Last year, I went through one of the most stressful periods of my life. I was working insane hours at a startup in Austin, where I’d just moved. My friends, family, husband, and apartment were all back in Houston which meant I was living like a nomad, renting a room during the week and shuttling back and forth between Austin and Houston every weekend. My personal life was a mess as a result, and my work life wasn’t any better. I was suddenly in a new environment going from a very structured supply chain job in Oil & Gas to a creative job in the chaotic world of social media. Needless to say, everything was in disarray.
Until that point, I was fairly stoic when it came to showing emotion in public, but somehow being so far out of my comfort zone, mind you, a deliberate move on my part, had made me so emotionally raw that I would break down in tears at almost every 1-on-1 with my manager (thank the lord for her being a 25-year old woman with a high degree of emotional intelligence).
Ok, so clearly, I’d turned into a crazy person, but I eventually came to a realization that completely changed the game -- Stress is a constant. The stressors may change from day to day and the degrees to which they affect you may vary, but there will be something that stresses you out EVERY. SINGLE. DAY, so you just have to account for it.
So far I’d made the mistake of thinking each day was unique and so I would allow myself to wallow in self-pity or give myself some leeway, thinking that maybe today is uniquely terrible but tomorrow won't be, so maybe it’s ok that I don’t work as hard today, or maybe I can allow myself to pay $20 to park my car downtown instead of doing my usual 20 min walk to work, or I can go ahead and have that chocolate lava cake because I reserve the right to eat my feelings, damn it!
But understanding that every day will bring a new set of BS (yes, I'm talking about bulls#%t), anticipating it ahead of time, and compartmentalizing the BS made a world of difference. I first started to identify all the stressors and figure out which ones I could eliminate and which ones I couldn’t. I then went about scheduling “BS hour” into my day. On any given day, I would book 30 mins - 1 hour on my calendar, depending on severity of BS, and I had only this hour to “dump my feels” and vent all my frustration, either by journaling, going for a walk, or listening to something to cheer myself up. After “BS Hour”, I had to move on and get back to work. It worked remarkably well. My stress didn’t miraculously disappear, but having a system to deal with it more effectively definitely made it far more manageable and made me more productive. Also, anticipating it ahead of time meant that I wasn't caught by surprise each day.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that we all do this, so maybe it's time we all scheduled BS into our day. Here's a simple step-by-step process we can all adopt:
1. Think about ALL the things currently stressing you out and write each stressor down.
2. Think of ways to eliminate or minimize the ones you can. For the ones you can't, accept that it will come up on a daily basis. It starts with just being aware.
3. Schedule in BS hour! Block 30mins -1 hr (or more if need be) on your calendar and allow yourself to do NOTHING else at this time but vent your frustration. Remember, it HAS to be some sort of stress reliever. Either journaling, walking, solo dance party, whatever works to help you dump your feels.
4. Return to your regular routine.
Stress is a fixture of our daily lives -- just when you eliminate one stressor another one pops up. So stop looking for some magic formula to get rid of it, and just learn to tame the beast by scheduling it in.
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