Thursday, August 11, 2011

Follow up on the Stress Less Initiative

I wanted to update you on the state of my Stress Less Initiative. Returned from my first trip to mainland Europe and deeply impacted by the cultural emphasis on enjoying life instead of rushing through it, as the focus seems to be in the States, I made a vow of sorts. Instead of "Vacation Maureen" making an appearance slightly before, during, and as long as possible after my trip, I would strive to incorporate some of her better attributes into my "real life".
While there are days that are setbacks, overall, I think I have been pretty successful in making a shift. Similar to the philosophy that it takes 21 days of a behavior to make it a habit, I have been hanging on to a more laid back take on life for over two months now!
Here's what's helping and working:
1. It's still summer. I love the sun, the pool, the beach and all other things summery. Even though I haven't had a full summer vacation since I was in high school, there is something magical about the months that schools are not in session. Traffic on my commute is lighter. My actual work load tends to be lighter. Summer week days and weekend days seem to have blurrier lines than other times of year.
2. I have been immersing myself in travel daydreams. One of my best friends, with whom I most recently traveled, is also obsessed with exploring new destinations and is committed to planning future trips. In addition to having two trips planned for September and one in November, I have a week off this month for some beach time. When I am not actually going somewhere or planning to go somewhere, I read about other people going somewhere and get excited.
3. There are lots of fun things on the social calendar to look forward to. Leaving home isn't the only way to have fun! The Boston area hosts restaurant week in August and I have some great dinner plans on the agenda. It's also triathlon season and my race date is speeding toward me far faster than I will be speeding across the finish line. There are pool parties to attend and weekend adventures to embark on. Life doesn't feel stagnant at all.
4. I'm listening to myself more. You know that part in Eat, Pray, Love in Italy when they are talking about the pleasure of doing nothing? Americans don't even have a word for it! I have been trying to pay attention both to the little things that bring me pleasure and doing them more often and also paying attention to when my mind and body need to slow down. I have broken plans because I needed a day of nothingness. I have resisted booking up all my free time so that I can decide what I really am in the mood for when the free time comes. I snuck in some sleeping late, a nap, and good reads. Sometimes I eat toast with nutella on it for dinner because I would rather eat that than chicken. This is just a small way I can bring the cultural component from Europe that I so appreciated home to my daily life.
What is not working?
1. I'm not getting enough workouts.  In summers past, I have trained for my triathlons with a group, which was a huge motivation for me. This year, there were not enough people to form a training team. About once a week I get together with some tri friends from the past and we do a group bike ride and I love it. I also have a class at the gym once a week that I am very dedicated to; the teacher is wonderful and it's a great workout. Beyond that, though, in following what I really want to do, it's often more about laying by the pool with a book than it is about going for a run. I'm getting so good at indulging myself, in fact, that when I went for a run over the weekend, after 2.75 miles of dripping sweat I decided I really didn't like running and, even though I was still 2 miles from home, I chose to walk instead!
2. I play on the weeknights and am tired for work. In pursuit of the things that bring me pleasure, I have met up with friends frequently on week nights. We have had some amazing times!!! Until the alarm goes off the next morning and I have to go to work.....Yawn!
3. I can't seem to let go of the stress that housework creates. I'm learning to take work in stride much more but house work? Not so much. I could go on and on about this one but, for your sanity and my own, I will leave it at that.
So, overall, I feel like Vacation Maureen is a much larger presence in everyday life. Do I need a new name? If she is here so often, does Vacation Maureen even make sense anymore?
And yet, I am still fearful that as school starts again work will get busy and as fall descends and the days get shorter, life will feel less like a vacation and it's still possible that I may lose my grasp on the Stress Less Initiative.

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