Dealing with stress and comparmentalization.
January 23, 2014 12:12 AM   Subscribe

Problems with the SO, family acting irrationally and Career in a turbulent state. Help me find a way of dealing with the stress!

1.So, for about a year now, my work life has been rather tense. Lawsuits on the company coupled with a loss in contracts have been tough on everyone working in the company and people have been scrambling to fight the case and to find new contracts to make up for the loss in business. I won't go into too much detail about this, but, we're finding it extremely difficult to replace the business we're about to lose.

2.On top of that, my SO of 2 years and I are in a LDR. We've had a couple of big fights about loyalty. No one was disloyal, but they were suspecting that I was and I feel that I've clarified that nothing even remotely distasteful has happened, though they said they need time to process things and the way that they process things are through time off. This worries me as my way of processing things is by doing it together as a couple, and I'm worried that they're trying to manufacture distance and that to feel less strongly about me.

3.My family is messy. And I'm glad that I don't live with them. I have a gay brother whom I'm okay with aside from the fact that I think he's a slacker, a father with a history of substance abuse and cheating, and a mother who releases her frustrations on her children. Whenever I interact with them, I can't spend more than twenty minutes before I start resenting myself for even bothering to show up. Though in a lot of cases, it's mandatory anyway. It just seems like they're rather dysfunctional and sometimes I feel like I'm the only sane and level headed person in the room.

The three issues above are not only affecting me mentally, but physically as well. My resting pulse rate has gone up but 12 beats per minute( I know because I'm a runner and I keep track of these things), I feel more lethargic, and sometimes, I get mini anxiety attacks. Unfortunately, I live in a city with little access to mental health facilities. They're either too expensive or unprofessional.

And so, I turn to metafilter for help. How do I deal with the stress so that I'm not so badly affected by it? Is there a pattern of thinking that I can adopt?

Any advice on the above mentioned issues is also welcome!
posted by perspicaturous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Why are you intimate with any of these people outside of the ones who provide you a paycheck - and even that organization?!

Boundaries, yo.

Therapy if the idea of changing up your repertoire of relationships seems impossible.

Your day-to- day life does not need to be so fraught!

Ask me how I know....
posted by jbenben at 12:34 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It sounds to me like you could really use a good friend or mentor right now, maybe a religious leader or an old professor you could reach out to. You could try a support group specifically focused on mental health and relaxation- there are some free ones on in most bigger cities. If you find one run by nice, trustworthy people they can be pretty helpful. Or maybe even a meditation group.

But as for what you can do totally alone, for now- this may be a little unorthodox or silly, but I have an imaginary happy place that I go to when I'm really stressed out and anxious, especially when I'm dealing with bad company.

First I imagine myself walking down a spiral stairwell in darkness (for some reason in my mind it's made of corrugated metal but YMMV)- 10 steps- and count the steps slowly. Each step down, I feel calmer and calmer, and take myself more and more out of reality. Then I stand at the foot of the stairs and open a big, heavy door into a house. The floor plan never changes. I've got it envisioned in pretty perfect detail by now. It's always there waiting, like a vacation home, and it's calm and quiet and private and full of nice things and has whatever I want in it. It has a nice garden, too. Sometimes I imagine myself staying there overnight or however long I need to. I really make an effort to immerse myself totally in this imaginary place, like its a waking dream.

It may sound absurd, but I've been going back to this place for years and it noticeably helps with racing thoughts, stress, heart rate, and helps me feel healthier whenever I feel like I'm about to get sick. The longer I do it, the more it just becomes an even easier conditioned response of relaxation.

I suppose I could even add an imaginary therapist or friend if I ever felt the need to. Your imagination can be a powerful thing.
posted by quincunx at 12:37 AM on January 23, 2014 [9 favorites]

Sounds like you should break up with your SO -- making it clear that your work is too demanding to maintain a long distance relationship, and that you wish them the best -- let your family know you're going incommunicado for a while because of work, and do so, then focus on your job for the time necessary. Sometimes you just gotta pick one. If you don't want to break up, at least put your family on hiatus.
posted by davejay at 12:48 AM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

1. Is it your company? Then just keep your head down and do your job. Get a new one if necessary.

2. Break up. You did nothing wrong, they've got their own problems to sort out. PS "Loyalty" is not something that adults argue about.

3. Limited visits, leave on your own terms. A half-hour here, a dinner there. Anybody makes you feel bad you take off. "I'm not feeling well."
posted by rhizome at 1:23 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: How do I deal with the stress so that I'm not so badly affected by it?

A) Start looking for a new job.
B) Dump your SO.
C) Stop spending so much time with your family.

Sometimes the best way to deal with stress is to remove the stressors. You have too much shit going on right now to deal with other peoples shit, and you need to start focusing on your needs and what's important for you first.
posted by empath at 1:23 AM on January 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I love my SO very much and don't want a breakup. I want to work things out
posted by perspicaturous at 1:52 AM on January 23, 2014

Okay, okay! Don't break up with him then! Stop worrying about that and just be the best person/partner you can be and release the chips to fall where they may.

I like the advice about finding a happy place and limiting contact with the crazy fam while you relax and focus on handling work!

In a few years this will all be small stuff!
posted by misspony at 4:31 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Though in a lot of cases, it's mandatory anyway.

It's not, unless you have a multizillion dollar inheritance riding on you showing up for every Family Gathering. If you can't do more than 20 minutes, then start setting that expectation if you think not showing up at all would cause more drama: Sorry I can't stay for the whole event, but I [excuse here]. Great to see you MWWWAAAH. And go. Also, start not showing up for stuff. Tell Family "I'm sorry, that won't be possible," when they inform you of whatever thing you "have" to be at.
posted by rtha at 5:50 AM on January 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Serenity prayer? (Or... Serenity Self-Guided Meditation, if you're not religious.) It's a powerful set of ideas: change what you can, let go of what you can't, and appropriately identify which is which.
posted by salvia at 7:17 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love my SO very much and don't want a breakup. I want to work things out

So distance yourself from your family, keep your focus on your work, and have a nice long talk with your SO advising that you have to keep your head down for work but you are very committed to them, and what you need from them right now is to trust and support you while you focus on work. Let them know in return you will schedule specific time (say, two months out) to spend an extended period of time with them (say, a whole week.) Make it clear you consider your SO and you "in this together" and that even though it's going to be hard not having as much contact or attention as they'd like, it's preferable to one of you having an illness or another situation, and so you expect them to be able to support your needs at this time.
posted by davejay at 11:14 AM on January 23, 2014

the point being that, if you're really overwhelmed and stressed, a pattern of thinking is going to be a lot less impactful compared to dropping responsibilities where you can and setting boundaries/commitments to make your other responsibilities into supportive allies where you can
posted by davejay at 11:16 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It does sound like you have a lot of life stress right now. I don't have any particular advice on the situations you've mentioned. However, there are some things you could try to mitigate the physical effects and lower your cortisol levels.

1) Yoga / Meditation

2) Prioritize sleep

3) Leisure Walking (NOT race walking and not running, which can raise cortisol levels)

4) Planned Relaxation Time - As in, if you're asked to do X (whether it's work, family or SO-related) you say no because you're busy. Pretend it's a real meeting. Use the time to do something restful - read a book, take a hot bath, get a massage, stare out a window... whatever you find helps you calm down and clear your mind. Scheduling these for after family time would be a nice & neat way to limit family time and make a graceful exit. "Sorry family, I've got an appointment and have to go..."

5) Repeat as often as needed - "This too shall pass."
posted by geeky at 12:04 PM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Great advice upthread and fantastic advice by geeky. Sometimes when you have a lot going on you see every little thing as "HUGE MUST RESOLVE NOW!!!" The best thing you can do is come to terms with not being able to control everything in your life and focusing on the things you can. Have a back-up plan if work doesn't work out, new job whichever. Let your SO know that you have a lot on your plate and are still very committed but you need some time to yourself to be the partner they deserve. If you're happy, then they should be too. Everyone wishes for their SO's happiness. Right now, what's most important is taking care of YOU.

Realize, this is your life telling you that you're stretched pretty thin and you're not paying attention to yourself. When was the last time you did something truly for *you*? I'm feeling a lot of pent-up frustration for some reason and if you want to get your life back in order, the anxiety you feel about the unknown future has to be taken care of. Living in the moment and finding things to be grateful for will help. I know it's the opposite of the instinct you might have now to panic and despair, but take small steps to resolve your obstacles.

Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is your life. If that makes any sense. I hope things work out for you, but everything in life is about perspective.
posted by lunastellasol at 11:31 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

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