Oh, Lordy, it’s that time of year again, isn’t it? Here she comes, the month to trump all other months, the Queen December, and for 31 days may she reign. I have been so “crazy busy” over the past month that I began to sound like a Kardashian sister. And I know that I’m not the only one! I’m sure all of you can sympathize with me when I say that I haven’t had a spare minute to even keep up with those crazy Kardashians over the past 22 days. What with final projects, exams, coming home for the holidays, jumping back into work and running all the Christmas errands like a North Pole elf, I am officially deep in the ‘S’ word. And I don’t mean that ‘s’ word. I mean Stress with a capital ‘S’.
So this post is all about stress and how I handle it, because everyone who knows me personally knows that I have a lot of the ‘S’ word, and I typically make damn well sure everyone around me is aware. Sorry.
When I stress out, it takes toll on my body. I typically get approximately three or four planet-sized zits on areas of my face that cannot be avoided, like the exact middle of my forehead or (this one was fun) the very tip of my nose. I looked like Rudolph and it was so festive that I don’t think anyone judged me. Just kidding. I can’t stop myself from eating massive amounts of sugary carbs and will go out of my way to get them, like driving around at 12:30 at night looking for a grocery store in the tri-state area that is open and contains the limited-edition birthday cake Oreos, which I then eat in disgustingly large quantities. And my hair falls out, so I end up shedding more than my dog, which makes us both a little confused. I have trouble sleeping, I nervously pull out my eyelashes, I forget to hydrate and I can’t communicate on a basic human level with any other homo sapien. Basically I look and act like a zombie from the Walking Dead, and it always happens during this time of year. And then my blog suffers because I have no time to write since I am so busy trying to fix my pizza face.
I don’t think that all of this makes me special in any sense or that I am the only individual in the world who deals with stress, so I am not writing this post as a poor-pitiful-me soliloquy. In my first blog entry, I explained that The Rough Draft exists for the sole purpose of whatever I decide to use it for, whether it be a rant, random musings, or just a rave about whatever Ina Garten recipe I am currently obsessing over. I just want to talk about my anxiety because I think it is healthy to acknowledge the fact that as a human being, sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) I have trouble handling what life can dish out on the day-to-day. So, I have some strategies to keep me breathing and guide me back to sanity and I would like to share them with whoever out there is reading. And, it’s my blog, so really, I can write about what I want.
The first thing I do to combat my anxiety when I know that I am straight up stressed as hell, is sit down and have a come-to-Jesus with myself. It usually happens in my car, when I’m sitting in the parking garage of my University campus, mentally preparing myself to walk to class and attack the day. I say, “Sarah, we need to calm down, and here’s how we’re going to do it…” and somehow I instantly feel a little better knowing that my responsible side is still in existence. It’s like when you break something valuable and your mom swoops in to inform you that it can all be fixed with a little super glue and determination.
Next, I try to identify my “real fear” (I say like this I have some idea of what I’m talking about or like it’s a legitimate of psychiatric term, but it’s totally not). I’ll explain: if I have turned in an application for an internship or submitted a piece of writing to a magazine, and the waiting process is causing all kinds of unwanted emotion, I say to myself, “Are you really this nervous about an creative nonfiction essay, or is it something bigger?” And typically, Sarah will answer Sarah with something like, “I’m scared of rejection and what that could mean for my career and what that means about me as a writer.” So there you have it, my “real fear.” I think that opening up the situation to examine the broader picture is, like, maybe 70% of the battle.
And next, I ask myself, and this may seem a little counter-productive but roll with me, “What is the absolute worst possible thing that could happen?” and Sarah says to Sarah, “I receive a rejection letter and it really saddens me and I lose faith in myself and my talent and start questioning if I have any at all.” So then Sarah takes a deep breath and says to Sarah, “Well, we just won’t do that, okay? You have the choice not to do that.” If have a plan for how I want to handle the worst-case-scenario, I know I can do it and come out on the other side. So, self talk successful. This works. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a good friend who sought you out for advice.
Lately, my biggest point of stress has been my future. I feel like when I say the word ‘future’, it needs to ensue some lightning and scaring echoing and other random special effects, because that’s the way it sounds in my brain. I hate not having a plan. This is something that I have realized about myself through a lot of self-talk and journaling. As disorganized and hippie-dippy and carefree as I am about my present, not knowing exactly what I will be doing in the next five years gives me serious heart palpitations. I think it’s because I’m scared that I’m not doing the right thing in my present to get me to where I want to be in my future, and also nervous that I don’t even want the things that would really make me happiest. And that’s a really hard thing to judge. I’m at a very transitional time in my life, approaching the post-grad world, and I don’t really know what I’m doing. I like to act like I have my shit together and I’m all professional with my book coming out and what not, but when it comes down to it, after the release date in March, my life looks a little bit like dark alley, the kind you try to avoid because you have no idea where it leads. The control-freak inside of me is about to lose her marbles because of this.
It’s especially hard because a lot of my friends are receiving job offers and amazing internships and getting great opportunities that not only mean they’ll be making a living, but it gives them a set plan. I’m happy for them, but I can’t help but compare myself to them. I find myself asking, “When’s my great offer going to come in?”, “When am I going to get the excited phone call?”, “When am I going to have the good news?” I don’t want to be a jealous person, so my reaction to their success stresses me out even more than I already am. And then I get another zit.
So, I’m going to self-talk a little on my blog, because, frankly, I think I really need it. Here we go.
“Sarah, what’s the absolute, end-of-the-world, very worst possible scenario that could happen?”
“Well, Sarah, I think the worst thing that could happen is that I graduate and have absolutely nothing to do because no one has hired me and my life has come to a grinding halt and everyone I love moves away to pursue amazing careers and I am left all alone and abandoned.”
“So, Sarah, this isn’t so much a fear of not getting a job, as a fear of loneliness and being left behind?”
“Yes, Sarah, I believe it is.” (BAM!)
Unfortunately, the therapeutic voice in me doesn’t quite have an answer for this one yet. So, I’m waiting on inspiration, and it’s asking a lot of my patience. I think for now, I just have to wait, and enjoy the present, and stay positive in the sense that I have lived a pretty good life so far. Nothing so bad has ever happened to me that I couldn’t handle it, so why would the tune suddenly change now? Maybe soon some events will occur and suddenly I’ll have a better idea of what my upcoming next few years will look like, and I really hope that happens.
I do know this, and I think this is a good thought to end the entry on: whatever I do, wherever I live, however I make my income, I know that above all, I want to feel happy and loved and surrounded by individuals and a setting that inspires me to create. I like to close my eyes envision that feeling in the hope that it will bring that life into being, and part of me really believes that it will. For those of you who are also approaching transitional periods in your lives, I wish you peace of mind, and please know that you are not alone in your stress. Feel free to give me advice on how you handle your anxiety! I’m always open to new ways of dealing with the tangled mass of unraveled yarn that I assume is what you see when you crack open my skull.
Happy Holidays and lots of love to everyone! I hope you find joy and refuge in whatever celebration you partake in!