Image Map

21 August, 2011

On overcoming stress and perfectionism

I spent Sunday night and Monday night in tears. I woke up again on Wednesday at 5am having a panic attack. By Friday I hadn't slept more than about 30 hours during the week. I knew somewhere in the last 10 days or so I lost balance, perspective, and my health.

It's August. The most stressful month of the year for me. This week I've been particularly plagued by stress. For the last few years Eric has challenged me to "find a way to deal with it"(Thanks, that's helpful), so that these episodes are kept to a minimum.

After spending some time examining myself this week, I have found three ways for me to "deal with it" that are healthy and don't involve running (why is that everyone's answer for stress release?). From the sound of my week above, you'd never guess that I'm doing "better than normal" this year, but this year God decided to throw a few extras at me to really put me to the test.

Here are my new go-to solutions for getting me through tough weeks. (Obviously we are all guided by different set of priorities, moral code, job/family expectations, etc, so your pressures might be weighted differently than mine, yielding a different solution)

What's more important?
The week that I took a bus full of kids to camp in 95 degree weather while 14 weeks pregnant and I came down with the flu REALLY taught me this lesson. What is more important - for me to sleep or get the perfect picture of the girls? Was it more important for me to run to Wal Mart for a fan and healthy food or to play another ice breaker? Was it more important for me to let a not-diocesan-approved Dad drive the bus home or sick-little-me risk putting 16 kids lives in danger?

Once I realized it was okay to not do EVERYTHING; that I didn't have to be "perfect", and that I had a choice, my stress level went down.

I've learned to look back on this technique and apply it this week -

  • is it more important for me to have one-on-one meetings with parents or design fancy name tags for the kids to wear in class?
  • is it more important to have a color coded roster or to get home in time for dinner?
  • is it more important to go to another Braves game or have a restful night with my husband?
  • is it more important to make a farm-raised beef, organic dinner extravaganza or grab drive-thru just to make sure I actually eat today?
  • is it more important to buy prepackaged snacks so I can make a quick lunch or save the environment and money by buying in bulk?
Friday night at 6:30 I knew I had a good 2-3 hours of work still in front of me. I was so hungry I was shaking. I was so tired I felt drunk. So I asked myself, what is more important? Taking care of myself now, or coming back for a few hours on a Saturday?

Pray/Meditate/Take a Deep Breath
I work for a church. The phrase that drives me the most crazy is "Did you pray about it?" And when I look honestly at why I hate it, is because the answer is usually "no".

It wasn't until our Bradley childbirth classes that I learned how valuable a few minutes or even seconds of prayer, medication, or just a deep breath can seriously cleanse the mind and heart, and change your mood.

This week I've applied this concept at a few crucial moments:
  • Before I slam the door on the copy machine for jamming AGAIN.
  • Before I meet another parent complaining that the Confirmation retreat is the same day as Homecoming
  • Before I return an email of a parent asking if it's "too late to register" the day before kick off (5 months after registration began!) and after the name tags have (finally!) been made.
I found myself ready to tackle these "problems" with a smile and kindness rather than being frazzled and rude. A win-win and all it took was 15 seconds.

Perfectionism is Relative
We all have things that have to be done a certain way...sometimes to the point where we are blinded to another solution or option, and it nearly kills us trying to get it done that exact way.

What's funny, is that very few people operate under the same "perfectionist" code that we do. For example, I will stay up all night baking a dessert from scratch because I can't bring myself to make something from a box for a party. While other people throw some powered sugar on a box brownie mix. Some people go every two weeks to have their eyebrows waxed, while I have no problem letting caterpillars grow on my face.

At some point you have to take a step back from these things and ask - DOES IT REALLY MATTER?!?!

The answer is probably no, because no one else sees the value the same way you do. So let it go and grab some wine.

What are some strategies you use to combat stress and/or perfectionism?


  1. Oh no! E, I'm glad this is a better August than last year? And that you're head is on straight to cope. Baby girl has such a smart mama already! PLEASE let me know if you need anything. I have Thursdays off these next two months if you need me to help you with anything. Praying for you three!

  2. I am a HUGE stressophile!  I am such an OCD parent that I can drive myself (and family) nuts at times!  A huge help for me is calling/gmail chatting with friends that are in the same boat as me.  Sometimes just hearing that they are going through the same thing or getting tips on how they handle situations helps.  ALways good to know we're not alone in our journey!


Thanks for reading! We'd love to hear from you!