~ Or: ….. actually, there is no or. Stress Management is hard. Period.
So here we are! As of this writing it is the third week of January in the 2023rd year of the moderately recognized Gregorian calendar. Raise of hands: how many folks are still reeling from the holidays? Is anybody else trying to figure out where the last few weeks have evaporated to? Is stress management something that is completely bereft of management?
This week is considered one of the most depressing for folks in this area of the world. From a meteorological perspective, it is the dead of winter and clement weather is infrequent. Even our neighbors in Southern California, who generally receive the bounties of ceaseless serotonin sequencing, are in the throes of some pretty wet ‘n wild weather.
There are several other reasons why this week in particular is considered to be such a burden to our state of being.
What does any of this have to do with stress management? So glad you asked!
Managing stress is a part of our everyday lives. There are good and bad stressors. Sometimes either or both of those can exceed the whelmedness thresholds of the keto-compatible fatty computers made of meat that reside within our skulls.
So! I œffer unto you this brain dump of things that I’ve read and thoughts that I have on the subject. It’s a mix of things happening right now along with just general stress management stuff and things. Buckle in because here we go!
This writing was inspired by a day this last week where my stress management went out the window. Literally. I could just catch a view of the feet as they went soaring through the glass to render a kiss upon the pavement below. Bad days happen! But it inspired some writing so I guess something good came of it? I’ll let you be the judge of that. Ok not literally, just figuratively. But you know.
Some Causes of Stress
There. Are. So. Many. It’s neither fair nor funny. While I could spend the rest of my life writing all of them down, I think I’ll keep it to a top 4 list for now. And the sake of the word count. I know, I know. My word count management is hilariously awful. But enough about that!
Chronological Advancement is sus
From whence you started reading this sentence to right this moment, you have aged ever so slightly. As those moments pass, our ability to confront challenges with the same level of vim and vigor is reduced. This is natural. Since none of us is getting younger, it’s helpful to recognize that it’s a thing.
Time Management and Stress Management are in cahoots
Overfilled plates! Too many stuffs! Time and stress management seem to work in tandem. Like some kind of cabal. When time management throws up the white flag, sometimes stress management is quick to follow. This is particularly notable for folks who adhere to a routine and the routine is interrupted. Or demolished.
“Life is what happens while we’re planning something else.” In a similar mode as right above, curve balls mess with time management. They also mess with life management sometimes. A pipe bursting is never on anyone’s bingo card. Or a sick child. And a tree coming down in your driveway right before you’re supposed to go to work? Get outta here. Life is full of curve balls and they can contribute to that tension.
This one comes up in almost all the lists: the feeling that having more money will resolve all of the stresses in the world. Conversely, being in possession of fewer earth dollars is the cause of many stressors. It is very true that money is a constantly evolving place of struggle for so many of us. Would having more of it solve some problems? Probably! Is it the entire answer to stress management? Behavioral health experts would argue that there are other more effective strategies to stress reduction.
Symptoms of Stress
The American Psychological Association has a VERY comprehensive study on this matter and they list a TON of those things. Rather than share the entire ton, I’m going to whittle it down to a more manageable sum.
The top five symptoms of stress as reported by respondents in their study are as follows:
- Irritability or anger
- Lack of interest, motivation, or energy (i put the oxford comma back in for them because seriously)
- Feeling nervous or anxious
Any one of those symptoms can feel overwhelming. They can also feed into and cause each other. Like some kind of perpetual notion device. It’s a cycle that is difficult to stop once it gets rolling. Recognizing that it’s a thing can help us to stop and take note and evaluate next steps, though.
There really isn’t a whole lot more I can add to that list or this section. Outside of unnecessary pontification, at least. And ain’t nobody got time for that.
Let’s talk about Blue Monday and how it relates to my thoughts on stress management in the right now. In case you’re like me and never heard the term Blue Monday until you saw it referenced in a post somewhere, Blue Monday is considered to be one of the most depressing days of the year. Which, if you’re like me and think of Mondays as the best day of the week*, is interesting to try and chew on. For most others, Mondays are already a chore. But this one specifically is considered to be the most depressing.
According to Google University, here are some reasons for why this Monday is considered so depressing:
- Post-holiday blues start to kick in. Vacation is over.
- Stress from said holidays heretofore put off must now come to account. With interest.
- Statistically speaking, this is the point at which any new years resolutions have fallen apart.
- The impact of returning to a regular routine after being away from it is hitting. It’s like jet lag, but with life. Life lag.
- In the event of excessive expenditure of earth dollars for aforementioned holidays, bills are due and the numbers are larger than normal.
The Monday that represents the start of this statistically most-depressing week is called Blue Monday. The above list is quite a lot, when you really look at it. Any one or two of those things can be difficult to manage. Stress management of potentially that entire list is a brush fire waiting to happen. In the dead of winter, no less. You’d think that a brush fire in winter would be comforting. Or at least good for smores. Nope!
So this week and Blue Monday are happening right now as of this writing. Like the annual holidays mentioned before, the holiday hangover is equally annual. Welcome back! I think.
* A note on Mondays
yes, I think of Mondays as the best day of the week. Why? Because depending on your perspective, it can be one of a few things. The first day of the work week is a great day to start fresh and really get after the goals. An opportunity to come out of the gate swinging. If you prefer a positive spin on the negative aspects of Monday, consider this. It’s this week’s furthest day away from any subsequent Mondays. You’re welcome.
Popular Methods for Stress Management
There exists a myriad of methods in which people will seek out stress management and relief. Some of those things are really positive. Some of them are a bit less wholesome. The degree of effectiveness can vary. It probably seems a bit judgy, but I’m going to categorize some of them below. This isn’t meant to be critical of anyone in particular, it’s more of a recitation of a whole bunch of reading and common themes found.
The following is a list of items that are noted as “positive coping mechanisms” by both the APA and the health department of Alberta, Canada. It’s a very neighborly thing, you see, in that both are independent of each other and still have some of the same findings. Amazing!
Listening to music is at the top of the list. In general according to both of the sources cited above and according to THIS GUY RIGHT HERE. For me there are moments when that threshold is so thoroughly crossed that I’ll drive in silence and stew. One of the things that helps bring me back to a better head space is music. Undeniably effective.
Going for a walk or getting out of doors. So many of us spend our days and nights indoors and sedentary. Fresh air, the sound of birds or rain or construction vehicles, putting one foot in front of the other. The next time someone tells you to “take a hike,” thank them for the spectacular advice. They’ll be confused and you’ll inwardly laugh.
Reading. Some of us are voracious readers. This is a fact that I am thankful for because you might actually still be here with me. Others find it challenging to pick up a book. Or Kindle. Reading vessel of some kind. I am one of those people. Sitting and reading is listed as being in the top 5 of coping methods. For me? It’s the opposite. But that’s just -me-. I encourage everyone to explore that aspect of stress management and let me know where you land!
Seeing a mental health professional. It’s low on the respondent list and present in both. Because sometimes we don’t “got this.” Seeking help from a trained behavioral health professional is a really good idea. Our families and friends are here to help us and sometimes there’s a barrier that even they cannot help conquer.
The list continues on with items such as watching movies, playing video games, taking a nap, finding religion, and working on a hobby. Every one of those things is great in their own right! Since everyone reacts differently, it’s nice to have a diverse list of options. Like a buffet of better. Remember to tip the wait staff.
The not quite as good
Repeating my disclaimer: this is a list of things from reputable sources. Please keep that in mind as we proceed!
Over-consumption of something. Since I’m actually working on word count control, I’m gonna rope a whole lot in this one category because they share a common theme: ingestion. Among the list of ingested items is food, fingernails, alcohol, cigarettes, and other controlled substances. Not everyone has a predilection toward that coping mechanism but they are at the top of lists of sometimes negative responses.
Negative self talk. This is an easy rabbit hole to go down. Since it manifests differently for each of us, I won’t go too deep into it but it’s definitely a thing that can happen when stress levels are high.
Risky behaviors. “Driving in a fast car” was specifically cited as one of them. My first thought is as it pertains to race tracks and perpetual left turns and this like. However, I don’t think that’s what they had in mind. Aggressive driving is likely what they are referring to and that can be deadly.
Avoiding family or friends. Or conversely, not being kind to them. Withdrawing into ourselves is often a stress reaction. Not wanting anything to do with anyone or anything. For me I know I get lost in my head during moments where the levels get high. In contrast, sometimes that reaction is lashing out at those we love. Be it verbally or physically, this is a reaction to watch out for closely.
Stress management is hard. We all know this. There are some individuals out there who seem to have it together no matter what is thrown at them and to those folks: I salute you. Since the rest of us are more human, let’s focus there. We’re all trying to get by and through the day to day. There are ups and downs. As a result, some days will be better than others. So how do we cope? How do we get through the worst to get to the best?
For me, sometimes the answer is “just get to the finish line and crawl into bed. Tomorrow will be a new day.”
I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on all of this. Especially since I’m coming off a really challenging weekend!
Also, so much for the word count goal. Whoops! Thanks for hanging in there with me this far. One of these days I’ll learn brevity.
Today is not that day.
Until next week.
-= george =-