Archive for April, 2008

On Stress Reduction

Two weeks ago, I went to the doctor for what I thought was an oncoming ear infection–I’d been having hot headaches, and then a piercing pain in my ear. Instead, he sent me home for the day–and possibly even the next–to take walks, paint, take naps, and even get a massage if I could afford one. 

Turns out I was bottling up more stress than I realized, hunching up to the computer to finish one more poster design, one more press release. And I was filling up my evenings after work, and I went to Georgia (a six+ hour drive from here) two weekends in a row in March. 

So, I’ve been learning how to adjust my work and personal life to include more rest. More walks through my neighborhood (especially with my camera!), and less busyness. 

Simple steps I’ve taken: 

1. I no longer turn on my computer the second I arrive at the office. I take time to settle in, scan the newspaper for press we’ve gotten and to see what the other arts organizations are up to, and even clean up my desk a bit. I make a to-do list if it’s not already waiting for me, and finally, I turn on the computer and see what screaming deadlines have arrived via email. Even this simple change has made a world of difference. 

2. More walks. Plain and simple. I still could improve, but today I took a tote bag, put on my sneakers & walked about a half mile from my home to the farmer’s market. It’s small, but it’s been around since 17something, and the point is: cheap, fresh produce. And fresh goat cheese. Yum. Today I also stumbled upon an annual Green Living Expo, which had somehow escaped my radar (though the serendipity of it was far better than having “stressed” over making it to the Expo today!). Guess what: not only were there really amazing resources (who knew a fellow photographer is also making appleseed biodiesel? or that a neighboring suburb has one of the largest gluten-free food markets in the US?), but free massages!! 

3. Which leads me to the next thought: massages are now somewhere between groceries & new clothing. That is, not quite necessity (I’ll get groceries before I get a massage), but I’ll definitely think twice about a flashy new pair of shoes if it means getting a theraputic massage. 

4. Speaking of shoes: I’ve virtually stopped wearing heels. I bring a pair for meetings, and I wear them when dressing up, but these days I’m wearing flats. I want to go shopping for a one or two more supportive, well-made flats, especially if they’re a little cute, too. Again, it’s wonderful to notice how much more relaxed I am at work when I’m not prancing around on some stiletto-what-not. And that relaxation does sort of turn into confidence–which is funny, because truth be told, I wear the heels half as much for fashion as I do for a boost of self-confidence. That’s a little embarrassing to admit. 

 

5. Better sleep posture. Seriously. I have a chiropractic pillow (one of those mid-core things that look like a rectangular donut), and I sleep with a pillow between my knees. I’m also investigating getting another night guard, because I’m pretty sure I’m clenching my jaw at night. Not the sexiest night mode, but hey, as my boyfriend says, human warmth is great at the start of the night, but then it’s just about getting good rest. 

 

6. Eating better. Ugh, this is probably my least favorite, because when I really sat back and took a hard look, I’d begun to eat out a lot, indulging in fried-iced-mocha-pasta-pizza-madness, all because last summer I was suddenly in great shape and so I thought I could slack a little. 8 months later and my gut is back. Yo yo nothing. I’m going to get back to the habits that got me fit–which included daily walks, no sodas, and realistic portions–but not sacrificing taste, and lots and lots and lots of yummy veggie preparations. 

 

It’s startling to see how much I’ve had to almost train myself to take time to be healthy & whole. At first, I stressed about not getting this or that done, about missing important email in the morning at work. But you know what? The jobs are always there, because if it’s not Steel Magnolias, it’s Guys & Dolls, or the latest fundraiser that needs publicizing. Smart time & health management from here on out, because my job is the last job in the world that should burn me out. 

19 April 2008 at 10:35 pm Leave a comment

Visit Cuba, Sing in Public, & Plant a Rose Garden

I am obsessed with lists. I make them to remind myself of daily tasks, grocery needs, and letters to write. All too often, I end up losing them, only to find them months later, cleaning out a purse, and laugh at the reminder of what was once important (or stressful) and how easily it got lost. 

In high school, one of my classmates, Curt, died in a car accident. That spring, at one of our monthly coffeehouse open nights hosted by the Drama Club (yes, I was a dork, and still am), one of our teachers stood up. Mrs. DuPree sang, a capella, a fairly off-key but courageous rendition of “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane.” She explained that in her class, she handed out a blank list to her students, and asked them to fill out goals for their lives.

Big, sweeping, or immediate & mundane, the contents of the list mattered less than the making of it. The writing down of the who, what, and where of their dreams & goals. She said, “sing in public is on my list.” And Mrs. DuPree handed out photocopies of Curt’s list, made only that year. “Graduate high school,” “Pass math class,” and “Build a turtle pond” were some of the things he wrote. 

 

I still have that list, and I still have the one I made at 17, on Christmas Eve, 1999. I was overwhelmed with the urgency of it all: the death of several classmates (around 7 or 8 students in the three years I attended West Ottawa), the passing of the century, my upcoming graduation. As an artist, these things build and crest like waves, and so on Christmas Eve, I made the first list. 

These lists are not new ideas; recent films like “P.S. I Love You,” or “The Bucket List” are variations on the theme. And really, everyone ought to make them, revisit them, check them off, and make new lists at different stages of life. I do, and it’s both funny to review, and amazing to see what I’ve actually accomplished of the once-lofty or seemingly impossible ideas. 

What I’ve checked off my first list: 

 

  1. Visit Cuba  (I’ve actually gone twice, in fact)
  2. Sing in public (recorded it, even, for later sheepish embarrasment & posterity sake)
  3. Go to a Braves game
  4. Be in a movie (if working crew on an independent film counts)
  5. Go a whole year without TV (sorta….and the internet doesn’t help!)
  6. Go skiing
  7. Go to a wine & cheese tasting (big dreams, people!)
  8. Meet a Hollywood star (Connie Britton)
  9. Make a formal dress (my bridesmaid dress for my best friend Mary’s wedding)
  10. Go to a premiere (theatre premieres, though I think I meant a movie premiere)
And so, this blog begins. I’m in the process of expanding my photography exhibits, and giving myself space for creativity & big dreaming. Photography, painting, and most art that I’m doing now were “too big” for my list–dreams I’ve had since a child, but couldn’t express until more recently. 
An excerpt from my slightly revised list: 
1. Keep my indoor garden alive & even move to outdoor gardening (!!)
2. Take more walks around my neighborhood
3. Publish poetry
4. Paint a mural
5. Sew more clothing
6. Settle into a church
7. Invite friends over for dinner more often
8. Travel to Barcelona
9. Give time & resources graciously & generously
And so on.

13 April 2008 at 5:38 pm 2 comments


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