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!

are we OVERsocial?

O, Technology! You silly banana.

So my recent (albeit trepidatious) forays into Twitter have led me to wonder about some things. Now, it’s totally obvious that this day and age, a large volume of our connectedness comes via the Internet. It’s been this way for awhile. Everyone has Facebook (preceded by Friendster and Myspace, which in 2009 laid off more than 30% of its workforce), most people have smartphones, everyone who’s cool Tweets, you have WordPress, Tumblr and Blogspot to choose from for blogging, the business minded connect with LinkedIn, social media is a rapidly growing marketing method, the lonely meet on Match.com, the photographers have Flickr…the list goes on. We “check in” when we visit a hip bar or venue (or even at mundane places, too), and we update our status and Tweet from every imaginable place, even the bathroom, often last thing at night and first thing in the morning. There are seemingly countless portals by which one can enter and connect with friends and like-minded people, and to photos, music, video and information. Or at least that’s the idea.

I’m all for the age of communication and instant gratification. I admit that find it gratifying when someone “likes” my Facebook status right away, follows me on Twitter or best of all, comments on my blog. It’s validating, and it feels like you’re really…well, connecting, hopefully in a positive way, sending your message into the world. But something happens on the days I know I spend too much time scanning my Facebook/Twitter feed, or keep my email open all day long (only to receive special offers from my favorite retailers..alas!). I feel a bit antsy. If I don’t get a reply right away, it’s like I’m just waiting for the next incoming thing. Before I know it, hours have passed and I’ve been just idly scanning the doings of other people, rather than focusing on my own. I know I’m not the only one who does this. As an example, who can forget the episode of The IT Crowd (Series 3, Episode, 5, Netflix it asap!) in which the gang gets addicted to the fictionalized “Friendface.” It pretty much sums it up.

Perhaps I just need to learn better time management skills or obtain some self-discipline, but what I’m getting at is this: The more “social networked” I get, the more disconnected I feel. I can’t decide if I should post a picture to Instagram or on Facebook, or text it to a specific person – or should I Tweet at them? Email attachments are so last year. I’m kind of an old-fashioned girl, and I’m comparatively new to the smartphone realm. It is my personal belief and observation that if you’re not careful, the Internet can rot your brain and shorten your attention span. And we all know the perils of multitasking. (Worst case? Nothing gets done. At all. Which is why it’s no surprise that many workplaces ban social networking websites altogether.)

The whole thing kind of got to boggling my brain, the more I thought about it. As someone who is striving for inner balance, how does one achieve this in a technology driven society? How can we stay connected and still feel human? I have observed the effects of my own attention span dwindling as I scan through tweets and posts. This 2009 New York Times article affirms my suspicions. (I second Lady Greenfield.) And that, friends, was in 2009, the year I showed up late to the Facebook party. How things have changed since even then. And this article on bNet confirms that our online interactions do in fact lead to a chemical reaction in our brains that make us addicted to the responses we get.

So what are we to do? In the day and age of almost everyone being online in some presence or another, how do we decide what social networking sites get our time, and how do we best manage that time? What are your thoughts on social networking? What outlets do you use, and why? How do you choose from the cornucopia of choices available? Would you say you are “addicted” to social media? And what impact does social media have on your actual life?

I’m curious! Please share. 🙂