I have been away from writing for a few weeks now due to an enormous amount of transition and responsibility on my plate. Not only did I start a new job teaching while taking a graduate level seminar, my community outreach program geared up for the season and I was a major contributor for a local fundraising event. I hadn’t slept well in since August 12 and I keep waking up at 4am…no matter what time I went to bed.
Suffice it to say, I have been overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed out. I also know this is temporary. I knew going into my New Teachers Collaborative program that I would be overwhelmed for a while. It’s part of the learning and part of my growing and returning to the workforce.
However, being stressed out for long periods of time is not healthy, physically or mentally. To keep myself from having a meltdown I am making sure to do the following:
- Honor my 4am wake up “call”. Some say that the time between 4am and dawn is when the veil between our world and other (spirit) worlds is the thinnest. Our dreams can be more vivid, realistic, and meaningful. It is a great time to meditate, journey, or engage in other spiritual and relaxation practices. I, myself, stopped fighting this wakefulness because I was just getting out of bed at 5:30 more tired than if I had just allowed myself to practice my meditation at 4am. Also in honoring this 4am alertness, I make sure to go to bed earlier. Yes, it has put a damper on my social life but right now I need to take care of myself. I cannot control this 4am thing so I am going to learn to work with it.
- Cry. I make sure that on those days when every thing seems to go wrong and I feel like crying that I let myself go. Nothing clears out stress and anxiety like a good old fashioned cryfest. It is probably one of the most stress-relieving things a body can do. Have trouble connecting to your inner baby? Try watching a sad or emotional movie or just reflect on some of the deep emotions you are feeling. For me, just thinking about how inadequate or incompetent I feel will bring a flood of tears…and eventually clarity.
- Go for my walk. No matter what, when I get home I take my dogs for a walk in the woods. I have been walking my dogs 4-5 days a week for 4 years now and its important to my physical and mental health. It’s also important for my dogs. There are some days that I cannot take them but I make sure that is an anomaly. It’s really important for us to connect with nature on a regular basis and we need to make sure we get exercise every day, if possible.
- Exercise. Yes, my walking is exercise but I my body needs more than that. So, as I am getting a routine down I am looking for ways I can fit some weight-bearing exercise or aerobics into my schedule. I have a plan in my mind and I will try to incorporate it this week….if not, I will try again next week. The point is to make a plan and then try to implement it. Don’t berate yourself if you forget, just refocus and try again. Keep it in your mind until you can incorporate it or something better.
- Yoga. I do my sun salutations every weekday morning. As soon as I get out of bed, I do my little yoga routine. It grounds me and gets my stiff joints moving. I find my day goes much more smoothly when I start with my yoga practice. I still look forward to getting back to a class but until I can, this practice is really helping me stay strong, flexible-ish, grounded and positive.
- Eat healthy. During times of stress it’s really easy to eat poorly. However, I make sure to bring a large salad for lunch everyday with some form of healthy protein. I make sure to limit my “bad” snacks and alcohol because I am not exercising as much as I should and I do not want to get into bad habits as I start this new phase of my life. It’s all about habits and routines. I continue to try to prepare homemade meals but since I do not have as much time during the week, I try to prepare some things on Sunday to help kick-start weekday meals.
- Practice mindfulness. They say when you are stressed out and too busy for meditation, or mindfulness, that that is when you need to do more of it. I have to admit I haven’t been very good about practicing my midnfulness but I do still try to slow down, even if it’s just in the shower or taking the dogs out in the morning. I do practice my breathing at 4am or whenever I am feeling anxious. It really helps and I do plan on ramping this practice up as my routine starts to solidify.
- Maintain perspective. It is really important to maintain a healthy perspective, especially during tough times. Tough times do not last, tough people do. I tell myself everyday that I knew this year would be hard but it’s only for 1 school year. Each day it gets easier and each day I get more effecient. Learning and going outside your comfort zone is always hard but totally worth the effort. Just make sure to stay positive and not let yourself go to those dark places. Try not to lash out at others and try not to pay attention to the negativity that is in the world. Stay off of social media if it brings you down or takes you to a dark place. It really is a time suck.
- Pay attention to nature. 2 week ago, I had one of the worst weeks ever. I thought I was going to lose my mind I was so stressed out and anxious. Instead I cried, did all these things and gave myself time; time to learn, time to gain some experience, time to transition, and time to feel (really feel). Then the dragonflies came out. Just as I was starting to turn that corner from “I’m losing my mind” to “ok, I think I can do this”, I started noticing all the dragonflies every where I went. Dragonflies are symbols of change, transformation, and adaptability. To me it was my reminder that I am going through a huge change in my life and that I can do it; I am highly adaptable. The dragonfly message brought me a lot of peace and a feeling of support and encouragement. I had other “messages” from nature but I will hopefully get to those in another post. If you don’t believe that there are messages found in nature…then you are not paying attention.
I know when things get tough, we go into survival mode. We jump on the treadmill of life and just try to keep our head above water. But it is at these times when we must work even harder to take care of our mental and physical health. Being good to ourselves will help us get through the other stuff intact. Transitions are hard but they are important. Life is not meant to be perfect, stagnant, or pretty. It’s meant to be lived. Sometimes that living is an uphill battle but you will reach the summit and get to coast for awhile before the next uphill climb. Live with good intentions and a positive attitude and I truly belive everything will work out for the best. Even if you don’t know what that is just yet.