I looked at the wall calendar in the kitchen last week and realized a couple of things: it's not May (I'd forgotten to flip it for two months) and more than half the year has passed. I've been so busy time hasn't had to sneak away from me; it walked right out the front door with the last eight weeks. Back to school supplies are suddenly on display in every store I go to. We're halfway through Hurricane season, too.
I know staying busy and productive is better than being idle and depressed. In addition to a mountain of work I've tackled some particularly tough situations and resolved them, so I haven't wasted those blurry eight weeks. Out of them I took one day for myself to spend with the family, and that was great. The other 55 days I just worked, often from dawn until midnight, and that's not so good.
The next four weeks are going to be twice as busy for me as the last eight. There are a hundred things I have yet to get done for the series launch. E-mail is piling up again, and so are my housework and sewing projects. I've made promises to help my guy and my kid with their own projects, which are still waiting in the wings. I also have two proposals to finish, plans to make for the holidays, three rooms to unclutter and the year can't be half over because I'm going to need at least another year to get all this stuff done.
Unexpected things always happen, but when you're busy they only add to the stress. They can also have a toppling domino effect that creates new problems. For example, my car broke down while I was out running errands the other day. When I finally got home, I took an aspirin for the screaming headache I'd gotten waiting on the tow truck. I then had to rush to get dinner ready for visiting family (who called to say they were arriving two hours early), which resulted in me cutting open a finger. The cut was thankfully minor, but thanks to the aspirin I'd taken I couldn't stop the bleeding right away. I had to get my kid to help patch me up. My guy's job made him late getting home, so dinner had to be in two shifts -- taking twice as long, of course. Once I'd finished dishes, got my guests settled in and turned on my computer it was midnight. I still had to look at the copy my editor sent me for review, and naturally it needed extensive revision. By that time I was too tired and aggravated to do it, and I gave up and went to bed.
Despite all the problems I'd handled that day I felt like a complete failure, which activated my insomnia, which kept me staring at the ceiling most of the night. I think that's what stress does best -- no matter how hard we work, it never seems good enough.
After that wretched day I knew I really needed a break, so I looked for something unusual to do. I found a notice about a sale at an old hotel undergoing renovations. The new owners were clearing out 92 years' worth of old furniture, paintings and other unwanted items junk by selling it to the public. I'd never been to something like that, so I grabbed my kid, my camera, and went on a day trip. Here's a slideshow of what we saw (and I apologize for the poor lighting in some of the pics; they didn't have a lot of lights hooked up inside the hotel):
It wasn't wall-to-wall antiques, but it was fun to browse through all the hotel junk. The last two pictures in the slideshow are what we bought -- my kid picked up a forest scene oil painting for $10.00, and I settled on an old brass door knob set for $1.00.
In the two hours we spent at the sale I had a few flashbacks to The Shining, but mainly I got a couple dozen story ideas. I also relaxed enough to spend a few more hours walking around town, browsing through an Asian market, having a wonderful lunch at this neat little diner and finishing up with stops at a bead store and a family-owned bakery. I didn't think about anything but what we were doing at the moment, and nothing we did that day was important, which made it priceless. When I got home I still had all the work waiting, but none of the stress was there. Taking that day break decompressed me, recharged my batteries and reset my expectations of myself. The all work/no play thing is really true.
What do you do to handle stress and give yourself a day break? Let us know in comments.