Seven Tips for Passing the Stress Test

Skeletal hands

Image from Dreamstime


I posted a little while ago about some stresses I was dealing with.   I’m sure my post made it sound like nothing, but I’ll admit to minimizing things a little bit (typing out every little detail that was stressing me was, in itself, stressful.  And not really necessary to the point that I was trying to make).


I don’t particularly want to end up in a situation depicted in the photograph above and I’ve been consciously working on reducing my stress levels lately.  (Regardless of the fact that small bursts of stress may make you live longer, I know that high, prolonged levels are bad for me, personally.)


I certainly can’t claim to be an expert, but I have been, generally, feeling better over the last two weeks.  It may help that a major source of my work stress was removed just after I returned from vacation when I was essentially removed from a project.  It meant a little bit of personal pain, as I initially felt like I had failed, but it eventually turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise.


So what are some other things that I am doing to reduce my stress load (and help my mind and body heal)?  Here’s my top seven:


1. Eat Right.  I’m still failing somewhat on this one in that I have an ongoing love affair with anything chocolate.  Add that to the fact that all of my favourite Easter treats are out in the store and… well, you get the idea.  Still, I’ve been making an effort to eat healthy balanced meals, getting the right supplements into my routine, and cutting back on the sugary snacks.


2. Reduce Caffeine (and Sugar).  Again, not doing so well on the sugar thing, but I have not had a cup of coffee in over three weeks (decaf notwithstanding – sometimes a hot drink in the morning is pleasant).  It’s certainly not hurt my moods and it’s nice to not need something to help get me going in the morning.


3. Get Enough Sleep.  I try at this one, with varying levels of success.  I am quite frequently tired at bedtime (a far cry from my previous bouts with insomnia) and sleep deeply, although not always through the night (having a cat walk across your head is a bit distracting).  My partner and I have also managed to return to our normal routine after our vacation, which helps a great deal.


4. Reduce my Workload.  This one is kind of two-fold.  The first part was that I am no longer working as much on my difficult project, but the second is that I recently cut back my work hours from 8 hours a day to 7.5 (I am lucky to have a flexible work schedule).  This doesn’t sound like much, but it keeps me from staying late like I am known to do and lets me catch the same bus every morning and night.  Now I don’t have to take the crowded train, and get to relax while the express bus takes me right to where I need to be!


5. Do Things for Me.  These include playing with kitties, visiting my godson, talking with friends, knitting, reading, writing, or walking around at the zoo.  Taking time just for myself is one of the better things that I’ve started to do.  Recently, this meant passing up a free ticket to a fancy dinner with coworkers.  I think I benefited more from the time spent at home than from a late night out.


6. Maintaing Healthy Relationships.  When I am really stressed, good friend and family are invaluable.  Usually they manage to cheer me up and deflect my negative thoughts for a while.  In the worst case, they listen to me vent about what is stressing me and can offer suggestions I might not see myself.


7. Relaxing.  Hot baths, a good book, writing, knitting, watching TV, playing with kitties, or even just reading an amusing blog all help me relax and forget about my troubles.  Meditation and bio-feedback, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation can also work, although I find it hard to focus my thoughts for long enough to be successful.  Something to keep working at, I suppose!


What are your top tips for beating stress?


Originally posted February 12, 2012 (before the disaster)



Photo from Dreamstime


A little like the gibbon above, I was clinging to my sanity this week.


It’s not that I’m a particularly unstable person, but every so often (once or twice a year), things combine to create the perfect storm of stress in my world.  I don’t always handle stress very well or, rather, I handle it well until it builds up to a certain point after which I just can’t take more of it.  Here’s what hit me this week:

  1. My day job is very stressful and involves working with people (both teammates and clients) with whom I don’t always see eye to eye.
  2. My writing life wasn’t going very well.  I was anxious about the critiques that I sent out last week, and was beginning to feel like the novel I’m currently re-writing just wasn’t going the way that I wanted it to.
  3. I wasn’t sleeping well, so was tired and a bit depressed.
  4. My boyfriend was busy and not sleeping very well either, meaning that our quality time together was… lacking.
  5. My cats are little brats who like to try and trip me and pee on my clothes.


When I write it all out like that, it doesn’t seem like much, but each of those items had been building for a month or more.  Items 1 and 2, with some “help” from item 3, managed to bring me down this week.


Unfortunately, item 1 isn’t something that I can fix very easily without changing jobs, although I am working with management to try to improve things within the company (one of the perks of being with a small company for nearly four years is that management are friends and tend to listen to what you’re saying).  I hope that things will get better soon, but in the meantime, it’s also the stressful time of year in my industry, where everyone’s trying to get everything done right NOW.


Fortunately, item 2 seems to have resolved itself (for now).  Most of my critiques were positive, although one critiquer in particular had some very thought-provoking things to say about the structure of my novel.  Given that I’m currently at “that point” in the novel where I’m questioning its direction and purpose, that hit me a little harder than I’d been expecting.  Still, the short story that I submitted gained some rave reviews, and I’ll probably start sending it out to publishers once I’ve tidied it up a bit.  That’s exciting, and heartening, even if “Fighter One” isn’t going quite the way I want it to… yet.


Items 3 and 4 seem to slowly be sorting themselves out as we make more and more positive changes to our lifestyle (more on that in another blog post!)  And item 5 will probably never change.  Cats will be cats!


Although writing may be stressful in and of itself, with characters that never do what you expect them to, plots veering off in unexpected directions, the dreaded Writer’s Block, and the stresses associated with an unpredictable but particular audience, I still maintain that I could manage them better than the more immediate and personal stress of my day job.


It remains my dream to figure that out one day.


What about you?  What is your major source of stress?

An Apology


For the non-gamers among us: an explanation


I wish to apologize to my readers, as well as any of you who follow me on RSS feeds.  I had a bit of a blog crisis when I followed some ill-thought out advice in an attempt to “optimize” my site.


I optimized it right into oblivion!


I also found out, through the same accident, that my backup program wasn’t working nearly as well as I had thought.  So I’ve been doing some testing and I think I’ve figured that one out as well.


My apologies to anyone who’s comments were lost or who received a bit of spam in their RSS feed.  All technical issues should be accounted for.


I’ve managed to recover my content and I will be slowly re-posting it as time goes on.  In the meantime, look for something new and exciting in the month of April!

When Good Novels Go Bad


Image from Dreamstime


As you may have noticed from the sidebar, I’ve put my current novel on hold for now.  I did this after a lot of very careful thought, and it certainly wasn’t because the writing wasn’t going well.  Actually, the writing for this project was going extremely well – I knew exactly what I was writing and I was even ahead of my schedule.


Unfortunately, the more I wrote, the less I liked the story.  I still loved the characters and the setting (partly because I’ve been working on this series for over a decade) but the plot seemed a little… thin.  The driving actions of the plot weren’t believable enough and the beginning dragged on and on (and on…).  I forged ahead because I wasn’t quite willing to admit that the story I’ve been working on for so very long was so very broken.  But the more I thought about it and the more people I talked to the more I realized that the story needed work.


A lot of it.


So I’ve decided on a complete overhaul!  I’m still re-working the details, but I’ve moved the entirety of the plot line “back” in time (earlier in the timeline of my world).  Unfortunately, it means basically throwing out everything that I’ve written to date, but it gives a lot more opportunity for action and conflict and tension and all those good things.  It can now involve fights and political intrigue and conspiracy and treason.  I think it will not only be a more exciting read, but a lot more fun to write.


Now I just have to get to that point (again)!


What do you do when a project stalls out?

Hello world!

Hello everyone!  Here I am, writing my first ever blog post.


You are probably wondering a little bit about me.  Well, to start off with: I’m a writer.  I have been writing on and off for at least the last decade and, as I became more and more active with NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to become a little bit more serious about my craft (more on that later!).  I love NaNoWriMo so much (both because of the enthusiasm and friendliness of the people there and for the dedication and focus it’s taught me) that I have volunteered as a Municipal Liaison in Calgary for the last two years, and am only enjoying it more and more every year.


Writing at a NaNo Event

In order to pay for a computer, internet, and warm home in which to work on my craft, I work full-time as an engineer with a small engineering firm in Calgary.  It’s interesting work, sometimes a stretch of my skills (and sanity), but I’m growing ever more confident and respected.  It certainly does pay the bills!


I am owned by two cats and one honourary nephew.  Most days it’s tough to tell who’s cuter.


Saffron (left) and Socks

That’s really about all that I have to share about myself (I try to save all of the excitement for my writing, after all), so I’ll be signing off now (and posting this, just to make sure it works!).


Stay tuned for much, much more.  See you again soon!