The Little Things That Can Save Your Life
I have received a few emails lately about how to cope with stress. The stress of the holidays, the stress of the economy, the stress of rent prices, and political upheaval and food and family. I’ve been asked again and again how to handle life when it feels like an onslaught, and luckily my life has been incredibly busy as of late, too, and I have an amazing amount of experience with not coping very well in the past, and doing mostly fine in the present. This is a subject I feel I have a bit to say about.
I am here for you. I am here for you if you are my client or if you are my reader, or if you just stumbled across this blog for the first time. I think it is really important to let you know that we, the stressed out, creative, intense people of the world have each other’s backs. You do not have to be your only resource! You don’t have to hold every single thing together for yourself 100% of the time.
Sometimes, for me, I can move so fast, and feel so panicked, that it’s like the disasters are pre-meditated. Whether it’s an unexpected bill or a broken car or the mortification of public vulnerability, it’s like every once in awhile I feel set to fail. Little disasters add up, and it’s easy for me to freak the fuck out.
I lived a lot of my life in exactly this panicked state, and no matter how much I wanted to “just be happy”, I couldn’t find it in me. I was deeply entrenched in riding a constant stress wave, and I attached the only solidly good feelings I could find to accomplishments (my Bachelor’s degree, my Masters, Art shows, public accolades) and weight loss. I used food restriction and excessive exercise as a means to cope with the fact that not one fucking thing in my life was actually seriously in my control. I felt overwhelmed and broken and what recognition I got and how my body was perceived were what I had to work with to feel on top of my shit.
We all know that doesn’t actually work long term, though, right?
When I decided I wasn’t going to use things that don’t actually matter to feel good anymore, I suddenly had NO ANCHOR and it was truly terrible. Letting go of my big coping mechanisms, the only things that worked on some level to make me feel okay, made me feel like a billowy shirt hung out to dry on a windy day, without a clothes pin. One moment I was flying in the sky and the next I was a wrinkled ball in the grass.
Luckily, at some point I realized (by trial and error and by consistently getting back at it each time I failed) that I CAN and DID find new anchors. I anchored to my creativity and to my friends at first and then to my alone time, because I discovered I didn’t need to fear silence and space.
I discovered that the simple feeling of a non-anxious good time was a miracle. Once I realized that, I tried to find little minutes of the feeling again and again.
SO. deep breath.
What makes you feel really happy?
Today I sang Miss World by Hole for two hours. No one was home in my house, and no one in my house would probably enjoy my grunge throwback, and I happily took the opportunity to belt it the fuck out. It was stupid. It was repetitive. It was, by all means, boring. But it also made me incredibly happy; to practice with my voice and to be loud and to hear what I sound like. I have always thought I was a terrible singer, but today I decided I’m kinda good with practice, which I had literally not once given myself the opportunity to do before age 30. Seemed like kind of a big deal.
In essence, what I was doing was a waste of time. My room was kind of messy, and I haven’t been blogging as much lately, which i definitely feel a responsibility to do, but I was REALLY happy. I liked the opportunity to get down with my self, and since I am a busy person with a lot of deep responsibility, I don’t often have the chance. I was feelin’ it, and I was letting myself.
What can you do that would be giving yourself a similar simple joy?
Whatever it is, I suggest you make time for it.