- Jessica Harris
Take the edge off.
I work in an elementary school office and I really love my job, but I have learned that there is never a dull moment in a school! For me, most days start out full of rainbows and unicorns but with a flip of a switch it can feel like all hell breaks loose. Some days I wish I could video record my day because the stories I try to tell Rick never paints a vivid enough picture of what I really experienced. Many days it feels like I am juggling 20 balls at one time with no break. I feel the most stressed out when I am dealing with crises situations, last minute assignments from the boss, vital phone calls or emails, time sensitive projects, pressing problems and tasks that take thought and concentration while simultaneously dealing with needless interruptions, meeting other people’s priorities and expectations, keeping other people happy, low priority emails, meaningless busy work, and workplace socializing, gossip or negativity. These are the days I leave work and think… “I need a drink!”
What is routine stress?
Routine stress is related to the pressures of work, school, family and other daily responsibilities. This is not the stress brought on by sudden negative change or major traumatic stress. When a person is stressed there is a surge of hormones called Adrenaline and Cortisol. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, raises blood pressure and provides extra energy. Cortisol temporarily increases energy by releasing glucose into the bloodstream and suppresses other bodily functions, which are not immediately needed. Healthy stress happens when the body has a quick spike in hormone levels followed by a rapid decrease when the stress is over, but if the stress is continuous it can have harmful effects on the body. Since body functions such as the reproductive, sleep, digestive and immune system are suppressed during stressful periods you can get sick more often, gain weight, develop diabetes or high blood pressure, and feel anxious or depressed. In my case, I get sick during stressful periods and the Psoriasis in my scalp will flare up which is itchy, painful and irritating. I also break out and forget to eat regular meals. Not eating well actually slows my metabolism and I end up gaining weight. Yuck. Stress sucks.
“I need a drink!”
Before this 365-day challenge it was common for me to chase stress with alcohol. Research has shown that having a weekly or daily alcohol de-stressing regimen can take the edge off if you do it properly based on your age, height, weight and overall health. Alcohol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system which can help slow your heart rate and breathing which results in a relaxed sensation. In addition, losing inhibitions decreases worries and fears. This sounds like a good enough reason to hit up a happy hour after a stressful day, or park myself in front of the tv with a glass of wine. Why not? Well, this only works if you stick to one beverage (may vary by person), but the reality is for me it was rarely ever just one beverage! When one glass of wine takes the edge off, won’t two make it even better?
How to De-Stress without alcohol
I had to quickly figure out a way to de-stress without booze when I started this challenge. I have spent the last 130 days trying different things and I feel like it is actually getting easier to manage stress now than it was when I was chasing it with alcohol. I have narrowed it down to 4 things that work for me but I really have to combine all four to truly feel less stressed. My fab four are sleeping, eating, relaxing and mindset.
Sleeping: I typically go to bed around 9:00 p.m. and get up around 5:15 a.m. This is approximately 8 hours and my body responds well to this because I wake up alert and ready to start my day. If I do not get enough sleep I am sluggish, my mood is generally less positive, I have trouble multi-tasking, and I have less patience. This is a bad combination when dealing with particularly demanding parents, staff and students on stressful days at work.
Eating: It is no secret that I am not pleasant to be around when I get “hangry". I function best when I start my day with a healthy breakfast that includes protein and when I eat regular snacks throughout the day. On particularly busy and stressful days at school, I often don’t have time to eat. Around 12:00 p.m. I can feel my mood shift when my energy is depleted and it clouds my judgment when juggling multiple responsibilities. By the time my lunch rolls around at 1:00 p.m. I am no longer efficient or effective.
Relaxing: While mediation, yoga, reading, deep breathing, petting animals, and listening to music works for many people to relax, my perfect trifecta is a combination of watching one of my favorite trashy reality tv show, while soaking in a warm bath with smelly candles and sipping on my favorite tasty replacement drink Pineapple Peach Kombucha. Usually my family will recognize my need for this moment of relaxation and will actually leave me alone!
Mindset: Research shows that people who are positive and have an optimistic outlook are better with problem solving skills and dealing with routine stress. I like to start each day using my planner to organize and prioritize my personal and work responsibilities. This sets my day up for success for effective time management. During particularly busy and stressful times at work, Covey’s four quadrants in the Time Management Matrix allow me to prioritize tasks in relation to their importance and urgency, helping me decide whether I need to address the task immediately or if I can postpone it. My goal is to try and spend most time with quadrant two activities because this in the long term helps reduce quadrant one crises. Maybe there will be less urgent and important things if I have better planning, thus making me more relaxed and positive.
Gone are my days of "I need a drink!" after work. I found new ways to
TAKE THE EDGE OFF.