I typically think I'm pretty good at handling stress -- despite being a stage-five worrier, I try to keep my anxiety in its proper perspective. But after researching and writing a piece published earlier this week about what stress is doing to your body, I realized I still have a long way to go when it comes to handling the ever-present stress in my life. Headaches and muscle tension? Guilty!
Some stressors are structural for now; they're not going anywhere without a lot of work. So while I chip away at those, I decided to compile a list of some of the things I've learned (OK, in some cases I'm still learning) to let go of. I'm joining my HuffPost colleagues who have already completed this mission: Amanda L. Chan, Meredith Melnick, Sarah Klein and Kate Bratskeir. Read through our lists, then share: What's the one thing you've decided just isn't worth the stress?
Staying home instead of going out. I'm an introvert. I'm also outgoing. People think those two qualities are mutually exclusive but, at least for me, they're not. I'm friendly, chatty (I was voted "most talkative" in my high school yearbook -- my parents' proudest moment) and laugh easily. I am most definitely not shy. But I love being alone. Adore it. I've written an ode to living alone. When I'm feeling overwhelmed or tired or generally sorry for myself, there is nothing better than curling up on my couch and spending an evening on my own. Sometimes I find that living in New York City with a moderately active social life, I actually have to carve out plans to stay home alone on, say, a Friday night. As a people-pleaser, it's tricky for me sometimes to say no, then, when friends don't understand why I'm turning them down in favor of a date with myself. "Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we've turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform," Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, wrote on The Huffington Post last year. And the truth is, I have never, ever, ever regretted saying no to stay home and recharge my batteries by my lonesome. In fact, I think it makes me a better friend, a more creative thinker and a generally more likeable human. I like it. And I deserve it.
Hypotheticals. I'm a slave to the "what if." What if my apartment gets bed bugs? What if I lose my job? What if I make the wrong choice? What if I forgot to unplug my straightening iron this morning? I can go from zero to worst case scenario in five seconds flat. But the truth is, I have very little control over what might happen in the future. All I can do is make the best choices based on the information I have right now. It's also important to know that no matter what -- even if every last "what if" comes true -- I'll be OK.
How pale I am. I'm really pale. Ghost-like. Practically translucent. The fake bake was at its peak when I was in high school, and I'm still scarred that I was (what feels like) the only girl whose parents didn't think zapping my skin under 100-watt light bulbs was a safe idea. Not that it would matter, since I burn to a crisp with anything less than 50 SPF slathered all over my body. I wasted way too much time fretting over my lack of pigment. But now that I'm in my late 20s, I wish I could go back and tell my teenage self that what makes you "different" when you're 15 is what makes you "pretty" when you're older. Different is pretty. I have porcelain skin that never, ever breaks out -- and I have a hunch my years of diligently applying sunscreen, wearing big sunglasses and camping out under beach umbrellas is going to mean it'll stay that way (with, knock wood, fewer wrinkles).
Being late. I've found that for every one of our good qualities, there's often a not-so-good counterpart (and vice versa). Some of the most passionate people I know, for instance, also struggle with bad tempers. My most sensitive, understanding and compassionate friends can sometimes take things too personally. One of my favorite things about myself is that when I commit to something, I'm all in, whether it's my work, my friendships, or something else. It's important to me to feel fully present in the moment. I love that I'm the person my friends know will drop everything to help them out. It's satisfying to know that I won't leave a work project half-finished. But sometimes I take on too much, and I end up, well, running late. Of course, being obscenely late is just bad manners. But if I'm running 10 minutes behind, I'm just not going to sweat it anymore. That's what the text message was invented for.
Matching socks. Some things are required: clean underwear, a proper pedicure. But this one I can let slide from time to time. Aside from a few embarrassing airport security moments, no one but me knows I'm wearing one pink and one green Hello Kitty sock inside my boots anyhow (except now you do).
Consumed calories. I'm generally a pretty healthy eater. As a health editor, I understand how food fuels our bodies and how I don't feel my best when I'm loading up on empty calories. I never drink soda. I cut way down on processed foods. I actually crave Brussels sprouts. But just like anyone else, sometimes I indulge a little more than I mean to. I look at the empty bag of Sour Patch Kids or the clean plate of what was once mac and cheese and start stressing. The truth is, though, what's done is done. Sometimes those extra calories were totally worth it. As for the other times? Obsessing over food only makes me want to eat more, and I believe the healthiest, kindest thing I can do for my body is to move on and make better choices next time.
Cell phone radiation. I have spent an embarrassing number of years in long distance relationships. Six years, to be exact. During that time, I walked, breathed, ate and sometimes slept with my cell phone glued to my ear. So when a few years ago, some in the health community started questioning whether the radiation emitted from cell phones could be linked to brain cancer, I freaked. I spent hours and hours and hours upon hours on my cell phone in my late teens and early 20s. ("No you hang up first!") But the truth is (see: Hypotheticals), the research is far from conclusive at this point. And, not only that, I can't take it back. So while I can make changes now -- installing a land line at home (weird, I know!), using my wired headset, making my boyfriend move to NYC -- there's seriously no point in panicking.
Earlier on HuffPost:
Heart surgeon, author, and host of The Dr. Oz Show, Dr. Mehmet Oz gives a great, easy way to calm yourself and relieve stress. Part of the series Mondays with Marlo on MarloThomas.com.
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