Finding Time to De-Stress

Today is National Stress Awareness Day. The joke I’ve been hearing all day is ‘we’re always aware of our stress’. I know for a fact I experience stress every single day, living in NYC contributes to my stress levels a lot.

Those of you who need to commute on the subway in to work and home from work, know how incredibly stressful that can be with crowded grumpy people shoving by sluggish pre-coffee individuals. Not to mention the multitude of other stresses you face the rest of the day. However while I’m aware of everything that causes me stress, I’ve been trying to become more aware of the moment I’m feeling stressed so I can try and calm the heck down.

I’ve been writing free form stream of consciousness thoughts for about 45 minutes every morning for the past two years, started while working on The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. 

Now I’m almost done filling up my 7th book of writing, and it’s been a tremendous help in getting me more in tune with my thoughts and emotions, especially overarching issues I’m grappling with over time that cause stress and anxiety.

As of this Monday I’ve been challenging myself to wake up super early, 5:30am-6:30am (yes that’s super early for me) and write my pages by candlelight. Waking up that early is definitely challenging for me but so far I’ve found:

  • It’s a lot quieter both outside and inside my apartment earlier in the morning. 
  • The darkness of the night is a relaxing way to get ready to greet the day. 
  • Observing the dawn break is satisfying and beautiful, and makes me feel (oddly) as if I’ve already done something cool with my day. 
  • I have a leisurely amount of time after I finish writing in my journal to cook my lunch for the day, exercise at the gym, and get a little creative work done before heading out for the day job.
  • I get tired much earlier in the day and have been getting to bed quite a bit earlier as well. 

I’m looking forward to continuing this experiment and hopefully making it a daily practice. 

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I’ve also been making an effort to do things I want to do, whether it is finishing projects or learning a new skill, instead of feeling stressed about not doing it. As I mentioned in my last blog I’ve been seriously blocked by fear the past couple of years and I’m coming to own that and look that fear in the face. So this Monday I went and took an archery lesson. I LOVE archery but I’ve only done it three times now, with lots of space in-between due to fear. Not fear that I’d get hurt, just scared of committing and seeing what comes of it.

While I was practicing the teachers in the place told me I was worrying too much and that I needed to relax. They said just aim the arrow and then let go gently. Practice makes perfect, and I’m not going to get it perfect right away. I was being too hard on myself they said. They were talking about archery specifically, but if they only knew they were diagnosing a much larger challenge I face every day. Judging myself and needing to be perfect at everything is a huge amount of stress I dump on my brain and body daily, and I’m going to keep hitting the refresh button, lighting a candle, and honing in on what’s real now.

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