I’ll take squirrels chasing one another for the last dried corn cob over humans who think they’ve been slighted in the least any day of the week and twice on Mondays.
Don’t get me wrong, working from home doesn’t give you a “Bypass all Stress” card. Not in the slightest. It simply means that I have the luxury of handling my stress in front of a long-haired, slightly chubby cat (or any other combination of family members, if they happen to be in the vicinity).
If you work from home with web designing, web hosting, blogging, web publishing, graphic art, or anything that involves software, computers, plugins, and anything else we never even thought of in the 80’s, you know that the potential for problems (as well as the stress they bring) is great.
Throw human beings into the mix and it shoots up even higher.
Even if you have the luxury of dressing casually, wearing house shoes, and having an endless supply of coffee at your disposal – you’re still familiar with stress.
Ever notice how you can go along smoothly – with everything humming beautifully – for months on end, only to have a series of nightmares hit back to back to back. This is exactly how a span of about 4 months played out for me at the first of the year. One day, as I just sat in my computer chair starring out the window, I thought, “I cannot even remember what a normal day feels like.” Unfortunately there was no sympathy to be had in my front yard, even from the doves, so I simply went back to work.
For about an 8 week span, each day involved endless hours at the computer repairing and rebuilding multiple websites that had been hacked. Because of sub-human morons in the world, this human had to navigate through hell on earth, fueled only by coffee and sweet tea.
Even though my computer and I have always had a beautiful relationship built on mutual respect, I found myself snarling at it each time I saw it. Once I even referred to it as a pile of heartache and wires. To me, it was associated with stress, aggravation, and… let’s just put this out there…. misery.
One day, my computer started acting up and I was afraid something was terribly wrong with it. Fortunately, my husband was able to restore it to its original glory.
It really gave me a scare and I’m convinced it was paying me back for all the snarls.
“Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.” – Benjamin Franklin
Because I’m particularly clever when under stress (sarcasm of the highest order), I fell into the trap of playing “what if” roulette with my future.
- What if I can’t get this company’s website restored?
- What if these websites all fall from Google’s graces completely?
- What if something goes wrong with every website I’ve ever met?
- What if tomorrow never comes?
Okay, the last one is an exaggeration, but you get the idea. I exacerbated a bad situation by borrowing trouble and imaging the worst possible scenarios instead of the best possible scenarios.
Not once did I say or imagine anything like…
- What if I put this website back together and make it even better than it was before?
- What if, through this storm, I find a rainbow that makes it all worth it?
- What if adversity is a professor and I’m learning valuable lessons?
Funny thing is, although I didn’t ask these questions… or even remotely consider them… each would have been prophetic if I had. The 3 business websites I rebuilt and redesigned? They look 100 times better than they did before. My own websites that I re-did? They look, and function, 100 times better than before. Did I learn anything? Did I ever! I feel like I got a lesson in web security and it was utterly fascinating.
It reminded me of the GREAT Dolores Seymour quote, “When life kicks you, let it kick you forward!”
I guess at some point I finally decided that the old saying, “You either handle stress or it handles you” is dead on true. I was allowing stress to lead me around by the nose. It was taking the joy and happiness out of each day and I was allowing it.
I had always loved my workdays before the 8 weeks from hell came along. My weekdays would start the same way – with coffee in hand, I’d feed my husband, cats, birds, squirrels, and sometimes even myself breakfast. Then, with coffee in hand, I’d get dressed and ready for the day. Lighting a fragrant candle would signal that online work was about to commence and, with coffee in hand, I’d sit at my beloved computer and get busy.
My workdays were bliss for me.
Then hell months hit. I stopped lighting candles each day, stomped around, and… this hurts to admit.. but started feeling a little sorry for myself. Yeah, it’s an ugly thing to do, but there you have it.
I had a heart to heart with myself – not out loud, of course, the family worries when I do that. I realized that I was going about it all wrong. I reminded myself that I was still ridiculously blessed to be able to work from home. I identified a few things on my perennial “to do” lists that simply weren’t that important.
Found them, ditched them, walked away, didn’t look back.
“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” – Sydney J. Harris
Almost immediately, the old feelings of enthusiasm returned – before and after the work day. My computer and I became kindred spirits again. No more snarling or hurling accusations on my part and no more faking injuries like an overly-dramatic soccer player on her part.
The feelings of being overwhelmed and stretched like a rubber band went away and I didn’t just burn my old candles each day, I went out and burned new candles.
Sometimes making small, seemingly insignificant moves can alleviate stress in surprising ways.
If you’re feeling stressed in any way, take a good, close look at your life. What areas are causing you stress? Find ways to alleviate any stress you can – remember, every little move helps. Let’s say that again, with emphasis. Every. Little. Move. Helps.
Tips for Dealing with Stress
- Is your workload too heavy? If it is, lightening it will actually work out better in the long run. Being able to give MORE of yourself to FEWER projects results in better projects and a better you.
- Do you worry too much about others? Even if it’s your own children, try to make yourself realize that they will make mistakes, just as you have done. What’s more, they’ll survive and learn from them, just as you have. You cannot get between your child and every conceivable wrong turn, setback, or misstep. Been there, tried that, looked a fool.
- Is your house causing you a never-ending battle? Work and everyday life are stressful enough – the last thing you need is your house playing for the wrong team! Set aside a little time each day to cut into clutter and straighten that which has become crooked. Buy new shelves or totes, if need be, and create less clutter and stress in your environment. If you don’t have a dishwasher, buy one! Stay on top of household chores – this way they won’t get in your face demanding your attention. Always try to stay three steps ahead by putting things away as you use them, throwing away trash immediately, and cleaning behind you as you go about your business. A cluttered, messy home adds to your levels of stress without you even realizing it.
- Try to set aside a little time each evening to just enjoy life. Take a few hours each night and leave the “real world” behind. I love to kick back and watch tv with my husband and cat. It’s great to spend time with them and it’s a nice experience to just do nothing. Truth be told, sometimes I embrace nothingness like a long lost relative. If your first reaction is, “I can’t take 2 hours to just do nothing, I have to do this and I have to do that…” – then I have to tell you, you’re heading (and speeding to get there) for trouble. As the Roman Poet Ovid said, “Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” If you don’t have the signs of being stressed, overwhelmed, overworked, or temperamental yet – they’re just around the corner, awaiting your arrival. Hopefully, you’ll change your course and not join that unsavory party.
- Remind yourself how blessed you are. Counting your blessings brings about a beautiful feeling of happiness and contentment. Stress doesn’t like to go up against these emotions, so he bows out. He looks much better going than coming.
- If something – at work, at home, or even in a relationship – is out of your pay-grade, ask for help. We are all human and, therefore, unable to do everything. We aren’t perfect and can’t possibly know everything (that’s going to come as a real shock to some people). When I was battling website hackers, I did a lot of research and found a service I desperately needed. I did not and do not have the technical know-how or capabilities to fight off the enemy, so I found someone who does. There is no shame in saying, “This is beyond my abilities…” In fact, sometimes it’s the smartest thing you can say.
- Don’t mentally check out of today and venture off into tomorrow. Don’t allow your brain to come up with a slew of “what if” scenarios. Our brains are very creative and, when under stress, they will draw up the most imaginative and dire predictions you ever saw. Stick with what IS happening, try your best to control what WILL happen, and don’t fret over what COULD happen. Stick with what’s in your control.
- Slow down. Breathe. When under stress, we take little choppy breaths that don’t do us any good whatsoever. Worse, still, we’ll often hold our breath – which is even worse. The body kind of goes into panic mode at that point, and who can blame it?! Slow down and remember to keep taking deep, calming breaths. Another benefit of slowing down is you’ll pay more attention to what you’re doing, which will lessen your chances of causing any more stress!
It’s funny, isn’t it, that so many people think they can’t possibly slow down. They seem to equate being busy as treading water and fear that if they slow down, they’ll go under.
In actuality, when you throw off the heavy backpack, you find that you have more time to swim.
Oddly enough, I think part of the problem lies within this quote about computers, “No matter how fast your computer system runs, you will eventually come to think of it as slow.”
Our generation has become so accustomed to fast forward and has gotten so used to dancing to the “Git ‘r done” tune that many of us see slowing down as standing still. Needless to say, we need to adjust that thinking before it’s too late. You remember what’s waiting around the corner, don’t you?
We’d hate to have that realization hit us one day with one arm in a blood pressure cup as the other gestures in a how-did-this-happen motion. It’d be even worse, in my opinion, to have it dawn on us one day when our child is reliving his or her childhood and we realize that we’d missed a big chunk of the scenery.
The time to slow down is today. Tomorrow will be brighter because of it.
~ Joi (“Joy”)