Stretched But Not Stressed

Stretched but not stressed

Busy doesn’t have to equal stressed. 

I set my pen down and eyeballed the words I’d just written in my journal. It was 5:45am on a Sunday. I couldn’t sleep anymore, even though this was literally the one morning in my foreseeable future where a sleep-in was even remotely on the table. My nerves felt like someone had individually flicked each one of them onto their highest setting, even though I hadn’t had a single drop of coffee. Some mornings I wake up like this, and I’m not gonna lie – it’s hard. Over the years I’ve developed various tactics to deal with it. Today, I chose to use a combo of them. I grabbed my journal and my favorite colored markers for writing, and I also snagged a yellow legal pad and a black ballpoint. 

I much prefer a structured morning. Maybe structured isn’t the right word…maybe routine is better. My desired morning looks like waking up just before alarm goes off, starting the coffee, lighting a few candles, and settling down in my favorite yellow chair in my office with a fuzzy blanket and my journal. I like to begin with a few minutes of meditation to clear my mind and get really settled into my body. Some slow breathing to get everything centered and intentionally activated. Then it’s time for some open journaling, maybe some automatic writing to receive any messages I need for the day, and then I have an intention practice. After that, I like to look over the schedule for the day, make my prioritized to-do list, and then get ready to face the day. 

Oh, and all of this needs to occur before my daughter wakes up. 

I think my average percentage of days of the week when I’m able to accomplish this is right around 50%. If I was in the MLB, a .500 average wouldn’t be terrible, but for the day to day management of what helps me feel my best, it’s not optimal. So what was going on this morning, on a day when my daughter was fast asleep and I didn’t have anything officially on the schedule for the day?

What was tripping me up was the busy-ness of the schedule of the coming weeks. November and December always run at a fast pace, at least in my household. It’s a pattern I’m working on shifting, but the truth of the matter is there is a lot to do at the end of the year, and with a partner who coaches wrestling (a winter sport here in the United States) and is gone for practices and tournaments, a 4-year-old who has her own idea of what this time of year should entail, and the simultaneous desire and pressure for multiple gatherings and outings with friends and family, that blank space can get booked up fast. My first mistake was looking at the calendar before doing my journaling and getting centered. It was a runaway train from there, straight down the track of HOLYCRAPHOWWILLIGETALLTHISDONE!?! It’s easy for me to hop into “go-mode” at that point and just starting knocking things off the insanely long to-do list. Instead, I’ve been practicing a truly intentional pause before leaping into action. 

Which is why I found myself with a colored marker in hand, spilling my thoughts and concerns onto the pages of my journal and then sitting back in surprise a few minutes later when that sentence came out: “Busy doesn’t have to equal stressed.” 

That may not seem monumental to some of you, but for me, this was one more of those default thought-that-leads-to-a-behavior patterns that runs on autopilot. As soon as that schedule gets busy or the day fills up, I shift into a higher state of stress. Lots to do? Lots of stress! So the idea that perhaps I could be stretched, yes, but not stressed seemed…refreshing. Novel. Intriguing. A relief! 

No matter what time of year you’re reading this, if that schedule of yours is looking like an endless treadmill of to-do items, consider taking a pause and seeing what else is possible. Sure, cancel or reschedule where you can, but more than that- try on a new framework that might help you move through it in a way that’s more helpful and actually feels better. For me, I’ll be over here with my checklist and calendar reminders, repeating to myself, “Stretched, but not stressed.” 

- Nicole



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