Stress or Mindfulness: Which do I prefer?

Bucking down for my next semester in college, I have found that last semester’s intent to balance my personal life and a full time schedule in college didn't work out quite well towards the end of the semester.  Yes, I am an author by night, but I am like many of you, I have a day job too.  Mine constitutes the many facets that make up me.  I educate myself as well as work part time.  Throw in a husband, several kids, parents and in-laws and I have a chemical mixture of needs that constantly demand my attention.  The questions so many people ask are, what do I do that helps me balance all of the stresses in my life? How do I achieve personal success as a wife, mother, employee or family member and have a career as an author to boot?

I took a careful examination of myself while deciding if the first rocky year of self-publication was the way for me to achieve any authority as an author.  I mean there is all that writing and editing to do not to mention the process it takes to bring a manuscript from a word document to its final printed edition.  I wanted to cry many days.  A lot of work went into creating my manuscripts, but so did a lot of my personal time.  Time away from family, friends and myself.  I felt I was working harder as an entrepreneur than I did if I had a full time job.  A few months ago it was time for me to self-evaluate.  Did I want to finish my degree?  Did I want to continue exploring a career as an author?  Could I find a way to balance my life so I could have everything I want out of life?

First thing I did was research stress.  Like I haven’t already heard tons of talks or read many magazine articles about the subject, not to mention how I valued my personal experiences or accomplishments of overcoming stressful situations.  The real research was for me to examine how I was living my life today and determine if there were things I could do to limit the amount of stress affecting me daily.  I decided I needed more facts about stress.

Did you know?
Workplace stress caused approximately 1 million U.S. employees to miss work every day.  Nearly 1/3 of college students say that stress hurts their school performance.  I discovered the body’s reaction to stress depends on personality, genetics and coping skills.  The hardest thing for me to read about was the national overall consensus believed that stress was thought to contribute to heart disease, cancer, stroke, lung ailments, unintentional injuries and diabetes—the six leading causes of death in America.  Last year I was a cancer patient and this spring I went into remission for the third time in five years. Stress of the unknown can take its toll on the human body, this I understand wholeheartedly.

What changed for me?
What changed for me was my ability to view stressful situations as a chance for personal growth.  Stress became my new opportunity. I learned to create boundaries when I dealt with my education, employment and family.  I gave myself permission to have everything that I wanted out of life with the leniency to allow for time.  I came to the conclusion I was too hard on myself. I didn’t want to wait another year, as an author, to publish my second book.  Instead I wrote two more novels, subsequently publishing three full length novels in ten months.  Over achieve much?  Yes, I did and sometimes still do. To think back on the past year, I believe I would do it all over again, because through that painful process I was able to measure my capabilities as a writer and as an individual.  I discovered what worked for me as a literary professional combined with the multiple facets of my personal life.  I, also, learned what it is I need to do in order for me to not lose myself in the process.

Baby Steps
Here are some of a few steps I learned to create less stress in my life.
First I became mindful.  Everyone is different and what stresses me out today may not stress me out tomorrow.  I began to look at all of the things I needed to do today and let the rest go until tomorrow.  I am work hard to keep a calendar and a schedule.  The flexibility with incorporating my life as an author occurs when I to find the time to do my writing, especially when creating a new piece of prose.  I set aside three to four hours a day for writing, editing, website design or marketing and I give myself permission to do this either in the morning or evening depending on my day (or split it up daily) and I do this several times a week, not every day.  Some weeks I may do more, others less.  I have accepted flexibility and still retain the presence as a literary professional. 

Second, I make a plan each week and I share it with my husband.  There is no way I would be able to conquer all the stressors in my life without him helping me along.  We have “date night” at least once a month where it is dedicated to the two of us.  It was weird dating those first couple of times because we had spent the past couple of decades raising kids.  When we found ourselves alone (one child still at home), it was like, “What do we do now?” Don’t get me wrong there are times where we don’t agree on how things are to be planned out, but the key is we hash it out.  My relationship with my husband is my best friend.  If you aren’t married or if you have a partner, try including them in what is going on with your daily life or writing out a plan for the week and try sticking to it.  Also, talking over the events of my day with my husband may not occur in the same day, but I make it a point to catch him up the following day or soon after.  No one is perfect, but communication is critical, so is the decision making process in our relationship.  Having a person to share what goes on in my life is my life’s bonus.

Lastly, I learned to take time to be selfish.  What that really means is, I learned how to take care of myself. When I’m creating new prose, I give my family three days out of the week where they can book my attention during the day and the rest of the week is mine to dictate how it is to be spent.  I began to say “No” a lot more than I used to.  I learned to treat myself to fun, relaxing times throughout my day.  If that meant I was nose deep in a book, my family could count on not seeing me for hours.  I learned to get support from counselors about my son’s death and my cancer despite having spent years talking about both. When I would least expect it, someone would say something and my heart felt it would explode.  PTSD is a real monster.  Seeking and accepting help was a step in the right direction for me. Most of all I remembered how to value myself.  I did a personal inventory, earlier this year, and found it to be refreshing.  I learned I did do things I liked and things that I was good at.  That made me feel good about myself.  Feeling good helped me to regain my confidence in creating more in my life as a person and as an author.

I have found I am a person who thrives in stress, but I am also a person who can balance that stress with mindfulness to be who I need to be. Acceptance is a key to everything, including when things go wrong in life. I have learned to take one day at a time, and live in the present moment.  It isn’t easy and there are days that are challenge for me, but to be a successful student, employee, author, wife and mother, I have found ways to help me remain mindful of the various aspects of me.

Remember, stress is a normal part of life.  Ignoring stress can cause serious problems.  You can learn how to manage your stress and get help if you need it.

Sabrina Rawson

 

Sing like no one is listening.

 

If I followed this motto, I would not have a care in the world for whomever would catch sight of me while sitting at the nearest stoplight while I belted the latest John Legend song to my imaginary lover.  I thought I sang it rather well.  My seventeen year old daughter decreed it was hazardous for me to attempt such endeavours at seven a.m. She asked rather abruptly, interrupting my blissful moment on the grand stage called my car where I performed my heart out in my cutest jammies, to not ever do that again while dropping her off at high school.  Once my performance was over (I did not share in my story the dancing in the driver seat mind you), I informed her life is not about what the teen mind perceives what I consider one of my joyous times spent bonding with her.  She asked me again not to sing or dance while driving her to school.  I laughed out loud, pulled my sunglass down and turned the radio up.  When we pulled in front of the school and she exited the car slamming the door to my joyous antics trying to insight any reaction from me.  I decided to show her some love and rolled the driver window down and yelled, "Have a great day!  Mommy loves you!"  I drove off with the windows down music bumping singing like no one was listening.

 

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