I didn’t realize I was severely stressed until I stopped being creative

I didn’t realize I was severely stressed until I stopped being creative

I didn’t realize I was severely stressed until I stopped being creative

April is Stress Awareness Month.

The term “adulting” was coined by millennials seemingly fed up with the strains of bills, loans, and monotonous tasks one must complete in order to function in society. It started out as a joke—google “adulting” and you won’t be disappointed by the onslaught of memes—but I couldn’t relate to the struggles it highlighted until I graduated from college and moved out of my mother’s house.

I’d moved out for a number of reasons, including graduate school and my career, but that new freedom came with a daunting sense of stress. There was no comfortable safety net to break my fall if I failed on my own, and there were months when I came very close to falling off that ledge. I came home to eviction warnings taped to my front door. My gas bill was backed up several hundred dollars because, for months, the company didn’t charge me properly. I realized that a second income would be the only way to stay on top of my finances.

For me, that meant freelance copywriting as a side hustle. And it meant I stopped being creative.

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My experience certainly isn’t new—people have always relied on second or third jobs to make ends meet. But as living becomes more expensive and wages stagnate, it gets harder and harder to close the gap between barely getting by and paying your bills on time. I know plenty of people who work several jobs at a time, moving from one shift to the next in a seemingly never-ending workday. But the stress doesn’t leave us when we finally clock out or finish up our work. It follows us home in our pocket.

“Emails, texts, social media, and other technology make you feel chained to them. We are like Pavlov’s dogs, rushing to look at our phone or computer when it pings to tell us we’ve got mail or something else that’s new,” says psychiatrist Carole Lieberman. “This adds constant stress.”

I honestly thought that I had somehow dodged the “burnout” plague that has defined the millennial generation. I believed that if I just proved my tireless work ethic and utilized the time when I wasn’t working one of my several jobs that I would get myself far away from those eviction notices and never be stressed again.

It wasn’t until my fiancée asked me why I had stopped writing creatively that I realized how stress had been impacting me. I was burned out. The stress had just revealed itself in a different form than I expected.

I had barely done any creative writing since graduating from college. I had gone from finishing whole novels to barely making it through a few sentences on screen, all in a rush to utilize my writing skills for jobs that would help stabilize my income. To do that, I let my passion fall to the wayside.

“Burnout clouds your head so you can no longer think productively or be creative. You feel perpetually irritated and impatient, desperate to get off the merry-go-round,” says Lieberman. It can be hard to break that merry-go-round of expectation too.

Even after working a 40-hour week, I can’t help but treat time meant for relaxing as time when I could somehow be furthering my career.

Being in a constant state of stress isn’t sustainable. At some point, it will lead to physical symptoms: chronic headaches, nausea, any number of underlying conditions. But when you’ve been conditioned to believe the myth that if you just work hard enough, you can achieve anything, it can be hard to pull yourself out of the mindset that you must work until you drop.

When you’re overwhelmed, you may think to yourself, “People in previous generations made it work, so why can’t we?” The difference lies in the fast pace that people expect everything to get done nowadays. With the world at our fingertips, people can order something online and receive it the same day. Whole business models thrive on the idea of being the fastest while paying the smallest wages to their workers. We apply that to our own work ethic and expectations for ourselves: The faster we get it done, the more successful we are, and the more likely it is that will move on to the next accomplishment.

What does all this have to do with my creative writing?

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When I stopped doing writing for myself, I stopped doing something that brought me genuine joy because it wasn’t financially sustainable. I didn’t receive the same justification and reward for it that my side hustles brought me. As a teenager, I would talk with friends I’d seen only an hour earlier on AIM, and I’d listen to music and browse the internet before dinner. But after that, I would shut all my computer windows, save for my Microsoft Word, and type up whole chapters of a novel before I went to bed. There was no ping notification from my flip phone reminding me of other freelance assignments that were due; it was just me and my writing.

Looking back, I wish I would have appreciated that ability to disconnect more. But it’s time to start prioritizing my passions and hobbies again. Realizing my burnout and identifying my stress are the first steps.

The post I didn’t realize I was severely stressed until I stopped being creative appeared first on HelloGiggles.



How I stopped comparing myself to the ideal “yoga body” that doesn’t actually exist

How I stopped comparing myself to the ideal “yoga body” that doesn’t actually exist

How I stopped comparing myself to the ideal “yoga body” that doesn’t actually exist

I found my yoga teacher, Joy, when my oldest daughter was 4 months old. In the middle of deep postpartum anxiety, taking her class was the first time I left the baby and did something entirely for myself. I chose Joy’s class because she taught “curvy yoga.” I hoped I would find a safe space to practice without feeling like an outsider because of my body.

For five years, I followed Joy through different studios, and every class brought new ways to challenge myself and work with my body instead of treating it like a hindrance. Belly limiting your movement? Let’s adjust. This doesn’t work for you? Let’s try something else. Joy never sidelined a student for not fitting a predetermined idea of how yoga practice should look.

When Joy announced that she was taking a sabbatical from teaching, I had to figure out what yoga looks like for me, without her and our familiar judgment-free classes.

Trying to scratch out a start to this new path, I asked Joy, “What is your philosophy for yoga?” Instead she gave me her philosophy for life: “I exist.”

“As I have been teaching,” she said, “I am seeing it in everyone—that they too want to exist.”

One summer Saturday afternoon, about a dozen of us sat on mats around the loft studio for Joy’s last curvy yoga workshop before her sabbatical. We chatted about parking and the weather, then a deeper conversation began: Why had we each joined a curvy yoga workshop that day? A confessional of inexperience and insecurities followed.

I listened to women who were taking their first-ever yoga class and were drawn to Joy because she used the “curvy yoga” label. They talked about how they never felt like they had the right body type for yoga, so they were too intimidated to join a room full of “yoga bodies.” I also listened to Joy’s regular curvy yoga students bemoan her break from teaching and their fears of finding a new class where they can fit in.

I thought about the times in class when a folding or twisting pose made anger swell up from deep in my long-hated gut — all the times yoga was a physical expression of my emotions.

I weigh 250 pounds; I do not have a “yoga body,” but there is no such thing as a yoga body.

I have a body, and I have yoga.

Books and Instagram accounts tell the stories of curvy yogis and nontraditional yoga practitioners. When I google images of “yoga body” today, the first few results are pictures of Jessamyn Stanley, author of Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get On the Mat, Love Your Body. Stanley and Anna Guest-Jelly, founder of a Curvy Yoga-branded teacher training program and author of Curvy Yoga: Love Yourself & Your Body a Little More Each Day, challenge assumptions about what yoga looks like and who can practice. Dana Falsetti’s Instagram is filled with daring poses and minimal clothing, a striking image against the idea that bendy yogis MUST be small and taut.

These women are challenging expectations associated with yoga, and I want to do the same. So when my teacher left, I retained these lessons:

I am my own teacher.

I had a mission when I went to Joy’s last workshop—to figure out what I would do next. In the quiet of savasana and deep breath, I wondered, what would Joy tell me to do? I imagined her response at once both compassionate and DGAF: “You figure it out. This is not about me.”

Yoga is for every body.

We are doing accidental yoga all day. My two-year-old executes a perfect downward-facing dog before her sister tickle-tackles her. Both the pose and the laughter are yoga. On the rug, my husband grimaces into an awkward frog pose to loosen up after a long run. I suggest a modification because “Joy says…” Both the pose and the communication are aspects of yoga. The practice does not only consist of people perched on mats, defying gravity and joint mechanics.

Practicing yoga when others think we don’t belong is a subversive act. It allows us to be an ambassador for all those people who are too nervous to take that first class.

Joy isn’t here. It’s time for me to try new classes with new teachers and new peers. My calendar is populated with the class schedule of the nearby gym. It’s five minutes away, offers childcare, and has an attached cafe. Still, I think about walking into that room for the first time and wonder if my body will be too disparate from the other bodies there.

But I go to class because showing up is the first step.

I will try not to be the one committing the offense of comparison: She is older than I am, she is shorter than I am, she is more graceful than I am. We all belong in yoga because we chose to be there, and at the same time, no one will have an identical practice. I will focus on commonalities, not differences when I practice yoga—even if that means the common experience of feeling different.

The post How I stopped comparing myself to the ideal “yoga body” that doesn’t actually exist appeared first on HelloGiggles.



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