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!

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Graduate school: the crossroads

edu_wilde

I just finished submitting my petition to graduate. If all goes well with my final class (!!) this semester, I will be graduating Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature. I can barely type those words without being overwhelmed by emotion. I can’t believe I’ve finally gotten here. This is the direct result of four years of personal sacrifice, neglected friendships, adventures postponed, Sunday afternoons hunched over my laptop writing literary analysis papers. My education has always come first, and it shows in my GPA, in the feedback I’ve gotten from my professors. It’s hard for me to remain modest when I’m so proud of how far I’ve come and what I’ve accomplished. But what comes next?

I began pursuit of my Bachelor’s Degree with the full intention that I wanted to teach English. By and large, I never questioned that. Now that the applications for grad school are casting their long shadow over my days, I’m (true to form!) questioning that goal. There’s no money in teaching. Finding a job is really hard, and the job market is fiercely competitive (considering there is no money in teaching, I still find that odd). And of course: teaching is a ton of work. If I choose to teach at a public high school, I can expect a thankless flock of apathetic students, to which my boyfriend can attest. I’ve toyed with careers as an editor, or perhaps a librarian, which would require alternate Master’s programs. Getting my Master’s is not optional for me; it has been my intention from day one, to keep the wheels of education turning. I love education; I’ve thrived on it for years. More than anything, my love of literature and writing has propelled me forward. So it makes sense that I share that passion with others, to the best of my ability.

So now the question remains: Where do I apply to grad school? It needs to be online, because (sadly) I have to keep working full-time, as I have for my entire undergrad program. Do I pursue a Master’s of Education, or a Master’s of English, perhaps Creative Writing? I know to get certified to teach in New Hampshire I’ll need to pursue alternative certification routes. I can’t afford to student teach and not make money. All of the options out there are so daunting. In spite of my success in my undergraduate program, I can’t help but question my own intelligence and abilities: what if all those grades were just a fluke, dumb luck? (I don’t think so, but maybe.) Can I even do it? Am I tall enough to be a teacher? And scariest of all: what if I hate it? I couldn’t hate it more than what I do now, to be sure…but how do I know what the “right” program is for me? I feel like these are questions most people answered in their early 20s, but I am a late bloomer when it comes to higher education. I’ve learned that as long as you’re alive, it’s never too late to try something new.

If you are in the teaching profession, I would really love your input, so please comment. I’ll be sure to check out your blog, too.

 

lessons in letting go

Once I heard that your spiritual growth is like a class. Only if you keep failing the class, you keep repeating it over and over again until you pass. LETTING GO is what I’m doomed to repeat, it seems. Over and over. I fought to hold on to someone for years who I should have released immediately. Sometimes I’m certain we should never have been together, at least not as long as we were. It was damaged and hideous at the end. Life is such a balancing act. We fight to hold on to the people and things that matter to us, and we also fight to let them go. “Never letting go” is a painful and constrictive promise. The wise would know when to fight harder, and when to let go.

Recent times have presented me with another circumstance in which my heart is being pulled. It wants to hold on. It wants to make this person important. It wants to plant roses at his feet. On the contrary, this other man seems mired in his own pain/madness/sorrow/shackles. Far too much so to see me standing at the other end with my arms and heart wide open. And even though he said he didn’t want to disappear…that’s precisely what he did. My awakened self, the Spirit Junkie inside me says – be cool. Be okay that this is not part of the Universe’s plan right now for you. Marvel that you have the capacity to admire and care for someone that much. And then let him go.

Letting go is powerful. Liberating. Divine. If you can get there. 

“You probably think, in general, you could have done more. It was never about your doing more, it was always about trusting that it was out of your hands.”
— From Blue Jelly by Debby Bull

If he’s stupid enough to walk away, be smart enough to let him go.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about something like this. And it definitely won’t be the last. But it’s important for me to do. Every time I practice this I get a little stronger. A little better. A little closer to really, truly letting go.