November 6, 2013

Let's get real about stress!

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It's not a secret that this is not a great time to be working in education.  It's downright stressful.  Some may even say awful.  I'm not quite there yet, but I can see the point there.

This is the kind of job that millions of us grow up wanting to do, it's a job we go into debt getting trained for, a job we where don't make enough money to pay off that debt, yet we work long hours, bring work home, and live around the needs and demands of it all.  This, what we actually are doing, is not the job we dreamed about.  We love the students and work for them, but this country is making it increasingly hard to concentrate on that.  I understand why so many of my friends and their friends and their friends have left this lifestyle for a more family-centered one.  I totally get it.  So, this post is dedicated to all of my friends in education, no matter what capacity...teachers, administrators, counselors, helpers, even students... everyone!

I know that I am not alone when I say I am stressed.  It's terrible.  I wake up stressed, I go to work stressed, I come home stressed, I waste beautiful and valuable time being stressed.  Some days are better than others.  As a {school} counselor I know all these wonderful tricks and tips to get rid of stress but guess what?  I'm too stressed out to try them!  Sometimes I worry about this - if I am not stressed enough, than I am not doing something right.  I shouldn't be comfortable, I should always try to be better and learn new things and adhere to the new rules and study Common Core more and write better Smart Goals or SLO's or whatever the heck these new things are.  Even as a counselor, I need to know these things to keep up with the world and my co-workers and the pressures that are being put on our kids.

But, then I get home every night and I think, this is just a job.  It's hard to say that about a job that I love and is my life.  A job I poured hours of college and grad school and internships into.  I job I spend hours thinking about, creating things for, praying for.  But in the end, it is just a job.  I shouldn't let it carry over into my personal life.  I shouldn't waste my precious time at home or with my family stressing about things I can not change.  Even if I can change, there's a time and a place and guess what?  I'll never catch up.  I'll never be the best counselor.  I'll forget about something important, I'll say yes to too many things, I'll fail at some of them.  That's life.  I'm still going to try to be good at what I do, but I have to find a way to do that and not be so strung out all.the.time.

So, I need some balance.  That's all.  I need to quit worrying, take some deep breaths, and start being active in my life outside my job.  You may think I already do that, but 99% of the time, I'm thinking about what I can do better at work, what I need to do still, how to catch up, how to reach this student or help that student...it's all-consuming.  I thought I was good at leaving it at school.  Turns out, I'm really not!  Most of these fun projects, cooking meals, DIYing or cleaning out my house is really me trying to avoid thinking about my job and my stress, but it doesn't work.

So I'm listing 5 things I would like to do to DE-STRESS my life.  I invite you to join me in them.  It's sort of like a mini happiness project.  Hopefully one of these things will help you feel less stressed too:)

Five Ways to Relax & Enjoy Life

1.  Pray.  Ok, this is a personal one.  Maybe it's way too personal for you?  If it is, try reading over it and if it's not, then you can skip it.  It'll probably be the most successful strategy of them all.  I need to pray more.  This week at church, Pastor said that when the weight of the world is on me, and I hear all those things that haunt me and tear me down {you are not good enough; you stink at this job; you should just quit; people think you are lazy; you do not deserve this} I need to remember these 5 words instead:

I AM ALWAYS WITH YOU.

How is that for therapy?!?  Hello!!!  Jesus is always with me.  And when I pray and read the Bible and relax in His love, it does work.  So why don't I do it more?  I'm human and stupid.  This will be my first step!  I will still make mistakes, I may still fail at many things with regards to work...but Jesus is with me and will guide me through it.  He will teach me.  I will listen.

2.  Enjoy Nature.  I was talking with a co-worker this week about the stress level of our jobs right now and she told me that she had gone to a hiking trail this weekend and enjoyed being out in the world, in nature, and that it made her feel better.  I immediately knew what she meant.  I love being outside.  I love being outside in the fall even more.  I live in Maryland where we actually have seasons, and right now I can probably go 500 miles in any direction and see amazing fall foliage.  Why don't I?  So Dave & I are going to the same trail she went to this weekend, near DC.  I can't wait.  We are going to hike and pack a picnic and be outside with just each other and no other silly distractions.  I need to walk more, I always say that.  Walking outside has been proven to reduce stress!

3.  Focus on others.  As a counselor, I know a great trick.  When you take some time to help others, you forget about being selfish.  I'm not sure how I am going to work this one yet, but I want to.  I want to help, I want to give.  Last year, Ash & I started a 30 days of Random Acts of Kindness around Christmas and it was really fun.  Maybe I will do something like that again?  I'll let you know!  This includes focusing on family more too.  Investing in relationships is a known way to improve happiness.  The important thing to remember about this is that you can't forget about yourself all the time, you have to do some things for you too.  If you pour yourself into others all the time, you may fall apart in the process.  Hence, my job as a counselor where I focus on others {at work} too much and now I'm falling apart.

4.  Go to another world.  Read.  This one I am totally good at doing already.  Sometimes, you just have to leave your world and get into another one.  You can do this with TV too, if you would rather.  But in my opinion, you can watch TOO much TV, whereas you can never ever read enough.  TV has a way of stressing people out, so maybe stick to a movie, or a TV on DVD.  Commercials are bad for you, did you know that?  Again, don't use this to escape your life all the time, or it will fall apart!  I may add writing to this too.  It is NaNoWriMo after all!

5.  Seek adventure.  I love going on random adventures.  They can be far away, or close by.  They can cost money, or be free, or cheap cheapy.  The point is, I love doing new things.  Adventures make me happy.  They keep my mind off the stress of life, and when I go on these adventures with Dave, and/or Ash, we become closer and love each other more.  Life is all about making memories.  Think about it, in the future...will you remember that you stressed from day to day about your job?  Or will you remember that awesome time you went to NYC for the day.  Or the day you went wine tasting with your spouse.  Or the time you went hiking along the C&O Canal.  We have to remember what makes life worth living for, outside of work.

As I drove down the highway tonight to pick Ashley up from small group, I thought about that last one.  I was thinking about the highway and all the people on it, coming and going.  It was comforting to me, in a weird way.  If I wanted to, I could convince my family to pile in the car and take off.  We can go anywhere.  We can do anything.  Yes, there would be consequences eventually {money would run out, Ashley's mom probably wouldn't agree with her being gone, bills would pile up, etc} but the point is...we really can do anything that we put our minds too.  While I'm at home in my little town house worrying about my job in silly ways, there is a whole world out there.  There are so many things to experience and see and do.  There's no time to stress and be silly about the little things.  Yes, I want to be great at what I do, but I also want to live.

So that, my friends, is what I am going to do, as long as the Lord lets me do it.  I am going to live more.  Stress less.

Thanks for listening;)