STRESSED OUT: New Lifestyle, New Stress-Management Plan

Realistically, I probably only take 2-4 days off during a school year. I’m of the feeling that: A. I want my sick days in case something happens or in case we have a baby or whatever – you get the point; and B. We get all summer off, plus lots of 3-day weekends and 2 weeks for the winter holidays. Do I really need more of a break than that?

For most teachers, the answer is yes. In many parts of the country, teachers don’t even make a living wage, and so many of them work second and third jobs to supplement their income. Remember when the kids in Mean Girls ran into Tina Fey in her restaurant get-up at the mall and were all weirded out? My students love to laugh at that scene, but it is 100% true. Even in the Chicago suburbs, where teachers are paid very well for the most part, I don’t know a single teacher who doesn’t have a second job.

Y’all know already that I have a second job. You’re looking at it.

OK, blogging isn’t a “job” per se, but I do get paid for most of the writing I do, and that job takes up to another 20 hours a week during the school year (on top of the grading and planning I already do at home), and can take up to 60 hours during the summer depending on how much extra freelancing I can take on.

This summer? Well between a huge article I’m working on but can’t really talk about yet and another project I can’t really tell you about yet and two former editors (One from The Guardian – hello, when The Guardian calls, you answer!) email you asking if you can take on some more work and upping my writing load for AND getting ready to teach an AP class next year, I’m looking at a lot of 60-hour work weeks this summer.

I’m honestly working harder this summer than I did last school year.

All of this sounds a lot like complaining. I’m not complaining. I LOVE teaching and I LOVE writing, and I LOVE that teaching not only satisfies this calling I’ve had to work with students, but also affords me the time off and the insurance benefits I need to do the writing I love as well. It’s just that I was really looking forward to a break this summer.

Seriously, you guys, at the end of last school year, I needed a break more than anything. I was looking at myself in the mirror on the last day of school, with my hair all cracked and dry, huge bags under my eyes, my skin was peeling off in places because it was so dry and patchy, and I was broken out like I’ve never been broken out before. OK, I get it, no one could notice any of these things on me, but does that mean they weren’t there? Does that mean I didn’t need some kind of change, and fast, to regain my health? I think I did.

I did try to take some time for myself at the beginning of the summer, but I had so many things that I had put off during the last week of school that I just needed to get done. So I hit the ground running, albeit with a little more sleep than I had been used to, but I still didn’t really take any time for me.

And I started all these new things. New projects, a new diet, a new lifestyle. I was stressing myself out about doing all of these new things perfectly while also trying to balance the old things. I think you can probably guess how that was working out for me. (Or how it wasn’t.)

But I thought I was doing so well. My acne has been at bay for over a month. I’ve gotten a few little pimples, but this is nothing compared to what it looked like at the end of the school year. My face even has a little more of a glow now when I look in the mirror, and I can’t remember the last time I felt the need to actually wear makeup. (Some concealer here and there, but I refuse to believe that is actually makeup.) And, if you’ve learned anything about me from any of my writing lately, I associate overall health and wellbeing with skin health. And I don’t think I’m that far off-base in doing so.

Then, last week happened. I didn’t work out, I didn’t even leave my home office for more than a few minutes a day to say good night to Tim before I crashed in bed. Even on the 4th of July, I had to drag myself away from the work I was doing to go out for a minute before I came back and worked some more. I think I worked 80 hours last week. For real. So I decided that some yoga would be good for me on Sunday. I went, I yoga-ed, I came home to a huge patch of pimples on my cheek and chin. You can imagine how I felt.

Finally, after an hour of crying about the 10 steps back I had taken, I put on my big-girl pants and said, “Enough is enough.” Diet and exercise and getting enough sleep is a big part of the journey to overall health, but if you are stressed out and over-worked, you’re not going to allow your body any time to recover. Yoga didn’t cause those pimples; stress did. Yoga just allowed me to take a step back for a minute and realize how deeply stressed out I was.

It’s difficult to realize that you are stressed over summer vacation. I mean, you’re sleeping until whenever you want, you’re in your own home and working (So it’s not really work, right? Um… WRONG!), you take breaks and days off to see friends whenever you want to, so it’s not so bad? But when you’re doing what I was and working more during the week than you do during the school year, something’s going to blow up, whether it’s your face or your self-esteem or your temper.

What did I do? Well, I took yesterday off. Not took it off to go see friends or drink wine with Tim. I took it OFF. I did not get out of my pajamas or move from the couch all day, and I did nothing but watch The X Files on Netflix and take a nap and drink tea.

It. Was. Glorious.

But, it’s not sustainable. I can’t be taking days to lay on the couch every time I feel stressed out, especially during the school year. Instead, I’m going to focus a lot of my effort on only working 40-hours during the rest of the summer, and then, when school starts, I’m going to pick an amount of time (maybe 8 hours? maybe 10?) during the school year that I’m willing to spend on writing. Once I hit my limit? Well, I don’t get paid overtime, so I will stop. I know it’s going to be really hard to do, but I have to unless I want to see my overall health decline again like it did last year.

When your body speaks, you really need to listen. This new lifestyle is starting to teach me that.

Featured Image Credit: bottled_void

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