Stressed? Drop the Baggage, Take the Break

If you are anything like me, you get stressed. It’s a normal, human reaction when the world seems to lay more on our plate than we think we can handle. I have worked in customer service for over thirty years and can tell you that people can be tough to deal with. When you deal with the public in any manner, it can be a challenge. The question then becomes how do you cope when you can’t afford to go anywhere? How do you take the time for you when there is way too much responsibility lying on your shoulders?

As someone who has been dealing with a lot of baggage and stress over the last few years, I can attest that there is no simple way of answering these questions. You can get helpful advice through research. I can tell you that for me, the following things have been really helpful. The first one is to learn to breathe. I’ve found that if I don’t take a little time to catch my breath and sort out the baggage, it can cause anxiety attacks and even depression. The hardest part when this happens is that your energy gets zapped, you feel overworked and rushed. That is never a good thing.

The second thing I do is to get a pen, piece of paper, and just write. Some people draw or paint, others type, others do music, etc. The thing is I have to sort out what is overwhelming me and just let it out. Sometimes getting it on paper brings things into a better perspective for me and I’m able to sort out what is most pressing and work my way into a more organized approach to getting tasks and events done.

The third thing is walking away for a little bit has helped me tremendously. Often, I have been around people who have been toxic. They have made me hate my job, hate the relationships around me, distrust others, and have even gone so far as to make me feel as if I were the target of a witchhunt. If this sounds familiar, you might need to take a step back and really ask yourself some very tough questions. Are you in a situation that is detrimental to your health? Is there a way that a resolution can be found? If not, are there other options for employment or relationships that might be a healthier environment? What kinds of steps can be taken to prevent this from happening? I’m going to give you all a prime example. Years ago, I worked for a local hospital system. I worked the nightshift and did a really good job. In fact, I did almost too good of a job because my supervisor didn’t want to allow me to get promoted. I was dependable, loyal, hard working, and was virtually never out of work. When I got married, my supervisor refused to let me off nights. I had to go around him to get a daytime position. I ended up working for a doctors office. If any of you have ever worked for a physician’s office, then you will understand when I say that many doctor’s offices are very cliquish. It’s almost like high school except on a paid scale. There was a team leader on staff who had a tendency to get everyone fired. I was no exception. She had it out for me. I would go home in tears every single day. I hated my job. My stress level was horrible. I was in my twenties, newly married, and dealing with a marriage that I lost my identity in. My husband was my world. I didn’t live my life for me. Everything I did was for someone else. When this happens to a person, they lose sight of their worth. I did. It’s a very dangerous thing for a person. I know for me, I became more submissive. I was a shell of my former self and wasn’t willing to fight for the things I wanted because in truth I didn’t know what those things were anymore. Instead, I cowered to my husband to keep him from exploding with his temper. He never hit me. Instead, his emotional outbursts were worse because I never knew what would set him off. When he got angry, he would burst into a temper tantrum, leave the room, come back in the room about five minutes later, and then act like everything was fine. My stress level spiked.

In my case, losing a child and my marriage were enough to send me into full blown stress levels. Then my dad got sick. He had a heart attack and that was my wake up call to get more education. I immersed myself into school. I transferred one type of stress for another. This is technically called transference. I actually became a master of this. It took a lot of therapy, a lot of writing in journals and a lot of volunteering for me to understand that my passion in life had been stripped from me and I had to learn how to get it back. I started doing some volunteer work with a sexual assault center called Crossroads in Alamance County, NC. It’s ironic. Through volunteering, I learned how to balance stress through men, women and children who were in horrific relationships. When you think that you have all you can handle in this world, spend a little time volunteering. You will learn really quickly that many others have things much worse. Most of us are blessed in the fact that we can step away from a toxic situation, but there are many who don’t feel they can.

These are just a few of the ways that stress can be managed. The important thing is to learn balance with stress.

I had long conversations with my doctor who helped me to get on medications to help deal with the anxiety, depression and get my energy level back. That was a God send. I can not tell you the difference it made. I had gained a lot of weight with all the stress and am finally able to shed some of the weight now. My energy level is increasing every day. One of the biggest things that I can truthfully tell all of you is that every one of you is different. No one’s body is the same as someone else. What works for one person may or may not work for someone else and I would never want any of you to go the same path that I have. What I do want, is for you to see that you aren’t alone. STRESS CAN KILL YOU. If you don’t pay attention to what is happening with your body, then you are setting up a disaster. If you are prone to high stress and anxiety, talk to specialists, keep monitoring your condition, don’t allow the negativity around you bring you down.

I’m working now for a company that quite honestly doesn’t always treat their employees well. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that I love my job and it’s not because of the employers. It’s because of the people. It’s an environment that feels like a family and that makes a lot of difference. Do I have bad days at work? Oh yeah. Definitely. There are some customers and supervisors that really frustrate me. Yet, I refuse to allow them the right to make me feel that I don’t matter. I’m not going to be bullied or belittled by anyone anymore. When I feel overwhelmed, sometimes I take the mental health break that is desperately needed. We all need mental health days. Mental health is something that has long been overlooked as a true illness. Thank goodness the issues of mental health are being raised with more awareness and acceptance.

I have a very good friend I used to work with that is currently going through a very rough patch. She feels like she is being forced out of her job because of something that has happened before in another job. I don’t know the whole story. I only know her version but I can tell you that she’s a good worker who has been through a lot. She loved her job until recently and now is feeling like an outsider. Unfortunately, this is more common than we think. In her case, I think she may need to look at a career change. She’s good at her job but she works in an environment that is very cliquish. It’s a world where staff is constantly trying to get each other in trouble. No amount of mental health is worth being made to feel inferior or mentally unstable.

Exercise is helping me to get rid of the stress as well as the weight. It’s allowing me to deal with things with more energy and a clearer mind. I’m actually kind of pleased that the weight is beginning to come off. Now it’s just a matter of staying focused. When you have ADHD like I do, that can be a challenge. Changing my diet has also helped me. Making sure I get rest has been another big help. I have a really good friend who has recommended yoga. I haven’t tried that yet but I’m leaning more towards it. I’ve heard it really helps with relaxation.

I was lucky. I’ve been able to travel all over the world. I’ve been to parts of Asia, throughout most of Europe, South America, and Africa and no matter where I’ve gone, I’ve witnessed that every person in this world deals with different layers of stress. Every culture handles things differently. That doesn’t mean that there is a right way or a wrong way. All it means is that stress is universal. The sooner that we recognize that stress affects every one of us, then we might actually be a little more willing to be a little more considerate with each other. If you don’t believe me, look around you. You may see people smiling and carrying on with one another but I guarantee you that most of them are hiding the stress they deal with daily.

Here’s the thing. There’s no way to keep people from stressing you at every single time. That doesn’t mean you have to let them ruin your day. Learn to balance the stress. Redirect the stress into positive ways of healing. The world is always going to find ways to push your buttons. The question is what channel are you willing to let them view? Everyone of you is special. Don’t give into the stress. Change the scenery around you if you need to. Volunteer, travel, step away and regroup. You may not be able to afford to travel but you can change your environment. You can do something you’ve never done before. You can take up a new hobby and meet new people. You can volunteer with an organization you believe in. Whatever you do, make baggage what you use to carry your personal items to travel in and not issues and stress that you can’t leave home without. Keep believing in yourselves. You are worth more than any of you will ever know.

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