Being an adult is stressful. You have probably noticed that. If it’s not bills, it’s the idiot in front of you in traffic or the jerk at work who will not stop doing that annoying thing. Or the housework, or the to do list that spans pages, or the kids, or the spouse, or [put your own favorite stressor here]. The stress just never seems to stop.
I work in behavioral health, so I hear about dealing with stress at work. I am even expected to be able to model my personal methods of dealing with stress so that the kids can learn from me. Just what I need – more pressure!
This week I learned something new in our staff training. Our clients talk about coping skills, but it all seems rather ill-defined. One girl would watch TV all day long as her coping skill, but what kind of life is that? Another would read, another would be plugged into an iPod, and yet another would de-stress by annoying everyone else. We needed a new way of talking about coping skills, so we’re rolling out a new way of talking about and understanding them. I’ll share what I learned, but then I’m going to add something of my own that is beyond the scope of our program.
The first thing we’re going to teach our clients about coping is “escape skills.” This involves learning to recognize when your emotions are about to spiral out of control and doing something to get yourself out of the situation. Taking a time out is one example of an escape skill. The goal is to have escape skills that are healthy, rather than turning to drugs, alcohol, running away, or cutting.
An aside: I like time outs. They’re peaceful. It’s the going back afterwards that I don’t really enjoy. What I really need is re-entry skills. I suspect I’m not alone.
The second thing we are going to teach our clients is “processing skills.” This involves taking care of your emotions without the need for external assistance or escape. Soothing self-talk or deep breathing are examples of these. In theory, if you’re good enough at processing skills, you won’t need escape (or re-entry) skills anymore.
I still like time outs though. It’s so quiet in time out.
Our clients won’t be with us long enough to learn my favorite level of coping, the preventative stress reduction techniques. You may have heard this called “living a balanced life.” You may have even laughed at the concept. After all, if you had time for that, you wouldn’t be so stressed, right?
The last year and a half has been very stressful for me. I had to do something about it. I couldn’t continue to live with the level of stress I was wallowing in on a day to day basis. My solution: incorporate play into my life.
Tonight I’m at Rio Rico Mexican Grill enjoying a blog-a-thon with friends. Eula is typing one of her fabulously funny posts about life’s ridiculous moments. Suzanne is writing the touching story of a cat that adopted her family’s furniture business. Emi is writing about how the death of Robin Williams affected her. Siobhan is missing in action – she said she’d be late, but at this point I’m picture her in a ditch dying somewhere. (Thanks for that legacy, mom.) This monthly get-together is an important part of my play strategy.
As I’ve shared before, I’ve also gotten back into art, and I’ve dragged Emi with me. She and I trade art journals back and forth. Making the trade every week and seeing what she added to the pages is one of the high points of my week. I don’t claim to be a great artist. You won’t see my selling my stuff on Etsy any time soon (if ever). I only claim to be having fun. I taught monoprinting to Emi in June, to a group of senior citizens in July, and to the kids at work in August. That was a blast! I like my art messy, and I can’t be bothered to worry about whether anyone else likes it. Art is a huge part of my play strategy.
Toastmasters, of course, is part of my strategy. I love the fun, positive people and the supportive environment. I love the challenge of speaking in contests, the surprise of table topics, and the great friends I’ve made.
If you’re struggling with stress, remember that escape skills and processing skills are great, but living a balanced life that includes play and fun is even better. Leave a comment and tell me how you deal with stress.