Friday, January 25, 2008

My antidote for stress: prevention

One of my friends had noticed that I was more relaxed and happier than I was in the past. Boy, was she ever right. I stressed out about everything. Just my personality. Most of my stress was either time-related or performance-related. Long ago, I often felt like I was running late (rush, rush, rush out the door) or I wasn't prepared enough for my job or a concert. I was the same way in college -- probably worse. I'd step out the door the requisite three minutes it took me to get to a particular class. My severest symptoms of stress were nausea and bathroom-related (in high school, I couldn't even keep track of how many times I had to go to the bathroom the hour before a final exam).

As a health worker at U.C. Berkeley, I was trained to educate my dorm community on how to relieve stress. Imagery and progressive relaxation techniques were at the forefront. But now I wonder why we didn't promote stress prevention instead of stress reduction because this is the only way I can keep a sane lifestyle.

My time-related stressors are still there (getting Maylin ready for school, leaving the house to meet someone at a specified time) but I have a lot less stress because I plan in more preparation time. I just start everything a lot earlier. Instead of planning to get somewhere right on the dot, I plan on getting there early.

My personal performance-related stressors are virtually non-existent (yippee) because I don't take on more than I can handle. I used to say "yes" to anything and anyone and ended up with way too many activities, jobs, and concerts on my plate. I was not a happy camper (even though people always saw a smile on my face). Of course, there were still moments of joy, but in my belly, I could feel the pain of my stress. Now, I am careful about volunteering at Maylin's school (I am not going to pressure myself into becoming a room parent -- why?), I don't schedule too many social activities (having a baby is a great excuse for not hosting a dinner every week), and my music-making is all for fun these days (no auditions and big concerts, at least not yet -- phew!).

When Maylin was a baby, I stressed a lot about her. Is she getting enough to eat? Am I feeding her the right things? Should I be talking to her more? Should I be singing to her more? Should I be playing more music for her (on my instruments or on the stereo)? Does she need more stimulating toys? Etc., etc. My problem was that I was reading too much about what people should do with their babies. I pressured myself to be the perfect mom. This time around, with Stefan, I'm not reading a darn thing and I am a very happy and relaxed mommy. I also have a very happy and relaxed baby. Don't know if there's some cause and effect going on here, but life as a mom is much better now. Instead of stressing about being a perfect mom, I'm just focusing on being a happy mom for my children.

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