I just took down my Christmas tree last Thursday. It was February 16th. It only took 1 hour and 10 minutes. I have been stressing out since I got back from break because despite the amount of free time I have on my hands, I could not bring myself to take down that tree. I got the box set of Sex and the City for Christmas and just finished the first DVD of Season 5 – I certainly had a free 70 minutes at least 30 times over in the past month and a half. So, if it was stressing me out and if I had the time, then why couldn’t I buckle down and do it?
I wish I knew the answer to this question but it seems as I go through life, questions of this variety pop up much more often than the answers.
For instance, I was grocery shopping a few weeks ago and a man in the peanut butter aisle started asking me questions about hydrogenated oils. (Side note: I do not walk around with a Future Dietitian shirt on so I have no idea how I get singled out on these occasions!) He then proceeded to tell me about how he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes about 4 years ago. At first, he was great about exercising and watching what he ate – and it made him feel great! But, somewhere along the way, he had fallen off the wagon, his weight crept back up, and he started to feel sluggish. If we are engaging in healthy behaviors that make us feel awesome – WHY DO WE STOP?!
I personally think that most people, including myself, have a hard time handling peace and order. If we’re not struggling, we think something is wrong, and if we are doing something that makes us feel great, but it competes with the thing that makes us stressed, we choose the thing that makes us stressed because well… if we aren’t stressed, we must be forgetting something. If we are (dare I say it) bored, we should feel guilty and find something socially or academically productive to do. While some stress is important to make life interesting and other stress can prompt us to take action towards a goal, I think that we have all been rewired to set this stress bar much higher than it needs to be.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, do a little writing exercise. Whether you are engaging in an unhealthy behavior that you cannot stop (like searching for stress) or a healthy behavior that you believe you will continue indefinitely (like rocking out your workout plan), write down all the reasons that behavior makes you feel empowered or unfulfilled. You are the only one who can determine if the expectations you have are serving you or harming you. Telling yourself your own reasons can be more powerful than hearing them from someone who has not experienced all the intricacies of your life.
So the only question left is this: How long do you think it will take me to dispose of the old Christmas tree sitting on my back porch?
*If you’re having trouble with stress or following through with tasks, come to the 3rd floor of the James Taylor building to check in for triage at Counseling and Wellness Services.