We all have a preconceived notion of what de-stressing looks like. I imagine a long bubble bath in the quiet. Yes, the quiet – the blissful sound that encompasses the noise in my head and drowns it out. I slip into the tub that is just the right temperature to smooth my muscles from their tightened state. My favorite childhood smell of 28 honeydew scented candles provides the only light. I find an Enya station on Pandora for the second half of the bath and listen as it spills into my quiet. I stay submerged until my fingers have shriveled up and turned into prunes. I must cool off a bit before standing, so I step out of the tub once it is half way drained (for getting out once it’s completely drained would require too much effort). After putting on my most comfortable pajamas, I go straight to bed without completing any chores, uninterrupted. Then sleep without waking the entire night.
This does sound wonderful and there have been a few times in my life that something very close to resembling the above did indeed happen. However, this is not the norm for me and if I expect it to be, then I will be continually disappointed.
This is a better picture of my reality. I’m worn out from a day spent at the hospital with Celia for an iron infusion and blood clotting treatment. My laptop accompanied me to the hospital room to squeeze in some work, but a new doctor was on call today and he had to be brought up to speed on her conditions, which is a lengthy discussion. We wait longer than normal because there is an issue with insurance not wanting to cover the blood clotting medication at the hospital anymore. The doctor tells us it must be given at home tonight. Since the visit is taking longer than expected, I call my Mom and ask her to please pick up my three year old, Audrey, from preschool since I won’t be there in time. This makes the third time in two weeks I’ve had to call out that favor. I finally make it home and am rushing around trying to get all chores done early so I can take a long bath to end my hectic day. I thank my Mom for bailing me out once again and quickly realize Audrey didn’t get a nap at preschool today. Dinner that consists of leftovers for the third night in a row is filled with fussing and an urgent need to get her to bed. After the fastest bath that will qualify for getting my child “clean”, she’s rushed to her room to read a book before bed. Getting her second win, my smiling, loveable child returns and I want to savor just a few more minutes, but put her to bed anyway because I want my bath! I quickly help Celia finish cleaning up the kitchen without speaking. I then rush to the bathroom and close the door. Finally… time to myself. I run the bath water and start to get out candles, but at this point, I’m really just too tired for all of that effort. I turn off all the lights except the smallest one to at least simulate candle light. I slip into the bath and close my eyes, only to hear loud thumping music coming down the street. My 18 year old son, DJ, must be home. How many times have I told him to turn his music down before entering our neighborhood?? A few seconds later, there’s a knock on the bathroom door. “Mom, we have to do the blood clotting treatment tonight, remember? I will get the supplies out, let me know when you’re ready.” Shoot! I forgot about that… So much for going straight to bed after my bath. After only five minutes, I drag my tired body out of the tub, not any more relaxed than when I got in. I go to the living room and mix the medicine that will stop Celia’s internal bleeding, and I almost forgot to give it to her –wow, I’m a great mom. I slip on the medical gloves, insert the needle into her scared veins and give lifesaving medicine to my child. Defeated, still stressed and exhausted, I finally just go to bed.
This trap is so very easy for me to fall into. If I only look forward to the big, elaborate, preconceived ideas of what it takes to lower my stress level, then I will be continually disappointed. However, if I choose instead to be present in each moment, be watchful for the blessings and thankful for them, my heart will be full and my stress level greatly diminished. Instead of putting Audrey to bed after she got her second win, I could have read a few more books with her, laughed with her and spent a few minutes snuggling – that would lower my stress level. While cleaning the kitchen, I could have turned on some music and danced with Celia, being silly with her – laughter would lower my stress level. When DJ came home blasting his music, I could have chosen to pick my battles and focus on how responsible he’s become and thanked him for being on time coming home – being thankful would lower my stress level.
If I watch for opportunities throughout each day to be thankful, be present in the small moments and enjoy the life that I have, then a lower stress level will accompany that. We can all use a weekend get away, long soak in the tub, early morning run and time to ourselves, but don’t be dependent on those alone to lower your stress level. I have much work to do in this area so let us work together in this: Be Watchful, Be Thankful and Be Present.
We are in this together,
Much Love, TyiaLynn