I sat down last week to write a new post about stress management, and found myself deleting everything. Sometimes we need to spill it, just to get the stressful bits out, and it comes out sounding pretty bleak.
I think that it’s rather important to recognize that there are times when it feels hard to manage stress, and I have come to realize that I have several tools in my Arsenal of Coping. I also recognize that these are not necessarily the coping strategies that should or could be used by everyone, so please take this more as a way to open up the discussion about how we manage our stress.
I’m really quite lucky; I am married to someone who understands pretty much all there is to know about me, and he’s truly supportive of my…quirks. He knows that when he hears the sounds of me scrubbing the stove, I’m stressed/anxious/nervous (or his mother is coming over) and he pops in to check on me. Most of the time, stress cleaning is precisely what I need to do to process whatever is on my mind. Once in awhile, though, I need something more. He gets that about me, and wants to be there in case I need something more.
Today I discovered a horrible truth: the inside of my stovetop is DISGUSTING. I mean really, when was the last time you lifted up the top of your gas stove and looked underneath? The only thing worse was the day I decided to clean out the filter in our dishwasher.
Besides being able to utterly destroy grease with the scrubby side of a sponge and my Simple Green cleaner, there is a more basic tool at work here. My brain, searching for some way to control my environment, stretches out to one of the few things that it can control: the kitchen.
Now, I know that I’m a control freak. I prefer control enthusiast, however, and that part of my brain needs to be able to fix something and see an immediate result.
Since I can’t “fix” many parts of my life in this way, cleaning is a great (and highly productive) way to process that feeling.
I also tend to burn through feelings pretty quickly- where my husband tends to sit on an emotion for a long time, turning a thought over and over in his head for hours, days, or weeks. I can feel the thing, turn it over and look at it for a moment or ten, figure out what I need to do and then I’m done. I move on to the next big thing, because that’s just how my brain works. See how we’re all different?
Sometimes it’s hard for me to relate to people who spend weeks on an emotion, and I’m working on that. I think that the biggest lesson for me here is that I need to make sure I’m patient with people who take longer on something!
Y’all, it’s COLD. I’m not running till the spring, and that’s just going to be the way of it. But once it’s warmer than 55 degrees out, I want to feel the pavement beneath my feet and the sun on my skin.
Now, I will say that I’m really an awful runner. I will never say that I’m not a runner, because I conquered a half marathon with an IT band injury. I have never felt so badass (until I nearly passed out). I limit the distances of my runs now, to prevent a recurrence of the injury. I say that I’m an awful runner because I literally complain the entire time. My husband runs with me, and he can attest to this fact.
That said, running is cheap therapy. When I’m running, I’m not an autism mom. I’m not an ADHD mom. I’m not needed by home or by work, I’m needed only by ME. I focus on the breathing in and out. Breathe in (count 1,2,3), footfall. Breathe out (1,2,3), footfall. I space it exactly like this and feel the sun on my face. The wind softly kisses my skin, and when I’m really feeling amazing, my arms go out to my sides as though I could hug the entire world. I smile when I reach the top of that hill that’s been kicking my butt for six months, and I grimace as my knee lands incorrectly. I sweat, I cry, I laugh. I can quite literally run the gamut of emotions in one five-mile run. And when I get home and the salt in my sweat begins to dry, I can feel pride in myself for doing something that I used to say I’d never do.
Okay, it’s really truly crucial to state that therapy is a GOOD thing. When you find the therapist who matches your style and who challenges you to see things in a way which will allow you to grow and feel strong, then you have a true partnership. It’s in part about being able to get things off your chest, but it’s also about arming yourself with the proper tools. I have never found that, but it’s something that I hope to find someday. That said, give me your dirty kitchen and I might just have everything I need.*
Reconnecting with Friends
I struggle with this. Or, I thought I did anyway, until I posted something on Facebook that really helped me see that I have a lot of people in my corner. Sometimes the electronic disconnect is a very bad thing. Suffice it to say, I miss seeing my friends in person, and now have a standing BFF date with my best friend every two weeks. This past week, she came over and we watched movies and made lavender-scented therapy putty. OMG. It smells so amazing.
Support Groups/Caregiver Groups
Yesterday I presented to a group of parents who meet monthly to hear presentations specifically relating to raising kids on the spectrum. The kids have supervised play and the parents get to have two hours of helpful information. It was incredible to be around parents like me, which is one of the major personal benefits of working where I do. So while this wasn’t a support group per se, it was a group meeting regularly to discuss topics that relate to our life. There are also about a million groups on Facebook, but I recommend using caution before you fall down that particular rabbit hole. Some groups have less than stellar admin policies, and often I have found myself in the midst of a discussion around controversial therapies. No bueno, in my book. Find a group that matches your personal philosophy, and spend some time reading the posts once you’ve joined. If you don’t like what you see, you can always leave that group. The same is true of course for groups in real life, I think that it’s crucial to find a group that makes you feel comfortable. Talk to the group organizers ahead of time if you have concerns or questions, and then visit the group a few times. There’s nothing saying that you have to contribute, and you’ll gain a better understanding of the scope of the group.
I hope that this has given you some ideas, but I’d love to hear how you manage the stress! Please post a comment 🙂
*No, I’m not coming to your house to scrub your stove.