A football game was on in the background and the announcer said that one player’s brother had just died that morning in a car crash. The player was a wreck, crying on the bench between plays, but then went on to score a touchdown. I remember thinking two things: Why is this guy at work, and I don’t think I could ever focus that much while dealing with something so tragic.
But the more I thought about it, we do this type of grief compartmentalization in everyday life too, don’t we? I have friends who have been downsized who have to go into work and train their replacement in India while managing to not go postal. Other friends are dealing with incredibly stressful family situations, yet pretend nothing is wrong in front of their kids. And recently heard my friend’s 23 year old daughter just got diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and he still has to woo and entertain new clients.
There are times when feelings have to be put on the back burner by necessity, but at some point they also have to be dealt with, lest they bubble up at inappropriate moments or self destructive ways. I’m guilty of both. When my daughter was 18 months old I had a budget presentation to give right around the same time my daughter had to get radiation testing at Children’s Hospital. Something triggered a thought about her during the meeting and I fled, just breaking down and sobbing in the ladies room. (She’s fine, by the way.)
Living in denial did not work so well for me either. Emotional eating was my first choice of self soothing. When my dad got diagnosed with cancer I was size 3. By the time I was caring for him in hospice I was size 9. I felt like I always had to be upbeat around him and my mom. I had no control over the situation and did not allow myself time to deal with it, and my health suffered as a result.
I think for as much as we want to put on a brave front for the people around us, another part of the story is that we don’t want to experience those awful emotions. Anger, despair and hopelessness are never fun to experience and we might be frightened by the sheer intensity of our feelings. But it’s important to allow yourself time to release those sentiments.
Here are some things I’ve used in my own life to relieve stress that might work for you too:
7 Ways to Relieve Stress
- Talk to a friend. It helps to unburden yourself. Your friend, being removed from the situation, might offer a different perspective on your problems.
- Cry. It’s good to get that emotional release out. If you want to cry but can’t, watch a movie. Sometimes funny movies are good because you laugh so hard you cry.
- Run sprints. It burns off excess energy, releases endorphins, and helps you sleep better.
- Write in a journal. Sometimes it helps to get all your thoughts and fears out of your head and down on paper.
- If the problem seems overwhelming, you might want to talk to a therapist.
- Help someone. It takes your mind off your current situation and feels empowering to make someone’s day brighter.
If you are going through a tough time right now, I’m sending you a virtual hug. Take whatever time you need to grieve. It’s ok to feel bad sometimes.
How about you? What things have you done to relieve stress?
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