Friday, October 23, 2015

You're in the (almost) home stretch. Be good to yourself.

Figure 1. If you don't dress like this, maybe no one will notice your absence.
For reasons I don't at all understand, this has been an incredibly stressful semester. My colleagues are lovely, as always, so it may be just the feeling, possibly exaggerated, of being pulled in too many directions and failing at all of them (which is on me, not the work or the surroundings).

The copy-edited book is back at the press, and I've finished a couple of small writing projects. Yet the stress of not getting other things finished--the recalcitrant article manuscript, conference papers, etc.-- is causing anxiety and things like the flashing lights and obscured vision that are signs of a very bad headache. It doesn't progress if I can stretch out with my office door closed for half an hour.  I don't want to call it a migraine, but still: flashing lights.

So here's a list to pry me (us) off the ceiling at this point of the semester.

1. You're in the (almost) home stretch. Be good to yourself.

2. Try a cup of green tea.  Try a tall glass of water, which also combats fatigue.

3. Even better, try to get out for a run. Listen to a podcast or a book rather than the voices inside your head.

4. Your colleagues may forgive you for not showing up at the many events scheduled every week. (Maybe they are like Fie, who has some wise words about this in the comments to an earlier post.)

5. About #4: unless you stride around in a swirling cloak like Orson Welles, chances are good no one will even notice your absence, so stop worrying.

6. Eat good, simple food and make it a meal.  A handful of crackers or almonds wolfed down before someone's presentation is not the same as lunch or dinner.

7. Looking at a list of five pieces of writing, all equally important, all requiring lots of time and complex thought, is a good way to paralyze yourself into thinking "I should do X -- wait, Y is due sooner --no, here's another email about Z."

Pick one. If you find yourself sitting in front of a screen and unable to write, grade some papers, even if it does burn the sacred morning writing time.  At least you'll be doing something, and you'll feel better for it.

8. Remember the big picture.  We're not doing brain surgery here. With the exception of recommendation letters, which have to be in on time, and grant letters (ditto), you can only get done what you can get done, as quickly and as well as you can manage it.

9. Get some sleep.

10. Get some fresh air, even if it's just for five minutes.  Breathe deeply.  The air is a wonderful tonic, which I'm making up but sounds like something Emerson should have said.

What's your advice for de-stressing?


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Cleaning helps calm me sometimes. It's hard to work in a total mess. I know some might use cleaning as a procrastination method, but I think it does help to feel less overwhelmed if you tidy up a bit before trying to get work done.

Another thing that I do that is not a universal but might help someone in the world so I'll say it -- I don't drink during the week for the most part. It just makes me feel worse during my working days. But I typically split a bottle of wine with hubby at least once on the weekend, usually Friday night. It's sort of a ritual unwind and signifies a night of doing nothing. One night a week of doing no work keeps me sane, no matter how much work I do every other day/night.

undine said...

Cleaning has that same effect on me. You can't get the big stuff done but you can get *something* done, which helps.