Striving to Slay the Stress Dragons

Aurora here.

Ah, summer, the time of heat, insects, and inevitable gatherings of people. The latter is an introvert’s nightmare. Amid the smoke of BBQs is the smoke coming out of relatives’ and friends’ ears as they engage in heated debate, their anger augmented by the cheap macro brews filling the coolers. I have horrible anxiety, and this is when I usually find a quiet corner and monopolize nearby dogs. Sometimes, I’m tempted to get involved in these discussions, as I have many opinions. But I also hate confrontation and recognize that engaging with drunk people who often believe the volume of one’s voice equates to the validity of one’s argument is an absolute waste of time.

    Inevitably, I get home stressed and absolutely tired. I open my project file while the events of the day and angry words are swirling in my head. Then, I make the mistake of opening social media to clear my head, and see the same arguments are continuing with different people. While it is important to speak one’s mind and recognize the importance of current events, anger and fear fill up one’s headspace, and sometimes, the words don’t come.

    I’m getting close to finished with The Golden Bell, and despite my insistence on minimizing my social life for the final month of revisions, my schedule has been fuller than I’d like. At the end of the day, I feel utterly drained and upset. My nerves are raw.

    So what to do? Avoid social media for the rest of the evening. Take a bath or a walk, if it isn’t too sticky and hot. I find the heat does little to improve my mood. Play a quiet game like Mahjong or solitaire, but set a time limit.

    Funny story. I went on a walk last night, as the temps had cooled to a tolerable degree. Other people had the same idea. When I passed people, I said a brief “Good evening,” just to do the expected thing. (Note: I’m an introvert and I avoid small talk, but I don’t want to be rude.) A few people just stared, no reply back. Noooo, that didn’t make me feel uncomfortable at all. I checked my shorts and T-shirt to see if I had a weird food stain on them or if my shorts had ridden up from walking. I mean, when unexpected behavior happens three times, I start to think something is up. Okay, I started to think something was up the first time. But, no, my clothes were all fine. Maybe it’s the unicorn rainbow hair? I live in a sort of uptight, suburban area. There was a particularly awkward encounter though. For a good ten minutes, someone was walking the same direction I was, just ahead of me. I slowed, but the pace was too slow. I sped up and still wasn’t making much headway. Yes, I’m a woman walking alone after dark, and sometimes I worry when the only other person nearby is a buff man. This could either be the beginning of a romance or a horror movie. (I was trying to clear my head to think about my current project, not other stories.) I elected to keep with the speed up plan. I murmured a “Good evening,” so as not to be rude. This was one of the people who said nothing, which made me very nervous. I picked up the pace more, trying not to look wary. Clearly, I just want to murder my calves and thighs on this hill! That’s all! I refused to look over my shoulder until I’d turned down another road. After that, I came home.

    But back to the point. When you’ve done whatever it is you’ve done to calm down, even if it turns out to be not so relaxing, get to work. Accomplishing a little is better than nothing.

    Sometimes the worst part is getting started. Sometimes the temptation is there to just watch Netflix, and that’s okay once in a while, too, at least until I keep saying, “One more episode…” Five episodes later, I’m still telling myself the same thing. Once I start typing the words, slowly my characters beat back the invading worries. The act of tying words about my characters, even if I immediately delete them, forces my thoughts from other things.

It’s that last bit that helps me the most – forcing myself to write. This isn’t always a guarantee; sometimes I fall asleep if I’ve had some social event. If you have a project with a deadline, try to cut down on your social schedule. I know that only works so well; I get spammed with texts encouraging me to go to noisy bars and visit because “It’s healthy.” Let me remind you, getting behind on deadlines and creating more stress for yourself is unhealthy. Put your phone on silent and slide it under a piece of furniture for a while. Just remember where you put it!

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