Surviving Stressful Times

When my husband accepted his new job in July, I knew we were in for several months of insanity. We would need to sell our house (and all that goes along with getting it ready!), wrap up life in our current town and figure out how to navigate life in a new city and state 15 hours from home.

Moving Day! With 4 kids, including a 5 month old, and my husband gone a majority of the time, I knew it was going to be critical that I not lose my sanity during all of the stress and chaos.

So I scribbled this list of reminders for myself in a journal.

1. Sleep
2. Juice instead of caffeine
3. Prioritize exercise
4. Deep breaths
5. Ask for help
6. Positive thoughts
7. Perspective and presence
8. Gratitude
9. De-stress : friends, movies, a good book

I called a few of my friends who had recently moved also as a result of a coaching career change and asked for survival tips.  Top two answers….

1. Wine
2. Play dates

Those sounded perfect to me!

I was prepared. I was feeling positive. I have buckled under pressure and stress in the past and put healthy habits to the back-burner, but I knew this time would be different.

Of course, sometimes even when you know what to do & have a great plan, it ends up being much harder to actually follow through.

Most days I felt pretty good, but there were times when I had other stressors (including the loss of my grandfather) that I just wanted to hide under the covers.  And other days when I had so much anxiety nothing seemed to help!  It was those days when I should have truly been relying on my list of healthy tools, but instead found myself –

Drinking a lot of caffeine
Not sleeping enough
Being negative
Forgetting the big picture and worrying about what can go wrong
Not exercising
Not asking for help
Unnecessarily yelling at my kiddos (and one time a friend, also eek!)

Of course the times I DID use the tips from the list, I felt so much better and things went smoothly!

The best days were the ones when my kids were happy playing with friends.

The days when I got a chance to go for a run, do yoga or relax in the bath.

The nights we I spent a few hours having wine and talking with my friends. And the moments when I called a friend or family member to hear encouraging words.

The few days when my mother-in-law took my older kids overnight.

The times when I decided to make a green drink instead of heading to Starbucks…again.

When I took the time to cook healthy meals, instead of grabbing frozen pizza or chicken fingers…again!

The times when I remembered to take a deep breath. When I stopped myself from freaking out and remembered to stay positive in each moment and have faith in the future and when I remembered how truly grateful I was for our opportunity.

So two months after our move I can finally breathe a little easier. Our house has sold and despite all my worrying, everything went smoothly.

We are settled into our new home and the area is started to feel like home. We were so fortunate to move with good friends, so the transition was relatively seemless. The kids love their new schools, teammates and friends. Basketball season is officially underway and we are adjusted to our new team, arena and schedule (as much as you can get adjusted to 82 games!)

I  look back and am grateful that I survived!  At the time survival felt like enough to me. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t horrible either.

However, now I have a new perspective that I truly appreciate.  Someone who is going through a very stressful time in her life said these words… “I am viewing this time in my life as an opportunity for growth, not just survival.” 

We all have times in our lives that are completely insane, stressful, and even devastating.  I think it is  justified to do whatever it takes to survive these times.

But, it is also an option to look at your situation and decide that you not just going to survive. You are going to stay positive, make self-care a priority, love yourself and grow from the experience.

I know there will be many more times that my life is full of stress and all I want to do is survive.  But, I am hopeful that the next time I will look at the situation as a chance for growth.  And remember that when survival seems like the only goal, it is still possible to live well and stay sane.

And hopefully I will look back on this list of survival tips and actually use them!

1. Stay positive!  By far, having a positive attitude was the most important thing. It’s sounds cheesy, but waking up each morning being grateful for everything positive in your life and reminding yourself throughout the day really does help!

2. Make a plan. Feeling overwhelmed with everything that needs to get done or feeling like your life will be out of control forever is not helpful. We can’t do it all at once, so breaking the tasks down into small daily tasks is much easier. Whether is huge life changes, deadlines at work or taking care of a sick loved one, having a plan helps makes things a little more doable.

3. Prioritize Self-Care.  When there is so much to get done, it may seem counterproductive to spend time taking care of yourself when you should be doing everything else! But, really it is the best thing you can do – for yourself and everyone else involved! Exercise, go to the spa, eat healthy, sleep, meditate, go out with friends, get to your happy place. Whatever your self-care is, do it!

4. Take deep breaths. This is one simple thing that truly does make a difference. Don’t’ be afraid to take 100 deep breaths a day!

5. Ask for help. It is hard to ask for help. It is even harder to admit that you can’t do it all and need help. But, if there is ever a time to ask, it is when you are feeling overwhelmed or things are stressful for you. It may be uncomfortable to ask, but will be worth it!!  Don’t be afraid to call your doctor if you need to – much better to get guidance and medicine, if needed, than to suffer unnecessarily.

6. Sleep. Everything seems harder when you are tired. We all have our magic number of hours of sleep we need, so try to stick to yours. Once my friend posted on Facebook “Watching a hospital commercial and feeling jealous of the person lying in bed. I am either absolutely losing my marbles or really need a break and a very long nap.”  That is an obvious time when you need to do whatever it takes to prioritize sleep!! A well-rested you will be much more productive!

7. Be conscious of what you put into your body.  Convenience foods, lots of caffeine, ice cream, Tylenol and alcohol tend to be higher on my intake list during stressful times. But, I know I feel much better the more water I drink and healthier I eat. I figure it’s a good time to compromise – coffee is good, 5 cups is bad; a glass of wine is OK, a bottle is not; pizza one night is good, every night is bad; ice cream is a good, ice cream, pizza & wine on the same night is bad.  :) What do you think?

8. Remember that you are not alone & talk to someone! No matter what your stressful situation is, someone else has probably gone through it. And even if it’s not the exact same situation, your friends, family or co-workers surely can relate to how you are feeling! Sometimes it just helps to vent and feel like you aren’t alone.  There are also professionals that can help you through, as well, don’t be afraid to utilize them!

9. Know that you will survive (and hopefully be a better person because of it!!) Sometimes it may feel like you will be in survival mode forever, but you will get through. And remember all you have to do is get through the next moment, so just try to make that moment a positive one!

I really want to know that I am not alone in having a hard time during stress and chaotic times!  Are there times in your life when you feel like you are just in survival mode?  Do you look at stressful times as opportunity for growth or just survival?  What are your survival tips?