By Froswa Booker-Drew
We always hear about the impact and dangers of stress on our minds and bodies. No matter how much I’ve read about stress and coping mechanisms to deal, life is hard and presents challenges that are often difficult to prepare for. I am in one of those situations right now. I am currently preparing to defend for my PhD in the next two weeks. This has been a grueling process. I have learned so much and yet, it has stretched me in ways that I didn’t know were possible. I am a mother of a 13 year old who is bright, brilliant and a pre-teen who loves Instagram. I also have a role at work that keeps me busy. I am blessed with an amazing group of colleagues that I co-labor with which reduces my anxiety but it doesn’t prevent me from doing the work that comes with supervising and leading a team. My realizations about stress are a moment by moment account of what I’ve learned about myself. Hopefully my assessment will help!
1. Stress creates a range of feelings. Don’t ignore how you feel.
There are days that I feel anxious, sad, or even elated because I’ve accomplished something. In my past, I would put my feelings on a shelf and keep moving. I realized that was not healthy and the feelings were there for a reason. For me, it was important to acknowledge how I felt and explore why the feeling was present. I had to own what I was feeling.
2. Support Systems are Critical to Share Your Story. Spend Time with those that Matter.
I could not have gone through this process without friends and family. Relationships are important to offer guidance, serve as a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. In those moments of dialogue with friends, I recognized that I wasn’t alone. Even though they were not going through a PhD program, they were struggling with difficult marriages, children, jobs or businesses. It was more than venting—we were able to share our stories. In those stories, we were sharing our identities—our pains and pleasures. We saw our commonalities and gained some practical guidance on how we deal with the loads we carry in our lives. Positive relationships can pour into your life especially at a time when you feel depleted.
3. Sit Down. Silence is Golden.
As much as I enjoy entertaining one particular trashy, mindless show on television that will remain nameless, I needed time for quiet. When there are so many things going on in our lives, we must create the space to hear and process our thoughts.
4. Self-Reflection is a Necessity.
In our quiet times, we often spend time thinking about others and how we relate to them but we don’t spend time processing our own growth. My stress has stretched me. I have developed skills that I didn’t know were even present! Taking the time to think about who you are and the journey is just as important (if not more) than completing the task.
5. Stop. Make Space to Have Fun and Relax.
I always felt so guilty about taking a break when I knew I had something important to accomplish. There is nothing wrong with a schedule and establishing deadlines. If you work hard, you also must find the time to celebrate and rejuvenate. I have such a good time with my daughter. When she wanted to talk and hang out, I made time to do so. There are moments that you will never get back. Make the time to enjoy those moments to counteract the feelings of being overwhelmed.
I can’t wait to finish this program! Even in completion of this degree, there will still be challenges that I have to face. Life isn’t easy. Identify those tools that work for you to make the most out of a situation that can be draining and exasperating. It can be as easy as looking at a current or past situation and learning from those experiences that have shaped your journey.