Stress! by Gretchen Duhaime
cross-posted from http://iahl.org
If you had asked me a year ago what I thought the most stressful event or situation of the coming twelve months would be, I might have said finishing law school, or traveling around the U.S. on The Legal Wellness Tour (7 months pregnant with toddler in tow), or relocating to the "country." Sure, these things caused some stress, but never would I have guessed that the real answer would be remodeling our new home. Now that we're mostly done (after 4 months of work) I can reflect on the experience.
A big factor in the stress was the lack of control. I was subject to other people's schedules, needs, and limitations, which seemed to never mesh. We had a terrific team, but there were still moments when I wanted to throw everyone out of my house.
The most frustrating aspect, and thus most stressful for me, was the number of decisions and their interdependence. It was like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle comprised of pieces whose materials and colors constantly changed.
I think the unexpectedness of the stress made it seem even more intense. With law school exams, I knew they were coming and I was able to prepare for them with study and my contemplative practice. Because I felt I should be able to handle the remodel, I sabotaged my efforts at calmness.
Having been through this situation, I realize even more how essential stress management is to well-being. I entered a vicious cycle where each day I would let the stress grow a little bit, not taking time to address it because it didn't seem that bad. Growing by increments, I soon felt nearly overwhelmed and had no choice but to take some serious measures.
What about you? When have you let stress get the better of you?