Recently I returned to working outside of the home. It’s been a difficult adjustment! For anyone that has taken several months off I hope that you can relate. Although I got up at six am every morning (I’m super sensitive to routine changes) I wasn’t used to actually using my brain at that time of day. Suddenly, I had to get up and actually think. Brush my teeth, put on clothes, drive to work, and then actually try to appear like I know what I’m doing. I’d spent 8 months flopping in my chair each morning with a coffee to watch the news. It’s debatable if I was awake by 10 am.
Brain use aside, I am also an addicted to yoga. Since returning to work the beginning August I have practiced yoga twice. Typically, I’m a 30 minutes a day 5 times a week girl! I have a committed home practice in Yoga for a few reasons, stress relief and fitness being the primary reasons. Not only has my ass begun to sag but my tolerance to stress has plummeted.
The worst life style impact of returning to work is that this blog is the only writing I’ve done in the last month.
So what’s happening?
I think there may be a few things going on. Stress is a huge part of it but equally challenging is that I also live with fibromyalgia (among other annoying health issues). This means I have limited energy. Worry and learning take a lot of get-up-and go. I keep trying to convince myself that once I’ve proven myself at work I will balance my energy expenditures and settle into a rhythm where I come home at the end of the day with energy to spare…(uhmm… those who know me are calling bullshit right about now. There is a huge flaw is this plan as I typically always feel I need to do better. It’s irritating but who I am).
Now in regards to the stress of starting a new job…I find it a touch overwhelming. I mean so many questions ramble around. Will they like me? Will I make my self look like a fool when I make a mistake? What if I don’t learn fast enough? In general people experience a lot of stress when starting a new job. I tend to be an anxious person to start with so with the added stress I find myself walking around praying to God that I don’t need a paper bag to start breathing calmly again. Now that would make a bad impression!
The Strain of Stress
People experience a large amount of stress when starting a new job. I found some stats that highlight the impact of work place stress from this website https://www.adaa.org/workplace-stress-anxiety-disorders-survey. Some interesting things I learned:
- “72 percent of people who have daily stress and anxiety say it interferes with their lives at least moderately”. The stress of starting a new job has affected my life in a severe way. I don’t have the energy for yoga and as a result I am more stressed. I commonly experience a flare of Fibromyalgia symptoms when stressed. Can you say vicious cycle?
- The article discusses how women are more likely to eat more when stressed. This explains why my pants won’t button.
- The good news is that women are more likely to talk with friends and families about their struggles which help a lot.
- If you have anxiety disorder managing stress becomes even more important. If I could run into a rabbit hole and hide from the world I would, but again the bills have to be paid. I also decided that the spiders in the rabbit hole would have a huge impact on my mental health. Working seems easier. Besides not only do I like to shop, I also like having a house to live in.
Stress being creative and not venturing into the rabbit hole…
Writing and being creative is an important part of who I am. The last time I worked full-time (5 days a week) I didn’t write consistently for years. It wasn’t until I had time off that I have been able to focus on my writing again. The momentum of writing fizzled as my responsibilities at work increased. Time and energy were spent worrying about my performance at work.
What’s wrong with me? I could see what was happening. My response? I sat my arse in the computer chair and procrastinated by researching ways to motivate me to write. Yes, I can see the flaw in that plan.
Some of these some basic things I discovered in that time researching:
- One very popular piece of advice is to keep a note-book with you all the time. I do; I never use it.
- Set reasonable and achievable goals. I’ve taken several workshops on this. I developed a form. Broke goals down in manageable steps and even color coded the sheet. The file sits unopened on my desktop. My paper copy is tattered from being carried around; not because I am always looking at it but because it floats around in the bottom of my purse.
- Keep a ‘to do’ list. I already do this. At work I always check off my list. In fact, I add things to my ‘to do’ list that I’ve completed then cross them off. At home? Not so much. I make a list and then don’t follow through.
- Create tasks on your calendar app or outlook. I do. Again for my day job I check every item off. Again, at home? Not so much. I either reassigned the task for another day or hit dismiss.
Stress, Work and Fibromyalgia…
I think part of the problem is that I give most of my energy to my day job. Fibromyalgia sucks the energy right out of me.
So what is Fibromyalgia you ask? I recently completed a paper for my University education on the topic. Here is some information:
Fibromyalgia is a generalized pain disorder that typically affects both sides of the body equally, above and below the waist. It is estimated that it affects 2-5% of the adult population (Arnold, Clauw & McCarberg, 2011). The disorder affects primarily women although the reason for this is not understood. The experience of pain is considered to be neurogenic or neuropathic as it is generated in the nervous system. The brain amplifies the experience of pain causing debilitating impact on the individuals’ quality of life. In general, things that normally would not be painful are painful for a patient with fibromyalgia. The pathophysiology discovered so far indicates that there is a “neuropeptide dysfunction in the descending modulatory pathway between the brain and the dorsal horn of the spinal cord” (Bertollucci & de Oliveira 2013, pg. 343). Symptoms of Fibromyalgia are pain, stiffness, severe fatigue, sleep difficulties, morning fatigue, non-restorative sleep, paraesthesia (an abnormal sensation, typically tingling or pricking caused by pressure on or damage to peripheral nerves), neurotype symptoms such as lancinating pain, psychological distress, cognitive difficulties and a swollen feeling in the extremities.
Arnold, L.M., Clauw, D.J., McCarberg, B.H. (2011) The Science of Fibromyalgia. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 86:9, pg. 907-911
Bertolucci, P.H. F. & de Oliveira, F. F. (2013) Cognitive Impairment in Fibromyalgia. Current Pain Headache Rep 17:344 pg 1-9
Okay considered yourself educated!
As you can imagine I can become overwhelmed easily. I get stressed, then tired. Next I cycle into a flare up, pain causes stress and I then cancel friends and family’s social events so I can rest. Disappointing people causes me more stress. Then I’m tired and then pain increases. You get the idea. Breaking the cycle is very challenging.
One of the first things to be sacrificed while in this cycle is creative energy. To be honest, without a creative outlet I tend to get weird. My scarves don’t match my shirts; my socks don’t match either. One is black, one is pink. Or worse one is orange with flowers and another is striped! I spend time sitting and staring into space. Even though I lack the energy to sit at the computer and put words to paper, the characters chitchatting with each other in my head grow louder making it impossible to follow a conversation. Then the plot takes over and I am developing extreme obstacles and black moments. As the days pass by my sense of humor becomes more perverted and dark and for those that know me…it already falls into those categories. Things become awkward and it’s not pretty to see.
Then I’m driven to the computer where I spend 4 hours completely engrossed. The result of this is that I’m late to bed, exhausted the next day, and in pain for the next couple of weeks.
As a result, I try to listen to that need to create on a daily basis. I have two options available to me. The first is art. The second is writing. The problem with writing daily is that I’m a block writer. When I sit down I want it to be for several hours or I feel disjointed and unsatisfied after being pulled out of the process before my characters are done for the day.
Some people write in short spurts. They can grab that note-book and document their ideas and then tuck it away for later when they have access to a computer. Because I am a ‘large chunk’ writer it is common for time to slip away from me. I surrender control over to the characters and the plot and follow the lead. In reality, the only time I have to appease my craving for large chunk writing is on the weekend.
Less time commitment is needed for art as things need to dry throughout the process and I don’t find myself as engrossed in the process.
My Action Plan:
- Priority #1 is to practice yoga each day for thirty minutes. Without addressing my stress responses, I have little chance of breaking out of the cycle of Fibromyalgia
- Carry that note-book. Someday I’ll pick it up. I imagine if I stopped carrying it that would be the day I wanted to write on lunch break.
- Write yearly writing goals then break down in to monthly goals, finally break them into bi-weekly tasks in order to accommodate realistic targets in writing. I will use my bi-weekly goals as a background on my phone. I’m hoping the visual cue will remind me what I’ve committed to accomplishing.
- Set up an ongoing art project in the kitchen (sorry family) and work up to an hour each night. It seems to be easier to pull myself from painting as things need time to dry.
- Negotiate with family boundaries about designated writing time. In talking to my family it was decided that Sunday afternoon is an excellent time for me to commit to writing. Family can be a source of inspiration and accountability but they can also be a distraction. I plan to gently remind them of the commitment if need arises.
- Access my support network of friends and extended family to help me stay accountable. At the very least I will communicate to them that Sundays are my designated writing times so that events are not planned.
- Plan two weekends away a year that totally focuses on writing time. No distractions like Satellite TV, internet and picking my nose.
As much as I want to put more on my list I’m trying to be realistic. Hopefully this plan helps to keep me in focus. I wonder what life will be like in January when I start my next University Course….