and where they’ve lead me. I compare my lack of success to my boyfriend’s success and it eats me alive.

It’s unrealistic, obviously, to expect to be an exact even match with your romantic partner. It is difficult, I’m finding, when you find yourself with a fellow creative person with similar interests, passions and goals. It feels competitive, but it shouldn’t. I’m not sure I want to teach, per se. I just want to have a career that is more tailored to my the things that I love (just like everyone else in the world).

I stumbled across this post by Rosie Hanke, and it really resonated with me, so I thought I would share:

“You don’t need anything more in your life to be someone great….”

Have you ever looked at the lives of people around you and then came back to yourself with a yucky feeling inside questioning why you don’t have what they have or how you could be at such a different place in life than them? *raises hand* I have. It’s part jealousy – part insecurity.

I have looked at my friends’ lives and compared my own life to theirs only seeing the positives in their own and the negatives in mine. I saw how far ahead some of them were in their schooling, in their careers (yes, careers, not just jobs), and life in general. I thought how did I mess everything up so much to end up where I am? ..So far from where I thought I should be and where society said I should be. I was mad at myself and comparing myself to others success only made things worse.

Are you comparing yourself to someone else or someone else’s accomplishments? If so, Stop! When we do things like that we are only hurting ourselves. I came to realize that looking at my life in such a way that could only make me wish I had more to prove of myself was pretty ridiculous. It doesn’t matter where I am in life or what I have accomplished at this point in time- None of those things make me more or less loveable and the same goes for you.

You don’t need anything more in your life to be someone great, or to be more valued, or to have a better looking life— You are already worth so much more than you can imagine. Where you’re at in life does not define your worth.

It can be so easy to fall into a place of self-hate when you compare yourself to others; don’t do that to yourself. When you stop comparing, you open up your world and yourself to a newfound freedom that gives you the magic and the beauty to just be yourself!

Love yourself where you are, for who you are.

Do you ever get stuck in comparing yourself to others? How do you deal with it? Please share in the comments! xo

I’m sorry/I can’t/don’t hate me

In “The Post-It Always Sticks Twice,” Carrie gets dumped by her boyfriend, fellow writer Jack Berger, via Post-It note. “I’m sorry/I can’t/don’t hate me” was scrawled on said Post-It. Leading up to the breakup, we see Berger’s recurrent insecurities about Carrie’s even more successful career, and how it makes him feel inadequate. Carrie received a huge check from her publisher; Berger’s second book option (at the same publisher) gets dropped. He feels like a “big fat failure” and is finding it increasingly difficult to be supportive in Carrie’s shadow, even though he cognitively knows and admits that she is “magnificent” and has earned her success.

True to form, I can relate almost any life situation to Sex and the City, and this is where I am right now. Only instead of being Carrie, I’m Berger. I just found out that my boyfriend (whom I love, adore and now live with) got his first real English teaching job, at the same school where he is currently the writing lab instructor. This will mean a big pay increase of course, and it’s what he’s always wanted to do, what he went to school for. A good girlfriend would be happy for her man when he gets the job he wants. Right? Somehow I can’t be. And it makes me sound like a bad person, but I’m trying to work out the reasons why I’m not happy, and can’t seem to shake the feelings that I have.

I’m jealous and resentful. I think that sums it up the best. I had toyed with the idea of being an English teacher on and off in my younger years. Instead of going to college out of high school, I dropped out, moved in with my boyfriend and got married at 19 (divorced at 20). During the last 7 years, I’ve worked my butt off to keep a roof over my head. I finally started school about three months ago. I’ve essentially ruled out becoming a teacher, mainly because I can’t take the required day program while working full time. Then again, I’m not even sure what I would be good at. Writing freelance? Editing? Who knows. I’m feeling all kinds of insecure and inadequate, even though I have a 4.0 and glowing feedback from the one English course I’ve taken thus far. I’ve only just begun. The job market is bleak. I know I should think positively and be happy I’m working towards my goals now, but I don’t feel that way. At all.

In the past few weeks as I’ve known bf’s interview was impending, I provided false words of encouragement. I thought if I resented him and hoped he didn’t get the job, I should (wisely, no?) keep my mouth shut and be supportive. I secretly hoped he didn’t get chosen. Not necessarily because I don’t want him to be happy, because I do, but simply because my own inadequacies are THAT crippling. I know how juvenile and hateful that sounds, believe me. I have my own issues (borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety) and it’s really hard to balance them with a healthy relationship. Believe it or not, we do have a good relationship. This issue of resentment regarding career has come up before. The only thing I’ve done is keep plugging away at school and trying to put on a happy face when it comes to his successes. But it’s not working.

Today I confessed my resentment, probably shouldn’t have. And things have gone downhill from there. I said some terrible things which I hate to say, I actually meant. I’m talking to my good friends, and I know what I “should” do (apologize and work things out) but it isn’t that easy or that simple. My friends do understand why I feel the way I do, and so does he. Sometimes it helps to have a little understanding…but it doesn’t change how I feel.

Have you ever been envious or resentful of a partner’s success? How did you (or do you) cope with those feelings?