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Posted on Dec 4, 2012 in Dear Diary | 21 comments

Stress with a Capital S

So beyond being happy and in a constant good mood lately, I am another thing. Stressed. Because, as it turns out, writing and publishing your first novel is an incredible mood lifter. But it’s also, like, kind of a big deal. With lots of things to consider. And lots of things to do. And lots of things to stress you out.

Now, I’ve never really been all that great at handling stress. Ask anybody who knows me in real life, and they will confirm this. Heck, I will gladly confirm this. I mean, a couple Christmases ago my brother glued the side of the gingerbread house onto the mold before it was decorated and I burst into tears and actually said the words, “YOU RUINED CHRISTMAS!”


Yeah, my family doesn’t really let me live that one down.

Gingerbread House

I’ve written about stress and anxiety before, and I’ve tried taking up some of your suggestions on how to deal with it, but I still haven’t gotten a very good handle on my ability to… handle… it. Last night, I laid (lied? lay?) awake in bed for an hour, my heart racing and mind whirring, just because I could not STOP THINKING ABOUT BOOK STUFF. Pitch emails, formatting, final copyedits and typos. Timelines and deadlines and proofs, oh my!

Okay, I just stressed myself out again just writing that list. Let’s backtrack.

ANYWAY. I was in bed, trying my darnest to count sheep and take deep breaths and not obsessively continue to check my phone, and eventually, I did fall asleep. And then I had one of those harrowingly realistic dreams where you are SO SUPER POSITIVE that it’s real life. You know, the kind of dream where you feel legitimately pissed in real life at real people, even though it’s only their dream-versions who wronged you. Needless to say, I woke up crying.

So, stress. I has it. And, in a hilarious-in-retrospect-but-awful-at-the-time kind of way, my worst anxiety always seems to manifest itself in my unconscious mind. Once, I dreams that my ex-boyfriend shot me in the leg. This was while we were still dating, mind you. So, you know, bad, uber-realistic dreams tend to lead to loss of sleep, and loss of sleep leads to more stress/being more easily stressed, and it’s a bit of a vicious cycle.

I’m kind of hoping that maybe there’s just something in the air, because Aileen’s post today was coincidentally in much of the same vein. (Even though she has much more to be stressed about than me, what with a deployed fiance and all. Perspective. I needs it.) But let’s be honest, I think what it really boils down to is just that I’m kind of high-strung in general. And I’m okay with it. (Self-acceptance is this week’s theme on the blog, right? Hahaha.)

I’m just going to focus on the positives here. Like, I’m not stress eating. That’s a big step for me! In fact, if I continue to be stress-nauseous like I was last night, maybe this will even lead to a loss, hahahaha. And in the meantime, I’ve booked a massage. Positive steps!

I know I’ve asked this before, but feel free to weigh-in with your best/favorite stress-relievers. And only one of you gets to say “exercise,” since that’s pretty much a gimme. 🙂


  1. Put on your favorite Christmas music and sing along and dance around the room with your dogs. If nothing else at least maybe it’ll make you laugh. 🙂

  2. You shouldn’t stress out because your book is INSANE. And I’m not just saying that because I’m totally biased and love you. It’s really amazing. I may or may not have to be “sick” tomorrow to finish it. Must. Know. What. Happens. I haven’t been this wrapped up in a book since the first Hunger Games book. Not. Kidding.

    You’re gonna be huge. Your talent will take you far, my darling.

    ANYWAY, I’m a constant big ball of stress and anxiety. It’s my default mode. And I have no idea how to solve it. But I’d really like to. Definitely keeping an eye on these comments…

    • I love you.

  3. One thing that has helped me is keeping a pad of paper and pen next to my bed. When my mind starts racing like that, I allow myself to write down my “to-dos” that are keeping me awake, and then deal with them tomorrow. As long as they are on the paper, I can’t forget about them, and I obviously can’t deal with them while I’m laying in bed, so it’s easy to let it go. Another thing that has really helped me is wearing ear plugs and a sleep mask. If I block out the outside distractions, I have an easier time allowing my mind to stop, you know?

  4. I’m going to win this one. My current stress reliever: Reading Terra.

  5. In my attempts to not stress-vodka myself into a stupor, I have not exercised the same restraint in stress-eating that you have. I drank maybe half a carton of eggnog last night.

    Also I put vodka in the eggnog. IT’S A BAD WEEK.

  6. Ok not to be the anti-healthy eating with stress relief, but to be honest sometimes the best thing is just to treat yourself… obviously within reason, but let yourself have something sweet or rich and don’t worry about it. Froyo and a pedicure are my favorite ways to relieve stress 😀
    (I’m also a huge fan of exercise for stress relief… long dog walks, yoga or a bike ride do wonders!!)

  7. “You ruined Christmas!” AHAHAHA! The best is that I can actually see you saying it. It made my laugh at work. Love you!

    My stress relievers? Blarring music and dacing around in my underpants until my muscles get tired. Oh, and bad singing is a must!

  8. I had the same problem last night – it took me over 30 minutes to fall asleep but I woke up at 5, and then restlessly fell back asleep until my alarm went off. However, what I did this morning was work out with Jillian Michaels (via DVD, obvi) and basically came into work today with the mentality that I am going to “kick ass and take names.” So far, it’s helped… So maybe you can do the same with your overwhelming to-do list and exercise to release all the stress and emotions.

  9. One of my favorite bloggers has a “drops IN the bucket” philosophy about stress, meaning that it may only be a single drop, but at least the drop went IN the bucket and not on the floor again. So my biggest stress reliever is actually just to do some of the teeny tiny things on my to-do list, like send an email or make a hair appointment or buy a stocking stuffer or deal with two pieces of mail or whatever. There! I crossed it off! Drops IN the bucket! IN! It actually helps.

  10. I find it super relaxing to wrap up in a blanket, make a cup of tea, and read a light mystery. Also when I’m lying in bed and can’t sleep, I force myself to daydream a “story” where I’m another character and am going through different scenarios. It takes my mind off my real-world problems by consciously concentrating on something else, and my brain is able to shut off and sleep.

  11. Take a bubble bath and really spend some time making it special. Light a candle, read a new magazine or book you’ve been wanting to read, listen to your favorite music and use your favorite scents.

    Workout hard. Let out the stress.

    Or my favorite, own it. Let yourself realize that it’s too much and take a break. Sit on the couch for 2 hours and watch a movie and eat your favorite junk food. The world won’t end during that movie and your snack won’t make you gain a pound. But it just may make you feel better. 🙂

  12. I’m sorry to hear that you’re losing sleep. Your book is going to be amazing, though. The first two chapters have me hooked and I can’t wait to read the rest 🙂

    I do the same thing, too, and obsess over things that I should be doing instead of sleeping (even if I can’t be doing those things at the moment.. like vacuuming at 11pm). One way that I calm my mind is to get a pen and paper and write down the list that is whirring through my head. It seems like my brain is so alert in an attempt not to forget anything that I need to do. If I write it down, I can comfort myself with the fact that I won’t forget and that it’ll get done the next day. It doesn’t work for me to use my phone or any electronics for this, though, because then the light is too stimulating and I’m tempted to cycle through facebook, pinterest, and e-mail.

    Hope that helps. Sleep tight Gretchen!

  13. I love that you are honest! But I will admit I’m trying to picture putting together a gingerbread house with family and having a sibling start to cry over it. And not just cry but say that I ruined Christmas! It’s a pretty wacky thought! 😉

    • Lol, well, to be fair, I’m a crazy person. And yes, my family to this day does NOT let me forget how irrational that reaction was. But evidently GINGERBREAD HOUSES ARE VERY IMPORTANT TO ME.

      Haaaahahahahaha. 🙂

  14. I agree with one of the commenters above; keep a notebook on your night table and write down everything that is bugging you as you try and get to sleep. It totally works! Then at least I know I will get to it later when I have rested.

    My little way to de-stress is going to B&N, grabbing a cup of coffee, and reading through a bunch of magazines (mostly tabloids full of ridiculousness). It is a way to detach from technology and get my mind off things.

  15. I’ve been dealing with a lot of work-related stress lately, and I’ve found that meditation helps a lot. Not hour-long youareonewiththeearth meditation, but just take a few minutes to close my eyes and practice deep breathing. Sometimes I’ll think about inhaling calm and exhaling stress with each breath. It kind of sounds cheesy, and it’s certainly not a cure-all, but it does help me get off that physically tense edge.

  16. psh, exercise? that is a stress-ADDER for me.

    seriously, way to go on not stress eating. that’s absolutely huge. take another minute and celebrate that if you want. 😀

    i think laughing is my favorite stress reliever…but it’s hard to just produce that. make time to hang out with the funniest person you know, or if you’re desperate, find someone to watch funny/stupid youtube videos with (always funnier watching them with someone else somehow, right?).

    and i agree with whoever said DANCE PARTY!

    and. one last thing. i think the perspective thing is actually a big deal. thinking, “okay, in 10 years will it really matter if x got done or got done perfectly? will i wish i had been more worried and stressed about y when i’m old and gray?”

    good luck…sounds like an exciting season!

  17. I am totally that person who sees stress relief as a reason to climb into bed & watch way too many episodes of “Parks & Recreation” or “Sex & The City”. Hehe…guilty 🙂

  18. I’m right there with you–the stress is killing me right now…hence the reason it’s taken me an entire day to get back here and post a comment…I’d agree with all things above, especially yoga. I’m a newbie to meditation, and I really really like it, but making myself sit still for 30 minutes while my mind is racing is really tough, so yoga is great because it forces me to focus on my breath and calm my mind but lets me move around without having to change my clothes and get my butt to the gym.

    Also, I see a therapist. And I love it. I go on Fridays and it’s a chance for me to vent out everything that’s happened for the week. My therapist is really validating and reminds me that it’s OK and NORMAL to stress about these things, and just sitting and acknowledging and reflecting on that stress for an hour is really…well…therapeutic 🙂 It’s been a really healthy thing for me to do, to have an objective person to talk to and to learn to be able to think about myself more objectively as well. When we apply less judgement and pressure to ourselves, the stress is clarified in a broader context and starts to feel a lot more manageable.

  19. I agree with most of the above (especially writing out all of the stuff that is buzzing in your head – get out of bed to do it, drink a cup of tea, then head back to bed)… but if that doesn’t do it, I also would HIGHLY recommend Midnite – it’s all natural, Melatonin-based chewable tablets. It is the only sleep-aid that both works, but does not leave me groggy at all the next day – no matter when I take it. Last night I fell asleep fine, but then woke up at 3AM and could not get back to sleep. I chewed up a tablet (ok the chewable part is a little weird, but I have tried melatonin pills that you swallow and they did not work for me) and was out like a light within minutes. I had to wake up at 6AM and was completely fine. I LOVE that stuff. I realize I sound like an advertisement, but seriously that stuff is the best. My boyfriend and I each keep some in our bedside tables.

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