Stressing About Being Stressed

I woke up this morning with my mind churning, and I wasn’t sure what day it was.  From experience, I know this is a sure sign that I have too much on the go, again.  Experience has also taught me that writing things down and tackling even one item on the list reduces my stress levels.  So, after breakfast and with coffee in hand, I sat down and made up my list of things that were weighing on me.

  • leave enough time so students can hand in their essays before Dec.18
  • finish redoing my resume for a position I’m thinking about applying for
  • ask a friend if I could put her name down as a reference
  • start (and finish) Christmas shopping
  • organize a time for family photos
  • put up Christmas decorations
  • write a post for my blog
  • decide which direction our Reading Strategies across the Curriculum needs to go in
  • plus work, eat, sleep, exercise, and prepare a soup for another staff lunch

When I looked at my finished list, my anxiety levels rose.  I got up and nervously paced around the house, picking up this and putting away that.  How was I ever going to get all this done in two weeks?  Bah!

I sat back down and stared at my list.  Trying to bore holes through it with my eyes was not going to solve my problems, so I needed to come up with a plan, a schedule (duh!), so I set about creating one, keeping in mind that I needed to:

1. Curb my impulsiveness and impatience, again.  The reading strategies challenge we are facing is a complex one.  We are doing something we have not done before, so it will be messy as we test ways to make it fit our diverse subject needs.  Expecting to have the problems solved within two weeks is not realistic.  

2. Block out a chunk of time to complete urgent, but less time-consuming items.  And the sooner, the better.  Send off the email to begin scheduling a time for family pictures and the email asking my colleague for a reference.  These will only take a few minutes, but once done will make me feel like I have more breathing room.

3. Develop a checklist and a deadline to complete the more complicated items.  I do have a checklist and deadline in place for my students to get their essays done.  I have also built in a couple of days of wiggle room, so I need to quit stressing about ‘Whatif,’ again.  Yeesh!  Why waste time and energy worrying about things that may never happen?  As for my resume, I’ve given myself to the end of the week to finish it.

4. Widen my options.  While I don’t put up a lot of Christmas decorations, I don’t have to do it on my own.  I could enlist the help of my boys (OK, maybe more like my boys’ girlfriends).  I’m thinking of inviting them to a mid-week supper instead of our usual week-end one and have the decorations out and ready to go.

Throughout all this, though, I finally figured out that I shouldn’t beat myself up when life gets out of balance.  Thinking that I can maintain the perfect amount of stress in my life is unrealistic.  What is far better for me to do is recognize early when the stress is building and deal with it before it gets too overwhelming.

As for Christmas shopping, well, given my dislike of shopping in general, I think I’ll stick to my usual strategy of procrastination and power shop my entire list at the last minute.  No sense in stressing about the crowds more than once.

What are the signs that your stress levels are rising?  What do you do that helps tame the stress?

And, if you know someone who may add an interesting perspective to this discussion, do me a favor and pass this on to them. Thanks!

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About Sherry Langland

I have been teaching English for 15 years and am passionate about teaching students to read critically, think critically, and live purposefully. I am also the lead teacher for our junior high department and am thankful to be part of such a dedicated group of teachers who are committed to collaborating around the most important part of our job: student learning. My biggest blessing is being the mother of 2 young men who are in their 20s and discovering their purpose.
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