Sometimes stress management is stressful.
Apparently, it is possible to follow all of the guidelines for reducing your stress and still be so overwhelmed that you can barely function. In fact, if stress management were a course, it would be the kind where I was going to all of the classes and doing all of the homework and extra credit and still failing the tests. Which is a C for me, but still. All that work should be getting me an A.
I am still sick, which really pisses me off. It’s been almost two weeks now. I know that I cannot control how much rest my body needs to recuperate, but being exhausted is making it hard to do my job, play tennis, and enjoy life in general. Usually I am the kind of person who is singing Christmas carols in July, but right now the thought of getting out the 5 Christmas ornaments I was going to put up throws me into a panic and I can’t think about it.
And I know you’re not supposed to compare yourself to other people, but it makes me feel inadequate to think of all of those people out there who have spouses and kids in addition to jobs. And they probably cook dinner for their families and keep their homes clean and get all of their errands done, even when they’re sick. And they’re still better tennis players than me!
This is why therapists still need a therapist. Because even if you know the answers, it’s different when someone else says them to you. It’s different when someone else says It’s OK that you’re still sick. It’s not your fault. It doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you a failure. I can say those things all day long to clients and mean it, but I can’t give myself permission to believe it.
It does help to keep a journal. That’s one way of gaining perspective. Sometimes I’ll look at entries where I was depressed and anxious and berating myself for not having a legitimate reason to feel this way–even though I tell clients that you don’t need to know the reason why for your feelings to be legitimate.
And then when I read about all the stuff that was going on at that point in my life, I think, what the? Why in the world did I think that going on vacation with my anxious mom and depressed dad and having my boyfriend’s ex-wife attempt suicide and leave him with custody of his ADHD son were not good enough reasons to be anxious and depressed?!
That’s another reason why it helps to talk to someone objective: sometimes you can’t see the reason, even if it’s obvious to everyone else.
I guess I’ve had unrealistic expectations about what stress management can accomplish. At some level I assumed that if I took all of the correct steps to manage my stress, then I would be stress-free, even though my life has never been stress-free. In fact, I seek out challenges because if something is too easy (i.e., not stressful), then it’s boring. I choose to work with people with psychological problems. I captain 5 tennis teams a year! Nobody does that when they’re trying to live a stress-free life.
So maybe I need to have another goal. I’ll have to think some more about what that goal should be. For now, maybe I can just have the goal of not beating myself up for being stressed out. That would definitely be a good start.