Monday, May 07, 2018

COLUMN: Stress

I love this column. I love this column. I love this column.

And that's the truth, I really do. Today, though, I fear I have to remind myself of this fact. Today, it just kinda seems like one more thing I have to add to the mountainous "to-do" list that already stretches from here to the upper reaches of the atmosphere. I have really really REALLY spread myself too thin this month, and it's official: I am STRESSED OUT.

Honestly, this doesn't happen to me too much. Usually I can rely on the scheduling and action portions of my brain to sync up and hand me a harmonious lifestyle that keeps me occupied without getting myself so bogged down with commitments and tasks that I can't at least enjoy life a little bit. I've worked under the deadline pressure of the news industry for 22 years now, and I usually know how to manage my time and energy well enough to make it through the day without any veins popping.

But that's not to say I'm immune to stress. If you've ever -- and it IS a rare sight to behold -- seen me kick it into high gear in order to complete a task, it's not pretty. It's probably in your best interest to just avert your gaze and give me a wide berth to operate. My usual gut instinct to stress is to go, "Let's just bang it out, get it over with, and get back to normalcy as quickly as possible."

But so far in 2018, I'm not even sure I'd recognize normalcy if it came a-knockin'. So far, it's been a perfect storm of stress that's run pretty much unabated for weeks now -- and I've had my fill. Every time I knock something off my to-do list, it gets replaced by three other things even more time-consuming.

The worst part about it? I'm really not under THAT much stress, I don't reckon. I'm well aware there are people out there living MUCH harder lives than me, so there's a part of me that feels guilty even telling someone that I'm stressed out. Which, of course, leads to more stress and sleepless nights.

Here's the recipe for a perfect stress salad: It's our busy season at work, which is always a little stressful. But we also just moved to a new office, which means we get the busy season at the same time as new surroundings, new software, new phones, and basically a whole lot of new tricks for this old dog to learn.

Then let's add my outside interests: DJ gigs. Helping a friend by taking some hours at his retail shop. A presentation at the library. A trivia night I agreed to emcee and create the questions for. Some other can't-get-out-of obligations. Then let's sprinkle in some unexpected fun events like my credit card getting shut off for suspicious purchases AND my car breaking down twice in one week. Serve immediately. Pairs well with solid nights of insomnia.

The cherry on top (or, specifically, the bottom): I fell on the ice and bruised my tailbone so bad that I'm in constant pain and still waddling around with one of those unsightly butt donuts everywhere I go. And when I'm in pain, I don't go much anywhere off the couch. This means my house has become a trash abyss and my kitchen... there are no words. All I can hope is that the things growing in my sink decide to clean up the place a bit.

What's your favorite stress relief? None of my go-to's are possible.

My #1 - Get in the car, crank some loud music, and drive my problems away. Which would be great. Except that it's January, it hurts my tailbone to even think about sitting in my car, and if I had the time to go on an aimless drive, I wouldn't be stressed out in the first place.

My #2 - Transcendental meditation. I wrote a story about TM a few years back that intrigued me so much I actually took the course and am a trained meditator. Again, though, this requires 40 minutes a day that I simply don't have right now. Plus, with me fighting insomnia every night, I guarantee the minute I try to meditate, I'll fall asleep and end up tardy for a half dozen other things on my list.

My #3 - Buying new songs for Rock Band and playing stupid video games in my basement. Which was precisely what I was trying to do when my credit card got flagged for suspicious purchases, probably because even VISA doesn't believe that anyone of my age would be wasting money on a video game with fake plastic guitars.

So the only thing I can do is my tried and true method of hunkering down, doing the work, and hopefully getting a handle on this to-do list before I snap and wrap my car around a utility pole because I was trying to aimlessly drive and meditate at the same time. Of course, even THIS tragic outcome requires a working car which I don't even have right now.

So if you need me, approach with caution. I'll probably be the one squeezing the life out of multiple defenseless stress balls. Now if you'll forgive me for multi-tasking, I need to go cross both "write newspaper column" AND "whine about life to a bunch of strangers" off my to-do list.

I really DO love this column.   

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