Visit my show at the PSCCU Credit Union, Vashon, Washington May, June 2024 

Stepping back from the precipice of stress

I blew off a meeting this week, a short talk I was to give, and my mistake left me humbled.

As awful as it was to disappoint a friend, my error became a gift, an opportunity to see myself tottering on a precipice of stress and back down before it was too late.

The details of what caused my stress aren’t important.

But we’re entering a season when stress can be lurking, ready to feed off the holidays, darkness, elections, climate, or whatever one is facing at home.

Be prepared! 

We all bear our stress slightly differently, but a few of the common signs are feelings of overwhelm, lethargy, anxiety, boredom, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, restlessness, and too much time in the pantry searching for dark chocolate.

Long term, it may be important to address the “why” behind the stress or add self-care practices like meditation. But if you’re too close to the edge, the first thing to do is back down and add a few safety measures.

My meeting failure became my wake-up call and an opportunity to add practices I may need because, frankly, some of the stresses aren’t going away anytime soon.

6-steps to move back from the edge:

Forgive myself (and reach out)

Feeling like I “should” be able to do more than I can, or “should” do everything right are killers. My first step was to offer myself forgiveness and compassion. Being human isn’t that easy.

I needed a little boost to be able to forgive myself, so I confessed my appointment failure to a close friend and to my husband, both of whom told me to let it go. Not such a big deal, they said.

I knew that, but it really helped to hear it from them.

In my experience, we always have more compassion for others.

Cut back

“Business not as usual” is getting to be the usual. I seem to manage about half of what I consider myself capable–and it’s now down to about two things besides feeding dogs, horses, and husband. I can either lament this truth or accept that if I write a blog this week and edit my book, I’m maxed. I wish I could also redo my website, create a new podcast episode, or learn to hula hoop, but those will have to wait.

When I can say, “Doing two activities is enough for now,” I can feel spacious and breathe.

Write things down

My forty-year-old brain could handle multiple details simultaneously (or at least I wanted to pretend it could). My brain this year cannot. A calendar, together with a note-taking system, have become essential friends. Beyond my particular stresses this year, life feels more complicated. Where did I put the license code for the new software? Or the airline’s confirmation? Or hide the little wax turkey that needs to come out at Thanksgiving?

Note to self: Write down everything I might need in the future. (Thank you, Evernote, my go-to note-taking software.)

When I get foggy-brained, I forget to write things down, but I need to reform. I don’t have dementia, as far as I know, but memory is overrated.

Keep a perspective

Life during the pandemic and meetings on Zoom taught us that flub-ups, disappointments, and technical malfunctions won’t kill us.

I have friends who are dying. Need I say more about perspective?

Give myself the gift of time

My husband, bless him, insisted that I relax and sketch last night rather than sneak back into my office for another round of editing. Being offered that time felt luscious and restorative. Now, it’s my turn to give myself similar chunks, especially for my creative activities, even in the face of everything I “should” be doing.

Giving myself time also means enjoying a sampling of my favorite stress-busting activities like breathing, singing, sketching, and walking, to name a few.

Go for the heart and enjoy the holidays in the least stressful way possible

Thanksgiving Day is next week. Hopefully, I’ll clean the house and decorate, with or without the little wax turkey, but no promises. But what comes first is to feel the spirit of Thanksgiving and my love and gratitude for friends, family, nature, and more. This is my time to prioritize thankfulness, and one day is hardly enough. Maybe I’ll call this Thanksgiving week.

As we move into the holiday season, I need time more than lots of activities.

I want the holidays to be an opportunity for renewal, which means, this year, no pressure.

Blowing off a meeting wasn’t fun, but it was a good reminder that I needed to reset my internal operating system, lower my self-expectations, and practice self-compassion.

After all, being human and fallible is a challenge. But given the alternative, it’s one for which I’m ever grateful.

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