Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Soothe me.

I'm under (several) doctors' orders to decrease my stress level. Nothing decreases stress like being told you must decrease your stress level, right?

This summer I've made a concerted effort to unclutter my calendar and eliminate travel, which I know has historically been one of my biggest stress-inducers, one that I bring completely onto myself. ("yes I would looooove to come and visit you! yes let's please go out twice next week! yes I will do that huge thing for you! yesyesyesyes!") In other words, I'm trying to get better about saying no.

So far this August, I've only spent one night outside of DC. That's improvement. I cancelled my annual trip to New Mexico, and my lovely girlfriends out there decided they'll come visit me over Labor Day instead. More improvement. I've never tried harder to do as little as possible. It doesn't feel like me, though, all this saying no. (I am my mother's daughter in this respect... hi Mom!)

There are overarching stress factors in my life, I know. There's time: not feeling like I have enough of it, even as I try desperately to empty my calendar. There's work: working too much for my own good, and dealing with work drama that requires more of my involvement than I'd like. There's also money: ummmm, yeah. But isn't it funny how the same things that can de-stress us can also backfire in our heads? For example:
  • Animals. I love animals and instantly feel better when I'm around them. We've been trying to adopt a dog for ages (long story). But wait, when is the exact right time to adopt a dog and how should that be coordinated with life-planning and what about the costs of dog-walking and doggie daycare etc? I'd like to volunteer at the Washington Animal Rescue League, too, but wait, what about the time and can I really take on a new commitment?
  • Reading. Books soothe me. (Read this and this, by the way, not this.) You know what I hate lately, though? Magazines. Unread magazines are piled up all over my home and do nothing but advertise to me the fact that I don't have enough leisure time to flip through their pages. Oh great, the third issue of Coastal Living to add to the pile of magazines still wrapped in plastic? Yet another Food & Wine? Awesome.
  • Food. I love cooking. But not when I don't have time to care about it. See unread issues of Food & Wine, above.
  • Friends and Family. My loved ones make me happy, but I'm less happy about my travel lockdown that hampers my ability to visit them. This is a biggie for me, a constant guilt cycle.
  • Facials/Massages/etc. Traditionally my favorite indulgence has been a Triple Oxygen Facial at Bliss. T keeps trying to book me massages to relax. But no on both counts. I imagine myself lying there doing nothing but counting the dollars that could've been spent on, say, embryo freezing, and getting even more worked up than I was when I arrived. Sigh.
  • Exercise. Like many of you, I love the high of exercise once I'm in the zone, and let's be honest - I could use the endorphins. Getting in the zone, though, is like pulling teeth. And only being allowed to engage in high-impact activities one week of the month? Not helpful. Not enough time to get in the zone.
  • Water. Specifically, the ocean. My perennial happy place and the best way to clear my head. But there is no ocean in DC, and fertility clinic scheduling means I can't travel anyway. So.
  • Writing. If only I had the time/energy to do it right.
Here's my question: how do you relax? Can we lose our ability to relax over time? Should I just be buying lottery tickets to try to eliminate my work/financial concerns and shut up already? Without said lottery winnings, do I even have a shot?

And let's agree that I'll never again write a post as whiny as this one, okay? Pinkie swear.


  1. I am literally incapable of relaxing. In fact, I'm sitting here being uber groggy at my desk from the remains of a muscle relaxer I had to take last night because of my incessant tension headaches. It's a problem, and I think the city we live in doesn't help.

    I hope you figure something out, and if you do, let us all know.

  2. i can relate. not because my life is super stressful (it's not) but bc i don't deal with stress well. or maybe i stress easy? it is very hard for me to sit still and "relax". exercise is usually helpful but once it becomes a burden (i don't have time, i don't feel well) it just adds to the stress. see? i'm super helpful.

    what's going on with the dog adoption thing? i worked as an adoption counselor for a while if you want to hash it out. or just complain. i've been wanting to get a second dog but i'm guessing now is not a good time ha.

    hope you figure something out!

  3. When I was super stressed and anxious in law school and the hellish year of unemployment/worst-job-ever immediately afterward, I would just go down to the National Mall and walk. Even when it would be packed with tourists, it just calmed me down to take in all the sights and people-watch and just really appreciate that I live where I live. It's not the beach, but wandering around there aimlessly does feel a little bit like vacation. It's especially peaceful early in the morning.

  4. I hide out in the bathtub with super hot water and a trashy sci-fi or romance novel and forget all my woes. Other times, I go to bed. I lay in bed watching ridiculous like The Rachel Zoe Project.

    If you're too anxious to just be still, I would get out and walk and even started running. It was fantastic for me since I'm crazy clumsy and it takes all my concentration to not fall of the treadmill or stumble on the trail.

    If it makes you feel better to vent into the intranets, then do that too. That's partially what it's there for!

  5. Stress is a biggie for me and was one of the things my doctor told me to limit while we were trying to conceive (you're right -- easier said than done). My favorite way to relax, though, is to get up early on a Saturday, make breakfast and climb back into bed to enjoy it with my husband. I used to feel like I was wasting the day, but now I don't care!

  6. Sorry to hear about your stress. Is there any way you can pull back a bit at work? I think in times like these, self-care is the most important. good rest, Good food, gentle exercise.

    I second the recommendations for walking. Just spending a half hour wandering around is very relaxing, almost meditative to me (don't look at it as exercise).

    also meditation & yoga are really good for me. I know you said earlier that your treatments make you feel like crap, so perhaps more emphasis on the meditation & breathing. I pick a mantra/thought and recite in my head along with the rhythm of breath. I also do this when walking.

    Hang in there - hugs.

  7. I feel you on all. of. this. No lottery tickets! It'll be just another stress point. One way I seem to be able to relax these days is to go outside. Even in crowded New York, I seem to find a breath of fresh air if I just go outside. My brain might be spinning, but at least my legs are moving and I'm seeing new things. I might not be getting the endorphin high, but I'm moving. Another way is yard work. Digging out the nasty, hated azaleas in our yard helped me work through some stuff in my head.

    Be gentle with yourself, friend.

  8. I relax like a CHAMP! You need a TV show marathon to get into and just veg the F out. Make some hot tea, a plate of snackage (berries, nuts, cheeses yummy crackers or crusty bread) put on your favorite Pjs. Don't just plop down on the bed or couch, make the space elegant and comfy - like this is a special treat, not just laziness.

    Show recommendations:
    - Damages
    - Homeland
    - The Borgias
    - Old eps of Frontline, can stream from PBS
    - Political Animals


  9. I feel you. Having the same feelings. Music helps a lot, and also fits into your schedule easily. You can do it. XXOO.

  10. How about a daytrip to Annapolis? Don't get into the tourist mob. Just go down to the end of the dock and sit there and enjoy staring at the water. I know it's not the ocean, but it connects to the ocean and it is beautiful. As a homesick college student many years ago, I spent hours doing just that and being comforted because that water connected to my "home" water.

  11. Well, if you've read my blog even just once, you know I'm pathetically neurotic. I find that travel really stresses me out, too, even travel for pleasure. It's a love-hate relationship b/c I do love to explore the world. Therefore, my way of decreasing stress (aside from exercise which running injuries prevent me from doing more often than I'd like) is to make sure I have at least one weekend a month at home in which I have abso-effin-lutely NOTHING to do, expect maybe one informal date for drinks with friends. It works wonders! Good luck!

  12. Is the problem stress, or is the problem guilt? Work on the guilt and the stress may take care of itself. More or less.

  13. Sure, I'll play. With a new semester about to start, I'll need the reminder, anyway.

    I unplug and stay home. Sometimes leisure reading fits the bill, but sometimes my brain just needs a break, and watching a few tv shows on DVD or clearing my DVR play helps. if i haven't cleaned recently, i try to spend just a few minutes prepping the area to feel comfortable enough for vegging. Try not to feel guilty about spending this time. Self-care is important.

    Call me if you can't get out of your head -- we don't always have to go out for happy hour. I'd be happy to stop by, too. :)

  14. Go get a dog right now!! Like TODAY. They are a lot of work at first, but SO worth it! Being around a dog is the best home remedy you could ever do. You have no idea how many people (including myself) that have gotten pregnant within 6 months of getting a puppy. Not that that's the reason why you should get one. Dogs are just wonderful to have around! Puppies especially provide so much love and laughter. My husband and I used to spend hours snuggling with the puppy and then laughing at her antics. She was exactly what I needed to get out of my funk last summer when we were having our infertility issues. Honestly, there's probably never the perfect or right time to get a puppy, so just do it now. You definitely don't want to wait until you're pregnant or have a baby to get a dog. You'll be WAY too tired and overwhelmed. Now is perfect. Plus, you've got a few more months of warm weather so you can potty train her and take her for walks (which are also relaxing and wonderful). Oh, I hope you get a dog!!!

  15. also, i forgot to say: try not to worry about writing "right." it's valuable in itself, always.

  16. Catching up on blogs in my reeder. So im totally last to this party of stress relief. I used to be one big ball o stress, now I'm not. Here are some ideas:

    Get the dog RIGHT NOW. Sharing your life with a dog changes everything. We adopted ours from Lost Dog, she's crazy and we love her beyond anything.

    Hot tea, hot bath, lit candles, spa/relaxation pandora station. Like three nights a week.

    Don't do crazy workouts, just go for walks everyday (hopefully with your dog). Did you know you can download/DVR workout shows every month. Find some yoga/ stretching ones and take lots of deep breaths.

    Take your lunch break everyday, maybe outside. Bring an unread mag read it for a day or two then toss it.

    Find water: drive on the GW parkway, find a spot on the Potomac and just watch the water flow by (beach it is not, but it will do in a pinch).

    Guided relaxation: download on your iPod/mp3.


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