I remember driving home from school one night, during the first quarter of school after I started studying architecture full time.

*let me make a note here that for anyone with any kind of dedication, architecture is kinda hard core on the demanding scale. The thing is, you are never done. You could always do more. 5 years is not enough time, and too much. Architecture students are pretty up there in the non sleeping student category.

I remember clearly the anxious, knotty feeling in my stomach that I was feeling because I had so much to do. All the tension in my neck and shoulders, causing a deep ache. The jittery buzz in my hands. I remember driving home thinking, "is this it? is this how I am going to feel from now on? for the next five years?"

I can remember it so clearly not only because it was a new experience for me [I don't think I had been a very stressed person before this] but because I am feeling it right now.

I am not in school, studio classes are behind me, my thesis is behind me. Literally, it is a Thursday afternoon. [I started writing this last week....] I left work early today, paused to write this from "doing things around the house" [I LOVE doing things around the house], and I am looking forward to a fun evening with my husband and friends. I have a 3 day weekend, with no tasks that *need* to be completed, no obligations or commitments. The bills are all paid, and the bank account is not empty. I am not thinking about work. Ben and I are healthy. We are happy. My animals are healthy. I rested well last night. I have no friends tottering on the edge of life, and my immediate family are well and free of crisis. And, yet.

When we left for Joshua Tree a few weekends ago, we were trying to get out of town early enough to beat traffic then make it up there and get ready for the rehearsal dinner at our rental a leisurely pace. Admittedly, it was a really busy week, and I had to hurry my ass off to be ready by 1pm, the time my best friend was meeting us at our place to hit the road. But I don't think that justified how stressed and irritated I was when she caused us to leave late. What the fuck was my problem. I could not calm down.

Ben feels it too. He will ask- what on earth is wrong with me. My only answer is, "I'm stressed", see above re: knots in stomach. But my old answers "I'm stressed about [money, school, family, take your pick]" aren't there. So, I don't have an answer.

Thing is, until recentely all of those issues have bombarded me. When discussing this with some friends, they brought up the phenomenon of peptide addiction or reaction. I *think* what this boils down to is; my body is so used to feeling stressed, that it just continues to operate that way.

So, I'm working slowly to combat this. I'm hoping awareness is the first step. Slowing down and being conscious of the tension in my body, asking why it is there, and reminding myself that it is not necessary, take many deep breaths or something.

Here are some more ideas I have;

-making sure I have enough down time [a difficult balance- I like being busy]
-getting exercise
-spending more in nature [perhaps while getting exercise, always gotta multi task]
-maybe accupunture? [I have never had!]
-eating well [ok, so this is just my answer for everything]

So, I know you are all crazy-busy-active-multi-tasking types. How do you deal with ongoing long term stress?


  1. I go to the library, and find a good book, and I read. I also go on walks out in the woods. Or, I'll read in the woods.

  2. i'm never good with stress. my life is way easier than it was in college but i still let myself get overwhelmed and panicky and procrasting which only makes it a vicious cycle. i think exercise helps. so does taking deep breaths. and um, i could use some advice here myself!

  3. Anonymous8:29 AM

    Yes, I know this. The whole not-knowing-how-not-to-be-stressed thing. I don`t have a good answer other than time--trying to be aware of one`s behaviour and altering it slowly over time. It`s hard stuff.

  4. Yoga. Yogayogayoga.

    And getting outside every day.

  5. Also, Rescue Remedy.

  6. Yoga and rescue remedy and timetables.

    When I'm stressed I refuse to stop working and then I get to the end of the day and realise I haven't done any of the things that make me feel better, like eating. I need a timetable and I print it out big and I stick copies everywhere and I set alarms to go off at lunch time and break time and yoga time. After a couple of weeks I don't need to be so strict anymore because I start to feel better.

  7. Hi...I've been lurking in the corners of your blog ever since you got married out my way...

    And I have a super stressful life/job and used to suffer from debilitating panic attacks (but not since my move to Joshua Tree). Here are a few of my own insights:

    1. get enough sleep
    2. yoga
    3. deep breathing (have you ever noticed that you stop breathing when you're stressed? I do a lot of deep breathing around large conference room tables while wearing power suits)
    4. exercise (I think this is where most people scrimp, but I have learned to put a top priority on running, or jump-roping, or yoga...whatever gets your heart rate up and makes you feel like a rock star afterwards)
    5. setting aside a little bit of time every day to do something that you find truly enjoyable and inspiring (reading a book, writing, surfing the internet, whatever)
    6. making sure that you do at least one mundane task (paying the mortgage, or taking the dry cleaning in) every day, or every other day
    7. pets - my dog is one of the best stress relievers ever
    8. watching the sun set (or some other quieting-down ritual where you let yourself just sit and watch something beautiful and benign)
    9. drink less alcohol (I've noticed that drinking really exacerbates my inability to cope so when I'm stressed I try to exercise instead.)

    If you'd like more ideas, let me know.

  8. Sleep, lists, enforced down time, lots of trashy reading. Oh, and when all else fails, xanax.

  9. ha, rachel! i was going to say lexapro. better living through chemistry isn't for everyone, but these other (excellent and wise) suggestions don't prove lethal to your stress (and i hope they do), it's worth...not ruling out.

  10. I go to my ongoing, long-term therapist. (Who charges me practically nothing, by the way, because she does sliding-scale.)

  11. Xanax + therapy totally works - I am living proof.

    Rachel, I love the phrase "enforced down time." Sometimes my problem when I'm stressed is that I feel guilty for taking "me" time - there is so much still to do, after all. Luckily I married someone who looks out for my mental health.

    Getting out of the house also helps, if you work from home or have a studio at home. Fleeing the scene for a nice dinner out on the town = awesome.

  12. I don't have any useful answers, but I'm really glad I'm not the only one asking the question.

  13. oh, and acupuncture. I've had two weeks worth now and I like it. I'm not sure I feel any better exactly but something about it feels good.

  14. Wow, I am so relieved to hear that other people feel like this too. I don't have any major problems in my life either....yet since i got married i have not gone back to my "old" self. I blamed a lot on pre-wedding stress and just got used to it.....now i am at a loss for this feeling of needing perfection in all areas of my life. I gotta learn to leave the dishes sometimes and look past the leaves that need to be raked and just appreciate the garden behind them. I figure it's a long process and im learning a lot about myself in the mean time...good to see im not the only one though.

  15. I can relate to how you're feeling definitely, and I'm not sure i have any answers. I also recently graduated with my PhD and you're right, there is never a moment when everything is finished. Now that I'm done, I've moved on to a good job, but with a lot of responsibilities...so, stressful. But I love it. I'm learning new stuff, and I think that makes me happy. But I still get anxiety about what I need to to next or how I should fill the next moment. No matter what I'm doing, there is something else that needs to be done. I think you're ideas, excercise and diet are very good ones.
    I wish you luck. You'll come down eventually. You adapted to the intensity of school at one time. You definitely can adapt to insisting on a more peaceful life.

  16. ShellyP8:40 PM

    walking & wine