Stress – I has it

I usually try not to allow myself to experience stress.  You know how stress is: it creeps around the corner and stomps on top of you, in a quiet way, until all of your muscles are tense and you’re not sleeping well and you start dreaming about being a super spy under attack (or is that just me?).  Stress is insidious and awful, and I’m really not a fan of it.  When I feel it creeping in, I start to take measures to counteract it.  I might spend a little extra time reading really lame books (because they’re funny); I might paint my fingernails or my toenails, hoping that some pampering might have a calming effect; I might switch up the music in my iPod–from Muse to Enya or Beethoven or Sibelius.  The point is, when I feel it coming, I do my best to make sure stress doesn’t take up occupancy in my mind or body.

I feel stress.  There are dark circles under my eyes that even makeup won’t cover, possibly because I don’t know how to apply concealer properly.  I’ve been waking up in the night with muscle spasms in my neck and back (hence the dark circles…).  I’ve been clenching my jaw a bit too much.  Any day now, I’ll start to get snarky without being properly provoked.  I feel it coming.

Most unfortunately, I can’t exactly cut away those causes of my stress.  I have to work, I have to be a mother to my children and a wife to my husband.  I have to be a friend to my friends.  I have responsibilities at my church (Vestry member, Junior Warden, Chair of the Profile/Search Committee, member of the choir, member of the social committee (hee hee!!!), congregant, etc.  It’s a lot.), though I’ve been dropping the ball on a lot of these responsibilities lately.  I need balance, some moments when my time is my own, when I am simply Kelly rather than Assistant (and chief proofreader and quasi-media liaison), Mommy, Wife, Jr. Warden, etc.  I feel like I’m slipping away, even though I’m not.  That, to me, is the most awful thing about stress.  It’s like all the weeds choking out the plants in my garden.  It’s so easy to get covered, entangled, choked out by all of the various responsibilities, often conflicting, of one’s life.  How can I be a good mother and a good employee simultaneously?  What’s more important to my family, ultimately?  Where is the lesser evil/greater good?

Actually, it’s a budgeting issue.  I have a limited amount of time and energy every day, and all of the things that I need to do far exceed that daily budget, and decisions have to be made.  What are the priorities; which balls can I drop? It’s rather like deciding which bills need to be paid and which can be put off for a time, and it’s just as devastating, isn’t it?

So, to lower my stress levels I am (1) writing about it, (2) listening to Tori Amos’ Night of Hunters album, (3) reading, when I have a chance, Tristan’s Loins, believe it or not.  My husband thinks I’m totally lame for reading romance novels, but they really are stress-relieving to me.  I’m not saying Tristan’s Loins is at all a good book, but it isn’t nearly as terrible as I thought it would be, considering it was free and it’s about a romance novel character come to life by magical means.  Actually, it’s really funny, and it pokes fun at a ridiculous genre in a really great way.  So take that, stress!

Oh, and here’s the awesomeness that is Truly, Madly Viking.  Having mentioned it in my previous post, I really felt the need to share exactly how wonderful it is.  I particularly like the fur-lined gauntlets on a shirtless man.  Anyone else think his belt is a little WWE?  So fancy!

Cover image, Truly, Madly Viking by Sandra Hill