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Friday, November 19, 2010

How to deal with paralyzing stress

There are moments in life when you’re sure of a lot of particular things or subjects then there are moments in life where those subjects become even clearer causing a somewhat surprising – and sometimes “duh” like – moment. Intellectually, I realize that personal situations and setbacks cause stress and inner upheaval, but it wasn’t until today that I realized how truly paralyzing some of these situations can be. Or, for my new-age, uber positive, overly thoughtful group: how truly paralyzing I allow them to be.

I’ve mentioned in the past how… uh… challenging the past three and a half years of my life have been. And I’ve even eluded to what has been going on the past three weeks. I told someone that either something truly, extra, stupendously fantastic is going to happen or it’s all going straight to hell. Yea, that’s a little chuckle worthy, but it’s so how I think. Let’s look at the most recent evidence:

  • Almost three weeks ago I had the washing machine replaced after the other finally and completely died. Huge sigh of relief and happy dance to have a new one, and a bundle of love and thanks to the person who enabled that to happen.
  •  DSCF5374 About two weeks ago, a small leak in the tub began. That turned into a major, gushing waterfall. It went from a potential $55 job to a $345 job. Good gracious. Another happy dance for getting it fixed, for the sound of running water finally stopping and for the plumber who allowed me to give him half of the money at the time of repairs. The other half? Well, let’s just hope he’s understanding and patient.
  • Last week, Friday, the alternator in my van died. Suddenly, but slowly. I did my morning run/carpooling and it slowly died and shut down during my afternoon carpooling. Thankfully, I got it into the driveway (happy dance for that!), and I won’t tell you how the past week has been trying to find rides for the children to get to school, waiting for money to get it fixed and the ensuing stress of the whole ordeal.
  • Then the phone goes out. That’s all I’m going to say about that one.

That’s where the paralyze-ation comes in.

As I’ve tried to force myself through my regular activities and work, I couldn’t figure out why I was so immobile. Why nothing was getting accomplished. Why I felt … AARRRGGHHHH. Yup, that’s the only word I can come up with for the feeling.

That’s when I realized I was paralyzed. I was paralyzing myself. I couldn’t shake the thoughts of trying to solve these problems especially the one of not having a vehicle to take care of my responsibilities especially when it comes to my children. Of not having enough resources. I couldn’t focus on anything else.

Now the question is: How do I un-paralyze?

I’ve found that if I completely and narrowed mindedly focused on one task, I can forget about everything else and get through it, but that didn’t cause an ongoing level of movement. It only caused spurts; important responsibilities were being neglected. Before I – or anyone else – can move through paralyzing worries there are some steps that must be taken:

  1. DSCF5381 Read a book or watch a movie/show that is entertaining or interesting to you, which  normally works for me. (Right now I’m reading Guardian of the Gate by Michelle Zink.)  By focusing my mind on something else it wipes the worries from my mind. But you can’t do it without also …
  2. Meditating. For some that means prayer, but I mean just spending quiet time clearing your mind. Think about what you just watched or read, and gradually let your mind drift. Picture a meadow, a sea, the sun, a naked body – whatever causes you peace, happiness or both. Now you should be ready to get things in …
  3. Order. With a detached attitude and logical thought make a to-do list of what you must do. These are things you are in control of. My list looks a little like this: wash a load of clothes, write a post (with the subject, if applicable), wash dishes, straighten living room, make bed, complete assignment, call mom… You’ll notice the list consists of work- and home-related tasks. For me, it’s the only way to move forward because if it’s all work I’ll feel overwhelmed again. Before you begin your list, you must decide on a …
  4. Treat/Reward. Yup, you have to treat yourself like a child. Well, I have to treat myself like a child. For instance, if I complete my assignment I can have another cup of coffee. If a wash dishes then I can have a piece of chocolate and so forth. It doesn’t have to be food or beverage, but you get the idea. Then you’ll have to …
  5. Repeat.

One of the keys now is for me to remember my own advice and, most importantly, implement it. In fact, the act of writing this post has been somewhat therapeutic because it’s doing something I love to do.

Now it’s time to move on to the next task. While I’m working (sleeping, goofing off…), take a moment to share how you move pass paralyzing stress.

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