Ironically, (or not), I have been thinking a lot about chronic stress. I have been “practicing what I preached” in my message last week, and it actually has been helping alleviate it! If you missed that message you can go back and give it a quick read here

Stress is inevitable, but the impact of it often pops up at very inopportune times. You know those times— the ones that when even though it makes all the sense to be there, you are caught completely off guard, and no have literally no energy to deal with the cause. We often get caught a mind trap of thinking, “this will go away when”… and suddenly we are picking up the pieces of our own reactions. 

Sometimes, there is stress over things we want to do. Those things we choose. That stress can be from anticipation, or maybe from the time and financial cost of the preparation. Either way, stress is stress. Sadly, we can feel isolated when we experience stress over the “good” things. It can be a challenge to find friends who will love you well through your stress, especially when they might perceive it as unnecessary. 

I know firsthand that the struggle can be real to own up to our stress. But, it has been way worth it for me to wrestle with it in my own life, and also in being able to love and support others.

My husband Jamie and I are absolutely blessed to be on vacation in Mexico this week. It is a trip I didn’t think we would take this winter, and I am beyond grateful to have some uninterrupted time with him. I can honestly say that I am always very thankful for the ability to go on adventures. But, we historically have had what a good friend referred to as a “rhythm” when we prepare to travel together. 

Our Story (this just might sound familiar to some of you): 

I do all of the packing, home prep, and my own work prep (and in the past, kid prep). I don’t ask for help and become a huffy, bitter martyr who is exhausted and would prefer to sleep alone for several days over traveling.

He dives headfirst into work, feeling the stress of preparing businesses for his absence. He becomes emotionally and physically unavailable. He might too, be dreaming of sleeping alone for several days.

We bicker, and sometimes have a blow up fight. 

Then, we get in the car to drive to the airport and the tension is thick. I want him to thank me for laying down my life with all of my preparation (insert dramatic sigh). He wants me to appreciate that his hard work has provided the financial opportunity for us to travel. 

Unmanaged Stress + Expectations = Not good for Jamie and Miranda

Experiencing stress leading up to any event is highly probable. If you haven’t had a similar story surrounding travel, you have likely experienced it somewhere else: a big work change, an important race, having or adopting a baby, getting a puppy or adopting a dog, buying or building a new home, etc.

I urge you to refer back to the tips I presented last week in my message to manage your own stress in all days and seasons of life. This week, I will encourage you to think a little more on how you can not react to stressful situations. In regards to travel with Jamie, having awareness of my typical contribution to our narrative, and remaining patient and understanding of his, has helped us create an (imperfect) new rhythm, but one with less huffiness, and more compassion and love. I have also (imperfectly) used these throughout other times of high stress in chosen circumstances (lots of chances to practice this on race weeks!)

How can you learn from my/our experience to rewrite your stress story?

  • Cultivate self awareness to identify what triggers your stress response, in order to hopefully avoid an untethered reaction. 
  • Clearly communicate. Ask for what you need, rather than silently, or vocally, placing blame and sulking in bitterness. 
  • Take a pause, or some space. Also, give time and space to those who ask for it. Have I ever told you how bad I am at this in my romantic relationships (with Jamie, and historically)? It would make a great blog in itself— a work in progress for sure. 
  • Find perspective, but also have practice self compassion. Yes, you are fortunate for the ability to make choices, even if they cause short-term stress. And yes, you can also have grace and compassion for yourself when you are in it.
  • Ask for help. Please refer to the communicate clearly tip above. Don’t expect anyone else to know what you need. And don’t assume that no one wants to help you! 
  • If in relationship, let the other person be how they need to be. Try to not stress about their stress, or control or overthink their response. 
  • Manage your expectations. I used to think I could not survive without A, B, C being done at all times. I have loosened up those “rules” a lot. And keep in mind that your expectations might be different than others,’ and that is not only okay, but good. We are different! 
  • Don’t neglect self care, but instead double-down on it. More breathing, praying, slowing down, etc. For me, it also involves relying more on God, rather than my default of doing “it all” myself.

While writing this I honestly had to laugh a bit. This has been, and continues to be such a struggle for me. But, I do love when I can report that even though I am still in the battle, I have more tools to fight my default reactions to stress. And, I love to offer you the same. 

Cheers (a margarita or two) to a week of low stress, with zero expectations for no stress. 

Life still happens after all, even in the warm Mexican sunshine. Thankfully, I packed my tools.