Read Smoke!

Read Smoke!
My latest book, "Smoke: poems of love, longing and ecstasy" is available for purchase on Amazon in e-book and paperback. Click book for link.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Relax, Relate, Release! On Managing Stress

If you were a fan of "A Different World" you probably remember the therapist (played by the fabulous FFD Debbie Allen) telling Whitley Gilbert to "relax, relate, release honey!" Ocasionally, these are great words to live by. Stress is almost unavoidable. We learn this as we exit the gaiety that is childhood and become adults. It seems like from college on, there is always some aspect of our lives in chaos... If not work, then family, or our love life, or something. The truth is, stress is good. It compells us to move forward and take action. Sort of like, if something leaps out at you and says "Boo!" and you run... Well that's stress. When used, correctly, it compels you to hurdle forward. As a senior, with major obligations to fulfill before graduation from Yale, I am under more stress than I have EVER been before. Seriously. And, for two weeks I did let it conquer me. But then I remembered, we can conquer stress. Here's how.

Firstly, don't neglect the very essentials that keep you going during moments of crisis. This means you should continue eating balanced, healthy meals and sleeping! When your car needs to run fastest, the gas can't be on E. You wont go very far. When we have a lot of work to do, the urge is to forgo sleeping at all costs but the truth is just a few hours will make your work so much more efficient. If you attempt to work through dire fatigue, chances are you'll waste most of your energy just trying to stay awake.

Secondly, keep good company. Now at times like this, I narrow the phone calls I will take to Mommy, Daddy, my sig-0, and the Chocolate Diva. This doesn't mean that other people aren't important to me, it's just that these are people that I know I can talk to in times of crisis and self-doubt. These are people who know me and will not hesitate giving me a shoulder to cry or lean on. These are people who will understand my predicament and be able to motivate and inspire me to keep fighting. When you're stressed out and there's a lot on your plate, I think you should be selective about the people you open yourself to. Don't ever isolate yourself and forgo the road alone. It's very important to talk your feelings out and realize that this mountain you must climb is indeed possible. But not everyone can be there for you the way you need them to be. Know who you can go to. Form a circle of support.

Thirdly, prayer/meditation is a wonderful source of tranquility. It renews your faith not just in the Creator, but also in yourself. There's a popular saying, "He doesn't give you anything more than you can bear." This is true. Taking time out to pray or chant or to just be in silence, also restores a sense of balance that stress generally dismantles.

Excercise is an additional way to let go off some steam. I run every morning, especially when I feel over-whelmed. The simple task of having to place one foot in front of the other for three miles, and having to push myself, mirrors my greater goal at the moment. I am able to apply the same discipline and determination that it takes to complete my work out to handling my obligations. Excercise awakens the fighter in me and prepares me to face my day. It also releases those great endorphins that make us forces to be reckoned with.

If I have to concentrate, I have only one go-to energy drink. Yerba Mate Tea (also known on this blog as 'cup of jamal'). Unlike coffee, red bull, or other energy drinks, yerba mate leaves contains a naturally occuring form of caffeine and a substance that enhances your concentration rather than just giving you a straight forward jittery boost of energy. This tea is wonderful for your health and won't interfere with your sleep. I'm much more productive with this in my system.

When you have a lot to accomplish, make a schedule. Tasks become more feasible when you cut them up into bite size pieces and create a game plan. Schedules also increase your efficiency. However, don't overestimate your abilities or else you'll be frustrated and if you create a schedule for yourself, stick to it!

Be mindful of your surroundings. When you attempt to work in clutter your prone to feel overwhelmed. It's a principle of feng shui. The energy in your environment will manifest itself in you. This may mean organzing your desk and work space or relocating to a different environment altogether, like a library. Also be minful of noisy distractions like television playing or people talking. Music is not necessarily a distraction however, except music that makes you want to get up and dance. I like to play jazz and gospel softly when I need to get work done.

And lastly, allow yourself random moments of joy. Sometimes I like to push the book away, turn on some Tito Puente and bust out in a cha cha with an imaginary partner. Or I'll play some Janet and sing along. This short bursts of pleasure aren't meant to lead into an extended spell of procrastination. They should just get the blood flowing, make you a bit happier, and keep you going.

Try to keep these tips in mind next time your biting the bullet... which is probably at the moment. Hope I could be helpful. And now, back to paper writing.

Flyness , Funk, and love,


(aka Yalie in distress)

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