Sunday, December 7, 2008

ISO A Better Balance

I've had this post in mind for a while, but I've been putting off writing it cuz it's about something that really gets to the core of my problems right now and it's hard to think about. One of my absolute biggest lifestyle challenges is that I have a hard time managing stress.

You know, stress, that cross so many of us have to bear. I've reached a point in my career where I've earned a certain level of responsibility and accountability and a position of leadership, and that means a certain level of stress comes along with it. I know most of the pressure I feel is something I put on myself, and luckily I have a great boss and colleagues who are all mindful of helping each other stay sane and not letting things get to be too much whenever little mini-dramas arise. (Let's just say it's not uncommon for us to call a "time out" and head out for a glass of wine and mini-burgers when things get too tense.)

But -- when you combine my levels of work stress with my natural, inherited tendencies towards anxiety and the fact that I don't have a very good work/life balance right now, well, that's when I have my sleepless nights, my unproductive obsessing over things, my eating binges, my muscle aches and pains, my exhaustion, and - ultimately - my high blood pressure.

Ugh. That's my problem, pretty much in a nutshell.

I know I need to make myself more of a priority in order to seek that better work/life balance. And what I need is to build up more of the *life* side of that balance -- cuz especially in the last few months, my life has consisted mostly of work or just down time at home on my own. I haven't been doing enough fun stuff, or important enough stuff, on my own time to divert my attention from work stress and help clear my head. And all work and no play has just not been good for me.

It's been harder this year, as a few changes have happened in my social life -- I had to spend a lot of time focusing on moving, my living expenses are higher now so I've had to cut back on going out, and many of my friends have had changes in their own lives like new partners or moving further away. So, some of the fun I used to have of just hanging out with people who lived in the neighborhood or could meet up for a quick de-stressing dinner just doesn't happen anymore -- none of us can afford it and we all just need to plan further out these days. What I have to make sure to do is actually make those plans, and make sure that I'm finding time for friends both to keep up the good relationships and give myself more time to focus on the fun, exciting, personal side of life. It's amazing how you can spend a few hours with friends and never even think about work at all - what fun!

And, I need to find more things that I can do on my own that are personally fulfilling and help balance out my work concerns. I used to take photography classes, which were great and really helped give me something that was more *my own*, but my work schedule does make it hard to plan for regularly taking classes. I am going to take cooking classes in early 2009, but it's more likely that I can fit in one or two day things rather than a longer commitment. Every few months I think about joining a church of some kind, but then I remember that I really am not a religious person and I'm just looking for a social outlet. Religious stuff tends to give me hives, in actual practice. Maybe another yoga class? Or a new book club through a book store? Getting back into the swing of going to lectures at different museums? Or just regularly-scheduled stuff with friends?

I have to find what works for me, both in my interests and my schedule. But I've got to do something, cuz I can't let my workaholism-by-default continue to take its toll.


Laura P said...

I totally know where you are coming from... I couldn't have put it any better for myself! Unfortunately, being in the same boat, I don't have any wonderful ideas for you, but know you are not alone.
... Too bad Richmond isn't closer to DC!!!

DC Food Blog said...

That's a toughie for sure. I don't think I would be nearly as successful if I didn't live four blocks from work and two blocks from the gym. I don't know how much you've been successful at yoga, but my experiences have been pure humiliation because i have horrible balance. The ones I've gotten a lot out of have been more meditation based and less stretching based. It would be great to find a drop in yoga studio where you didn't have to commit to a class. In the killing two birds with one stone, would you ever think about starting a walking group? A friend of mine did that and we all had a blast. Exercise and socializing.

Stef said...

Laura - I know! It would be fun to hang out -- but I think we both have uber-crazy schedules and sometimes scheduling itself gets to be stressful.

DCFB - I did try to organize folks to start doing Sierra Club walks a few years back, but it never happened. I have to be careful, though. Because so much of my work life involves me being the planner and the decision-maker, I would like some things in my personal life where I can just be someone along for the ride. It stresses me out if I have to be the one responsible for starting a club or something -- like I did with a Kerry Meetup a few years back, that ended up taking a huge amount of my time and had the same kinds of anxiety in terms of meeting other people's expectations and managing their needs -- and this time around I'd just like to join something else that's already in existence. Call it a New Year's resolution.

DC Food Blog said...

Stef, you're a smart cookie. I used to sing with a chorus and one of the reasons I stopped was that the organizing and volunteering felt too much like work.

Michashell said...

I totally feel for you. I have a problem with insomnia (I can pretend it's the baby), but it's not. I can remember wandering around the house at 4 and 5 years old while everyone else slept. Something that's really helped me is conscious relaxation. I listen to a 20 or 25 minute session, and it really helps me to regoup or relax enough to sleep. The key is finding a guide whose voice you like. That makes all the difference. I borrowed them from the library until I found the right one. Martin Rossman & Anoedea Judith would be a good place to begin.