After work this afternoon (evening?) I went to the gym, thinking my the speed work I had scheduled today would be best done on the treadmill. About twenty minutes into my workout, a woman came up to me to let me know she’d reserved the treadmill I was on for the next half-hour. That half-hour was still fifteen minutes off, so she was just politely letting me know about her reservation. The news irritated me, though. To be clear, I wasn’t irritated at her; rather, I was irritated at myself because I thought I’d reserved the treadmill I was on (I had, apparently, signed up for the one next to me), and irritated at the gym in general for getting so crowded. By the time this woman’s half-hour rolled around, there were people waiting in lines to get on the treadmills so even though I’d signed up for the one next to the one I was on, I cut my workout short to give other people a chance to get their exercise in. Had I been in their position, I wouldn’t have appreciated someone going from one treadmill to another to continue a workout they’d already been at for forty minutes. But I was still really annoyed about the whole thing, and as I went to the locker room, I realized that I wasn’t just annoyed, I was actually angry. I kind of wanted to just have a temper tantrum and start throwing my things on the ground and crying and yelling. You know, because that’s the sort of mature young woman I am.
I didn’t have a tantrum, though. Instead, I took a step back and considered how upset I was getting over doing two 1-mile repeats at 10k pace instead of three. And that’s when I realized that the workout was not the problem. The problem was that I wasn’t acknowledging the fact that there are things going on right now that are stressing me out, making me upset, and generally giving me a hard time. My failure to recognize these feelings and honor them was what led me to want to act out so dramatically. And while it’s true that I’m much happier these days than I’ve been in a long time, stress is pretty much unavoidable these days. Unless you happen to be a hermit. And even then, well, I don’t know. You still might get stressed. All you can really do is make an effort to handle your stress in a manner that’s productive and, possibly, somewhat stress-reducing.
Easier said than done, though, right? You can be fully aware of the importance of stress management and still not be able to bring yourself to do it. Here’s an example: if you’ve been reading this blog for the past few weeks, you’re probably aware of the fact that I’ve fallen off the yoga wagon. I love yoga! But for the past month, maybe even couple months, I’ve been telling myself I don’t have time for it, I’m too tired, it will interfere with my running schedule, etc. Yoga, along with running, is the most effective stress management technique I have. But it also forces me to be more in touch with my emotions than running does. So what’s really been going on for the past few weeks? I’ve been avoiding yoga so that I could avoid all the ugly stuff going on that’s stressing me out.
This is not an effective stress management technique.
So this evening, I did some yoga for 30 minutes. I feel a lot better. Still stressed, but calmer about it, if that makes sense. The thing about managing stress is that in order to do it, you have to be willing to face the stress head on. You can’t cope effectively with something if you’re not willing to admit that it exists, and that it’s a problem. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had time for yoga, but instead of taking advantage of that time, I’ve found ways to blow it off. It’s like emotional eating–you can sit there and eat cookies and for a few minutes, you might forget about what’s bothering you and feel better. But once you put the cookies away, you’re still going to feel crappy (and probably guilty because of all the cookies you ate). I’ve been watching tv shows, messing around on the internet, and doing everything except putting on a yoga podcast and sitting with my stress for a while. And I’ll be honest, confessing all of this doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll start practicing yoga every day and stop wasting time doing dumb things like internet shoe-window-shopping. But at least I can recognize a pattern, which is a big step forward.
Do you try to confront and experience your stress or do you prefer to try to avoid it?