Friday, June 22, 2012

Stress and The Unexpected: Rule #4

My grandmother used to say, "Just keep smiling." My mom used to say, "There are no problems, only solutions." I always say, "If it weren't fun I wouldn't do it. See how much fun I'm having?" Other people say, "What doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger." We all have our quips. But why? What are we really telling ourselves with these sayings? That we are positive people, and that nothing can get in our way? Absolutely, yes. But if you think about it, these cute little sayings only come out like our china and white linens...for a special occasion. What is this something special...the unexpected. Something has thrown us for a loop. Something that is outside the standard we have created for ourselves. Something we never saw coming. Something has just hit us over the backside, and we need a minute to process whatever in the world just happened! I was thinking about all the unexpected things life has put in the path of my loved ones. From divorce, premature death, and disease to layoffs, lawsuits, and even layovers. These events, with out fail, put a kink in our plans. I was thinking about how my family and friends have handled the unexpected loops life has thrown at us. I am proud to be a part of this group of family and friends, because everyone I know handles these loops with style and grace. Sometimes, when we are hit with the unexpected, it's the little things that get lost in the shuffle. For example, a friend of mine was going through one of these life's loops, and I was with her in her car. With everything going on, she forgot to get gas, and was on fumes. She decides that her home was closer than the gas station, so we drive back to her house. When we pull into her garage, she gets out the fuel used for the lawn mower and fills it up the car enough to get us to the gas station. Sometimes, these loops try to keep us secluded. My mom used to take the bull by the horns with her loop. She would hardly ever feel well, and she adapted a motto, "I can feel bad at home, or I can feel bad at (insert place to go, ie movies, restaurant, shopping, etc.). I'm going to (place)." Then, sometimes, the loop will whittle us down to the bare minimum. How many bags of rice and beans and Ramen noodles have we all eaten during times of dismal finances? I can't eat grilled cheese sandwiches anymore, but those were a delicacy for a while back in the day! So, Rule #4. When I was younger, I was afraid of the unexpected. I would cower away from it, and fight it tooth and nail. Who really wants to deal with any of this crap, anyway?!! After years of learning the hard way, I gave in, and Rule #4 was born: Don't be afraid to improvise. If you hold on to your expectation of what "should" be normal, you will go insane. If you don't bend, you WILL break. You don't want to break. Improvise. Do not be afraid to go with the flow. Eventually, the unexpected will become the new normal. You will end up on the other side of the loop with a "smile", "solutions", "fun", and "strength." Rule #4: Don't be afraid to improvise!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Stress and The Argument: Rule #3

I was in Starbucks tonight. They have a new coffee flavor/roast out, the name of which I do not recall. I asked the barista how the new roast tasted, and he described it as light and blonde. I don't particularly like lighter coffees. I'm more of a bold coffee girl. I say, "Nah, I'll take the Pike's roast." He proceeds to pour me a cup of the new roast. When he turns around, I say, "I'm sorry, but I wanted the Pike's roast." He rolls his eyes at me, turns around, pours out that coffee, and pours the right one in. Kevin was with me, so I asked him, "did I not say that right?" Kevin told me he heard Pike's the first time. Obviously, the barista did not, EVEN THOUGH those were the words that came out of my mouth. How often does this happen? We say exactly what we mean to say, word for word, and the person hearing us interprets them with an entirely different meaning? ALL THE TIME!! And, how often does this result into an argument? More often than we would like. It is unfortunate that nobody is immune to this communication gaff. To me, an argument is one of the most stressful things I can be a part of. It drains me of so much energy, mentally and emotionally. Both parties are usually feeling frustrated and upset, both parties are usually trying vehemently to make their point over the other, and both parties are usually getting nowhere fast. How can this happen when intentions were in the right place? How can this happen when I know the person I'm talking to very well, and the fact that I'm arguing with this person is more insane than the actual argument? How can they not understand what I'm trying to say, when I couldn't be more clear? The answer...who in the world knows! At some point though, in order to move on, someone has got to give. Someone has to suck it up and cede the argument, and that someone should be you! Even if I'm right, and they clearly just don't get it?? (Insert deep breath) Yes, even if you're right. These things can go on for days, and for what reason? At what cost? Maybe they are having a bad day. Maybe you are having a bad day. Maybe, walking away revisiting it will fix it. How much stress can be avoided by taking a step back, taking responsibility for your part in the argument, and seeking to restore the relationship? LOTS! And there you have Rule #3: When arguing, take a step back, take responsibility for your part, and seek to restore the relationship. This rule is special, because there is a 3a. If you end up not being the person that takes the first step back (hey, it happens), and the other person begins to apologize, calm down enough to listen. An apology is taking responsibility for their part. Listen to them! I would venture to guess that nobody likes arguing (well, I have this ex-boyfriend that loved a good verbal sparring match...some people are weird!). I know we can't live in peace with all people all the time, but we should make every effort to do the best we can. So with that, may your arguments last a short time, and your relationships last forever.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Stress and The Nectar Novice: Rule #2

A little background...I grew up in a strict Christian home. Alcohol was the forbidden fruit. I actually didn't drink until I was 21, and then it was only to see what it tasted like. I was not a party girl, and to this day, hardly ever drink. I now see where my being a late bloomer was probably a good idea. About 7 years ago, I was in Denver for work, and a group of us went to dinner at a brewery. Unknown to this nectar novice and native of the flatlands (Texas), altitude changes ones' tolerance for alcohol. I indulged in ONE of their homemade brews, and became the new poster child for "Chatty Cathy." I proceeded to answer my boss' boss' question, "How are things at your clinic?" by bashing my boss who was not present. OOPS! I did not get fired, but upon return to the flatlands, I was greatly scorned by a seething boss. Before this meeting happened, I was pacing the sidewalk and calling all friends for advice. There was tension between us after the meeting for a good time to come. It was after this incident I invoked Rule #2: DO NOT drink with work people! Reduce work stress, right? Fast forward to this week...I was attending my graduation from a leadership class given by my employer. It was at a local winery. (Do you see where this is going...OY!) I really have stuck to my rule for 7 years. However, somewhere between my ears I thought, one glass of wine won't kill me...I'm in the flatlands! This party is for MY graduation, after all. Insert my ONE glass of wine. As I was working the room saying my hellos, I realized that because I have applied for a promotion, I should probably hob-nob with the Regional Director who could be my future boss. I'm not the best at idle chit-chat, but I thought of some little topics. We say our hellos, I tell her I've been reading a book she suggested. She says, "Yeah, it's a good book. I'm going to get more food." And...SHE WALKED AWAY!! FAIL! This is where my normal shy girl would show up and walk away. Did I?...oh, no I didn't! She returns, and I say, "I hear you were out on vacation." She thinks about that for a few seconds and says, "No, I had my gall bladder removed." I say, "OH! I'm sorry, I guess that's how rumors get started (insert stupid sheepish laugh)." She smiles and turns her back to me to talk to someone else. OY! I DID walk away at this point, tail between my legs, back to my comfort zone peeps. Was she really that hungry? Am I really that boring to talk to? Either way, I broke my rule, and experienced ANOTHER uncomfortable work scenario. Correlated or inconsequential, I will feel stress wondering if it was induced by my "Chatty Cathy." So, back to the basics. Avoid "Chatty Cathy" induced work stress!! Rule #2: DO NOT drink with work people!!!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Stress and The Drama Queen: Rule #1

When I was in 8th grade, I landed the lead role in our school play "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" as, none other than, Lucy van Pelt. I bought a white dress and dyed it the perfect color blue, had boppy-socks and the infamous white and black saddle shoes. I got to play the part of swiping the football out from under Charlie Brown at the last minute, romantically chasing the piano savant Schroeder, and guiding fellow Peanuts characters to rational common sense and sanity for the cost of 5 cents as the know-it-all psychiatrist. Yes, oddly enough, one of Lucy's roles was to bring order to their stressful lives, even though, truth be told, she was more than likely the cause of this stress. Not only did she pull footballs, chase someone who was not interested in being chased,and give not-so-sound advice, she stole a security blanket, cheated on her school work, poked fun at all of her friends' lack of intelligence, then she would profess to be a queen so she could SHOUT at people. A poster child for drama. I wish I had a good segue into this next bit, but I don't, so I'm going to use the direct approach. I think a lot of times, we are the same. We cause the drama around us, and in turn, our stress levels rise. How often could we cut to the chase, but instead try to prove a point by manipulating the situation, purposefully causing drama, to truly bring our point home. I think this is something that is genetically programed in women. We own this. For example, how often do we think our man or friend should just know what we are thinking and what we want. I mean, for cryin' out loud, how long have we been together, or been friends?!!?? Instead of just spelling it out, we use our infamous line of interrogation that begins with the silent treatment. This is followed by some audible, yet unintelligible grunt sounds that maybe start occurring days later. And, finally, the dramatic bickering begins. "What do you mean you don't know I like 1 1/2 scoops of chocolate chips over my yogurt cup?" "How could you possibly think I would wear white shoes after Labor Day?" "OMG! When you're finished, PUT THE SEAT DOWN!!" And, men, don't think you get a pass! Playing stupid is NOT cool! "It was just one more round of golf. What's the big deal?" (On a Saturday when you know company is coming over for dinner). "Do you need help with anything?" (After the chores have already been done by someone else). Or trying to give the birthday cake/gift days later, and you act as if there's nothing wrong, because, shoot, better late than never, right? WRONG! So, something I have tried to incorporate into my life for many years now...cutting to the chase. Not an easy task, and as I have mentioned, we women own this drama queen thing. But instead of pouting, just say, "Put the stupid seat down!" Instead of dragging it out for days, say it at 2am when you've fallen in the toilet. Wake him up!! Men, resist the urge to play stupid, and be mature long enough to complete a chore. What about work? Maybe your boss scheduled a meeting, and you spend days preparing the most perfect presentation. At the last minute, the meeting is cancelled without being rescheduled. Instead of letting your frustration fester, find a way to explain your hard work to your boss. You still want credit for doing the work, don't you? Problems are solved, and life can go on. In the battle of Stress and the Drama Queen, humans can win. The Lucys out there will continue to pull the football, profess a heritage that is absurd, and manipulate any given situation. We, however, have the power within us to defeat the Lucys, and reduce stress in our lives. Conquer drama head on. Take care of it TODAY! If there is something eating you up, bring it up. Obviously, there are times the situation actually is more "dramatic" than a toilet seat lid, and those are the most important things to talk about. Whether it's family, friends, coworkers, or WHOEVER, the quicker you stop the drama, the quicker you'll have peace. Rule #1: Leave the drama at home, and stress will leave you alone.