I’m a bit stressed right now (translation: I’m a lot stressed right now).
Mainly because I have a deadline for Beasts (my novel WIP, just so you new kids know), and I still have a disgustingly huge amount of work left to do on it… like finish Draft Three (aka: The Draft That Wants to Kill Me), do a quickie Draft Four (to fix Draft Three’s issues and kill off a few more characters), give it to my alpha readers, evaluate and apply their feedback, and then send it off to my editor… all before the end of April (my dear editor, if you’re reading this, now you know that when I said I’d give it to you “April-ish” it really meant “the end of April”).
Oh, and there’s the bit about how my computer decided to depart from this world… and I haven’t backed it up since December (DECEMBER). And the flash drive I used to back up all my documents in December (that’s three whole months ago for those of us who struggle with math) is winning a game of hide and seek (that means I can’t find it). And we’re not even 100% sure that I’ll be able to recover my files—including 80% of The Draft That Wants to Kill Me—from my now dead laptop.
So here I am with an eye-twitch and an excess of cortisol (that’s a stress hormone for those of us who weren’t sure). I don’t lead a ultra-stressful life, but recently, I’ve been stressed (trust me, I know it’s my own fault). So, I want to chat with you lovelies about stress (who wants to see how many times I can use the word “stress” in one post?).
First things first:
Stress is not a bad thing.
I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Say what now, Rosalie? I’m pretty sure the ulcer I’ve got is a bad thing.” Okay, so ulcers are no bueno, but that aside, let’s take a closer look at some different kinds of stress because it’s not one dimensional.
First, we just have good ol’ Stress: physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.
Then we have Distress: great pain, anxiety, or sorrow; acute physical or mental suffering; affliction; trouble; to be subject to pressure, stress, or strain; embarrass or exhaust by strain.
Now, before you say: “Aha! Stress=bad, Rosalie!”, let’s look at one more kind of stress. Eustress: stress that is deemed healthful or giving one a feeling of fulfillment. If you look at the roots of eustress, you’ll find that it literally means Good Stress. Boom.
Guys, stress isn’t always bad because it can be useful.
Stress pushes us to grow in so many ways. Right now, stress is pushing me to write every single day (because I kind of hate my story right now and wonder if it will ever get to a place where I’m happy with it and I don’t want to look at it or think about it so I’d rather not work on it because I hate it #fulldisclosure). Stress is pushing me to be more intentional with how I manage my time (i.e. – cutting out the excess and figuring out what can wait and what can’t). Stress is pushing me to grow up and say no to some things. Stress is pushing me to evaluate what things are most important (i.e. – relationships=most important; painting=less important). Because I’m stressed, I’m growing and maturing more quickly than I do when I’m comfortable.
So stress can serve a galvanizing purpose, but it can also be awfully distressing (see what I did there?). Here are the things that have helped me deal with stress.
This is a no-brainer, but apparently I don’t have a brain half the time since this is one that I struggle to remember. Listen up, peeps: God is altogether divine, unthinkably vast, and wholly inscrutable, and yet He is interested in us and our problems—no matter how petty or dire. In all His supreme significance (there would be nothing without Him), He chooses to look down on all of our insignificance and care. And that, friends, is a mind-blowing reality.
So take your stress and give it to Him. Go before Him and explain your frustration and angst. I’ve found it’s an oddly humbling thing to tell God, not only that you’re stressed, but also why. Share your heart with Him. Ask for peace. Ask for energy. Ask for wisdom. Most importantly, ask Him to use your stress to somehow bring Him glory and bring about His will in your life.
Work the problem and set a deadline.
This is where you take a step back and evaluate your situation. This is where you strategize and lay out a plan to complete the task(s) that are the sources of the most stress.
For instance, I’ve had to look at The Draft That Wants to Kill Me and set a ballpark of how many words are left in the story to be written. After I got a general idea of how much story is left (it’s too much, guys), I figured out how much I have to write every day to finish this draft in time to get all the other work done on this novel before I send it to my editor. Also, I set a deadline. It was last Friday, but the laptop said bye-bye and delayed things. So instead of a date this time, I decided that I can’t see the new Beauty and the Beast movie until I finish this draft. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so motivated.
So come up with a plan, set a deadline of sorts, and do it.
Take small bites.
I’m not talking about food here, people (though I think we all kind of wish I was). I’m talking about being realistic and not overwhelming yourself. My tendency is to look at the source of my stress, decide it can’t possibly be done because there’s soooooo much to do, and then promptly shut down (usually with much wailing and gnashing of teeth). This. cannot. happen.
Don’t look at all the work you have left to do; look at what you can do today. Stay in the now. If you look too far ahead, you’ll get yourself tangled up in distress. Focus on what has to happen today and leverage the eustress.
Take calculated breaks.
This is not license to get tired of working on your project (or whatever it is) and then go cruise around Pinterest for three and a half hours. This does not mean that you should work for five hours and then take five for a snack.
This means work for 25 minutes, take a ten minute break, and then work for another 25 minutes (or something along those lines). Plan when you get your breaks and then set a timer when they start so that you don’t go over on your time.
Do something you find relaxing for your break. Go for a quick walk. Strum your ukulele. Do some stretches. Be a psycho and do a high interval workout. Drink a glass of water. Cuddle with your cat. Read a chapter in a book. Whatever it is you do for fun/relaxation, do it briefly as a break from your project.
Oh, and for the love of all that is good, don’t procrastinate.
Procrastination is usually the reason I end up stressed in the first place. I put off whatever project it is until it becomes impossible (in my mind) to complete, and then I shut down and procrastinate more.
Please don’t procrastinate. Procrastinating when stressed is like giving your rabbit caffeine (Out of Time series reference, yo); it only makes things worse. Much worse.
Check your attitude and watch your mouth.
When one (ahem, you and me) is stressed, it’s easy to snap at people and then justify it because one (you and me) is sooooooo stressed. Excuse me while I tune my violin and find some cheese to go with the whine. I’m so painfully guilty when it comes to this. For some reason, I think I get a free pass for being unkind or short because I’m stressed.
Spoiler alert: we don’t get off free and clear for being waspish because we’re stressed. Don’t blame other people for your stress. Sure, it may be their “fault” if you look at it from a certain light, so don’t look at it in that light.
Take ownership for your stress. Take ownership for your attitude. Take ownership for the words that come out of your mouth. Don’t let your strained emotions rule your mind or your mouth.
Now I need to get back to being stressed about my novel (I’m thinking eustress thoughts).
What do you do when you get stressed? Do you get stressed (if not, spill all your wonderful secrets in the comments so that we peasants may learn from you)? What things stress you out?
P.S. – profuse apologies to all you lovelies who have taken the time to comment on my last two posts. I’ve read (and reread and deeply appreciate) your comments and will be replying forthwith.
P.P.S. – did anyone count how many times I used the word “stress”? I think it’s somewhere around a lot.