Under Pressure: Definitely Not Dita asks for Advice

Posted: November 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

I want to talk to you about life. It’s just too difficult to be alive, isn’t it, and try to function?

—Christopher Durang, Laughing Wild


I survived October.  Just barely.

Don’t get me wrong, great things happened.  I had some good times and did some good work and, hell, any month that has both Halloween and the Best Birthday Ever can’t be all bad.  My birthday party and subsequent birthday/Halloween felt like one big victory lap.  But there was also alot of illness, injury, exhaustion, and random emotional breakdowns where the very actions of functioning (standing, walking, taking the subway to work) just seemed like TOO FREAKING MUCH and I lost a lot of money/time/sanity to it.

Obviously this was due to a lot of factors but very nearly all of them add up to the same three things: Stress, lack of regular exercise, and less than great eating habits.

I’ve read lots of things about how to reduce stress.  Many of them boil down to “Spend Money!” or “Meditate.”  I don’t have money to spend on a massage or a yoga class.  And I’m trying to meditate, really I am.  But I hate it.  I really do.  It makes me feel like I want to punch someone.  Or one time I felt dizzy and nauseous.  Neither of these reactions are helpful.

Taking baths seems to help.  I would live in my bathtub if I could, but that’s not really practical.  Exercise also seems to help but I haven’t been able to cram it into my schedule.  The time I have off is usually the day after I’ve been go-go dancing all night and the last freaking thing I want to do is move.  A month ago I was reading a book about having compassion for one’s self and lowering the crazy standards we all have for ourselves.  And that helped for a little while.  But whatever my standards are, they don’t make me any less busy or any less broke.

I’m trying to eat healthier but I know from experience that I’ll only eat food that I actually enjoy eating and I just don’t know that many yummy, healthy, cheap and fast recipes.

So I’m asking you, dear readers, what works for you?  How do you reduce stress without spending money?  How do you cram exercise into your life?  What yummy, cheap, healthy, recipes do you recommend?

Life is tough sometimes.  Let’s help each other out.

  1. Mags says:

    ‘Meditation’ is different for everyone. For me, its a few different things…cooking, gluing rhinestones, running. You just have to find out what *your* meditation is. It may be ‘traditional’ meditation, or maybe it’s just standing in front of a full length mirror, completely naked, for 5 minutes (just a random idea).

    I also found an incredible reduction in anxiety when I started adhering to a schedule. Having a plan makes things less stressful. I keep a Google calendar and write in EVERYTHING. It includes scheduled training runs, scheduled sewing/crafting nights, scheduled bath nights, EVERYTHING is scheduled. It sounds nutty, but makes me feel so much more in control. Of course things come up, and you have to move stuff around, but it has helped me, TREMENDOUSLY. Also, it’s OK to say ‘No’ to some things. You have to find a way to do that sometimes that makes you comfortable.

    That’s all I got for now, although I could probably go on and on and on.


    • definitelynotdita says:

      You make a really good point about meditation. My therapist has been pushing me to do traditional meditation and it’s really not working for me. But the aim of meditation (being in the moment, being relaxed, not thinking about what you have done, what you should be doing) is something that comes to me when I’m painting. I’ve been meaning to get back to it for a while now, I think I’ll need to make time for it.

      Thank you!!!

  2. Mara says:

    They actually teach classes using painting as meditation…keep an eye out on http://www.opencenter.org – they have a variety of free intro classes to a lot of those sort of things.

    I deal with stress by telling people off. :p

    No, seriously, when I start telling people off, I know I’m doing a bad job of managing my stress. I try to make it a point to take time off at least every week (although every day would be better) to do something for myself. Usually that something involves hanging off a cliff somewhere, or a road trip, or both. YMMV. I’ve been trying to pare down my activities to those things that make me happy and don’t stress me out. Letting go of some things that I’ve been doing for a while that cause me nothing by grief is difficult. Change of any kind is stressful for me, but I’m telling myself that it’s for the better. Learning to tell people “no” has been very helpful, but I’m not always consistent with it. I’m trying to be ok with my inner bitch. She knows how to take care of me. If other people don’t like it, they can suck it. :p

    If you find any cheap, yummy, healthy, fast recipes, please let me know!

  3. Michael the Girl says:

    Stream of consciousness suggestions. Feel free to ignore!

    Check out a yoga DVD from your local library and copy it. (Or pick one up at a yard sale or something.) I have one yoga DVD and it cost me as much as one class and I do it over and over. Join the Y (it’s $35/month here) and work out. I love swimming laps because it’s you in your own head and nothing can get in and bother you. It takes a few weeks of workouts sucking before you start getting lots of endorphins though. Check out the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Reread a book that makes you feel calm (parts of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for me). Treat yourself to a “continental” breakfast (you have to eat after all): pick up croissants from the best local bakery, melt a chocolate bar into some milk for hot cocoa, add butter jam and oj. Do you have plants in your apartment? Plants last longer than flowers, cheer things up and help clean indoor air. Also schedule yourself a break or something in advance to look forward to. That always helps me focus on how getting through today/this week/this month will be “worth it.” Set long term goals that are achievable so you feel like you are accomplishing things, not just running in circles (I’m working on this one now!)

    Okay, that’s all I’ve got. Time to do the dishes and research for my internship and get ready for work and apply for a job and create a mailing list and….

  4. Super Easy Honey Curry Chicken

    6 chicken thighs or boneless breasts
    1/4 c. melted butter
    1/2 c honey
    1/4 c mustard
    1tsp. salt
    1/2tsp curry powder

    Mix all but chicken together. Dip chicken in sauce
    Place in casserole dish skin side up. Bake at 375 for 1 hour,basting every 15 mins.

    (Boneless breasts are probably easiest, neatest and healthiest. Probably need slightly less bake time. Can let marinate in the sauce 4-6 hours if you want. Can double sauce.)

    • I gravitate toward recipes with “Supe Easy” in the title. While my inner chef-with-ADHD-and-OCD longs to put together elaborate recipes involving as much mincing as possible, the part of me that has to clean up afterward has lately gotten the upper hand.

  5. Just had an idea for a party game. How many burlesque names can you find in “Super Easy Honey Ginger Chicken Breasts” ?

  6. Amanda says:

    So when I stress, and it’s in my genetic make-up to stress, I try to reestablish old/better habits and develop new/better habits as well. Do something for a week, or even a couple of days running, and the positive routine is taking a hardy hold and the stress lapsing (even in the face of MORE stress).

    First thing I notice when I stress is effective belly breathing goes out the window and I’m stuck with shallow shoulder breathing. Years ago I read a lot of Andrew Weil and the only technique of his that I consider a lifelong reliable de-stressor (and one that’s stuck) is his breathing technique. 1) Inhale slowly through nose to count of 4. 2) Hold breath to count of 7. 3) Exhale slowly through mouth to count of 8. 4) Repeat. I find that I shift naturally from chest breathing to healthier belly breathing just concentrating on counting my breaths but if you’ve never done belly breathing before just imagine a string tugging your belly button out with every inhale and pushing it in with every inhale. A hand on your stomach also helps.

    Also of huge benefit to me is a book entitled MEDITATION: A Simple Eight-Point Program for Translating Spiritual Ideals into Daily Life (Eknath Eswaran; Amazon.com $9.95; http://www.amazon.com/Meditation-Eight-Point-Program-Translating-Spiritual/dp/0915132664). I am an atheist so there’s no solace for me in religion; my faith lies elsewhere. It makes stress a challenge. But I do find comfort in tradition, writing and meditation (all of which the world’s religions promote to varying degrees). Eswaran’s MEDITATION reads like a conversation with an admired friend and his direction for learning to meditate is quite matter-of-fact; exactly what I need when I’m stressed, so I’ve turned to this book about once a year since my first active pursuit of meditation some 20yrs ago. And while I don’t meditate his suggested 30 minutes per day on a regular daily basis, his techniques still help mellow me when I’m under extreme duress.

    Now, when money or lack thereof is the stressor life is a challenge for me. I’m a giver, so I appreciate retail therapy (and so do the friends on the receiving end, including myself). One of my favorite haunts is the bookstore so I’ve become even better friends with my library card these last few years of near destitution. Titles I normally would buy in bulk and ship to friends across the globe I now make note of and suggest to particular friends or put on library hold.

    I’m a biologist/naturalist, so walks are some of my favorite things, especially in more urban settings (people fascinate me). And I’m an artist/writer so I also note the FREE ADMISSION dates in my calendar for all my fave local gardens, art galleries, museums and zoos. If your neighborhood cafe is your haven but those fancy drinks are killing the budget, still give yourself the gift of a stop-in, but consider a regular coffee or pot of tea to nurse the nerves on tighter funds.

    My easy home workouts currently include theraband resistance training, basic core stretches and the aforementioned walks. Two years ago I was terribly atrophied from years of hospitals and surgeries. Physical therapy was a brilliant and much needed investment and despite minimal funds an extra 30min with a trainer after every PT session helped hammer home technique — a priceless commodity. I’m also lucky to have access to a treadmill during the winter months.

    As for inexpensive quick-n’-easy eats, I’m only just getting started cooking healthy meals. But easy and accessible eats have been key. Take away and frozen meals, ramen and the like were a staple of my prior existence. Now I buy organic, a budget ouch but not as much goes to waste, I eat plenty of lightly steamed or raw veg (baby carrots are an easy go-to), ALWAYS eat breakfast, and try to have my larger “main” meal earlier in the evening or as a late lunch. Moving more and eating better trimmed 30 miscellaneous pounds in 6 months and I’ve kept them off since!

    Take and use what bits you can, but know that whatever you choose to do whenever you choose to do it, it’s the first step that’s the hardest (and ultimately the best!). xoxo

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