Monday, March 07, 2005

The Four Stages of Stress

A small but vital part of my EMT class curriculum dealt with the five stages of grieving when one has lost someone close to them. My experiences in the last two weeks have inspired me to come up with a similar stage-based philosophy for dealing with stress. This proposal, sent to this forum for unscientific review, contains four distinct stages: Rebellion, Exhaustion, Relaxation and Rejuvenation.

Of course, your individual experience may vary. :)

Stage One: Rebellion

This was me Tuesday morning. No two words about it, I was royally pissed off. Twelve solid days of unrelenting stress and pressure from multiple sources. An entire long weekend spent in front of the corporate VPN-enabled computer at home, feverishly testing to meet a critical deadline, while the sun shone brightly outside, and the normal segment of the human population frolicked amongst the blooming flowers and cool breeze. Day after day of constant phone calls and people dropping by my desk to make more demands on my time - constantly interrupting deadline-critical work, never-ending meetings, and even my sacred, all-too-infrequent trips to the restroom.

No more, I said to myself. I am fighting back today !

My theme songs for Tuesday's commute were XZibit's "Motha****" (Audio: RealOne/Windows Media/Lyrics) [Warning: Bad language], and Ferry Corsten's "Punk" (Video: RealOne) [Warning: Suggestive].

I have always said that exercise and loud music (and ice cream of course) can cure almost all woes. This day, I proved this theory true. I arrived at my work campus, blasted out all remaining nervous energy in an invigorating visit to the gym, then headed to the office to fight the demons once more.

Stage Two: Exhaustion

By Thursday, the constant flow of adrenaline and caffeine, coupled with a steady effusion of mental energy from heavy concentration on difficult problems had taken its toll. I was thoroughly drained; mentally, physically, emotionally. It was all I could do to finish up my last remaining tasks before heading home.

By the time I hit the road in the middle of the afternoon on Thursday, I was completely wiped out. I barely made it home without falling asleep behind the wheel - in the middle of the day ! That, I declare, is the epitome of exhaustion.

Stage Three: Relaxation

I made a resolution that Friday, my vacation day, would be my PICK-MY-NOSE-AND-DO-ABSOLUTELY-NOTHING day. I deserved it. I had given an entire two weeks (including evenings and weekends) to the pressing demands of my work. I didn't question why; the tasks needed to be done, we were short people, and therefore, I stepped up and did what was required. But this day was for me, and me only.

I stayed in my PJs until noon, happily browsing the web with Peaches cuddled in my lap. I got my hair done. I went to the gym. I did two loads of laundry but no more housework than that. The rest of the day was for me to do my thing. It felt good, really good, to finally take a deep breath, let my tense muscles relax, and clear my mind of all worries.

Stage Four: Rejuvenation

Saturday's drive to my Karate class featured two of my very favorite feel-good theme songs, Ferry Corsten's "Rock Your Body, Rock" (Video: RealOne) and ATB's "Ecstasy" (Audio: RealOne/Windows Media/Lyrics).

For the slightly-over-one hour drive, I sat back in my seat, turned up the volume, and let the beautiful sounds fill my very existence. I could feel my energy recharging, my internal battery refilling, my emotions blossoming once again. I arrived at my class focused, energized, and ready for the day ahead.

This experience has also made me realize something I never could have expected. It has shown me that there is something inherently therapeutic about cleaning the house.

Most of you are probably wondering how in the world I can find scrubbing toilets and folding laundry invigorating and refreshing. It may not necessarily be the act of cleaning itself, but the satisfaction of having some semblance of normalcy in my house and in my life. Having a clean house gave me a sense of pride, of accomplishment, of finally being "caught up" with all the things that needed to be done.

What could possibly be the perfect ending to a perfect recovery weekend ? A divine slice of "Better than You-Know-What Cake", graciously given by a friend.

And for those who are wondering, this type of occasion is exactly what Flex Points are for. :)


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