New Years Resolutions, One Month and Counting

This is a rare non-book-related post, but I wanted to write about New Years’ Resolutions. I had no time to think about resolutions in December but the “quiet” of January (meaning cold weather) has given me time to reflect and establish some goals for myself.

Last October, I was thrown into a new position at work that demanded pretty much everything I had.  It left an impression: if my work life is going to be this stressful, it’s time to make sure the rest of my life isn’t.  That, plus the holidays, left me a little stretched.

My epiphany is that, outside of work, the stress I introduce into my life is mostly my own fault.  It’s imagined.  My life is pretty damn easy — I have a fantastic marriage, I don’t have kids, and my two cats demand very little (except food and love, which I can live with).  My husband is there whenever I need him – and yet, I’m not sure I’m there for him.  I come home tired and irritable most days and what I can’t take out on people at work I take out at home.  I spend my weekends worrying about how much we need to do, or whether I’m doing enough with my life, whether every day is meaningful enough, whether I’m in the right career or living in the right city.  I’m single-handedly making my extremely happy life unhappy.

Sound familiar?  A lot of the women I know do this almost as much as I do.  Why does this seem like a gender thing?  My husband doesn’t feel guilty about relaxing, and why should he?  Do women need to be the ones who make long lists of chores, or do we do that to ourselves?  I swore I’d never become the queen of the “honey-do” list, but I find I’m getting there.

There’s a quote in The Adults that really struck me:

My mother picked up two empty beer bottles and a dish of shrimp tails off the ground before making a full waltz back in to the center of the party, Mrs. Resnick wiped her glasses clean with a napkin, and I thought, Those poor adults.  Doomed to a life of filth, everywhere they went.  At the beach, the only thing my mother could see was the empty Fanta bottles, sandwich wrappers, Popsicle sticks littering the sea…

I feel like this sometimes, when I look around the house and all I see are things that need doing.  If that’s being an adult, I’m not ready for it.

Even worse, in addition to frequent migraines, I find myself melting down about stupid stuff, like losing a receipt, getting stuck in the slow line at the store, or seeing my bus pull away as I run to it.  Is that what turning 40’s about?  There are real things that stress me out, but somehow it’s these little things that make me totally lose control.

So this year, I’m taking control of my life and de-stressing where I can.  If it’s important, fine.  If it’s not, I’m not going to worry about it.

Sounds really basic — and really hard to do, right? Sometimes saying you need to stress less is just adding more stress – it’s just one more thing you don’t do right.  Plus I don’t need another New Year’s Resolution I suck at.  So here’s what I’m doing.

First, yoga.  Every day if possible.  I bought a bunch of DVDs, so now I have workouts that range from 10 minutes to 45 minutes, from morning yoga to before-bed yoga.  So no excuses.  My sister-in-law even bought me a “fancy” yoga outfit for Christmas –  it’s kind of hilarious how nice I look when I’m working out and surprising that it makes a difference.  Seriously, I love everything about my yoga workouts – it’s  the only exercise I’ve encountered that’s relaxing but really hard work at the same time.  I can see myself getting more flexible, it’s easy on my knees, and it’s something I look forward to rather than something I have to do.

How am I doing?  My January calendar shows a yoga workout nearly EVERY DAY.  I’m pretty damn proud of myself.

But in addition to yoga, I need to come up with strategies to calm myself down in stupid situations.  It’s one thing to know freaking out about something stupid is stupid, but it’s another thing to be able to talk yourself down.  I thought about finding a therapist or a life coach, but instead I did what I usually do in times of need: I bought a book.

There are TONS of books about de-stressing your life, which is kind of a sad thing.  But I picked out a few, and one of them may be exactly what I’m looking for. It’s called The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook, and what I like about it is 1) it’s practical — it’s got things you can fill out and exercises you can try; and 2) it’s got lots of variety, so if deep breathing doesn’t work for you, maybe better time management skills or exercise will.  I’ve just started working through it but I’m surprised at how much sense it makes.

I also picked up a book on anxiety but after reading it I decided I definitely fall into the garden-variety “needs to manage stress better” category.  I’m relieved to find I’m not as messed-up as I thought I might be. So my third “approach” to stress is to be a little more accepting of who I am, for all of my weirdness, geekiness, and anti-social tendencies.  I am who I am, and I am who I’m going to be.

This blog helps, so long as I don’t pressure myself to post more or worry about how many readers I have compared to someone else’s blog.  When I blog I feel like myself, which is kind of cool.  And reading, even when it’s War and Peace, is never stressful.  I just need to stop feeling guilty about reading too much — do you ever worry if there’ s point where reading too much turns into “missing out on life”?

I know we’re only one month into the year, and it’s not all easy; I’m still coming home frazzled and occasionally have to DRAG myself out of bed in the morning to go to work.  But I have to say, I feel like a new person.  I’m taking more time for myself, and letting my husband take more time for himself, which means I feel better about myself as a person and as a wife.

That’s what I’m working on, anyway.

What are you working on this year?

  13 comments for “New Years Resolutions, One Month and Counting

  1. February 1, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    Congrats on taking the initiative to de-stress. And super congrats on doing yoga every day! Good luck keeping up with it (but don’t stress yourself out if you miss a few days).

    • February 2, 2012 at 10:23 pm

      Thanks! I slipped a little this week but that’s okay. I figured putting it in writing means I have to keep up with it.

  2. February 2, 2012 at 1:17 am

    I loved this post! I am currently going through the same thing. I also found that a lot of my anxiety came from the clutter I surround myself with. My first step in becoming a “better me” I guess is to declutter my surroundings.

    • February 2, 2012 at 10:21 pm

      Decluttering makes sense, I’ve heard that a lot. We’re trying to spend some time this winter cleaning out closets and storage — it’s weird how good it feels to get rid of stuff. Good luck!

  3. February 2, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Thank you for this thoughtful and reflection-provoking post.

  4. Karen
    February 2, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    Great post sis! Keep up the amazing work you are doing and treasure every second of your amazing life you live!

    • February 2, 2012 at 10:16 pm

      Thanks sis! I don’t know what I’d do without you!

  5. February 2, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    loved the post. I too get irritable at small things and make a mess of everything by blowing off my top. It is time to take the first step to conquer negativity.

    • February 2, 2012 at 10:18 pm

      It’s crazy how it’s the small things, and then I lose it and feel even worse. Negativity is definitely a problem. Thanks for commenting!

  6. February 3, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    What a thoughtful and insightful post. You are wise to handle the stress proactively. No job is worth alienating the people in your life. I hope things improve for you as the year goes on.

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