coping calmly with change thru catharsis
December 18, 2007 8:06 AM   Subscribe

About to go through a big life change, and I want to get through it the best I can.

Next month, I'm going to start a new job. The job I'm leaving I've held for 10 years, had a home office for eight and work with a great team. The job change is a positive thing, but it's all going to be a big life change for me. I tend towards anxiety and obsessive thinking (which I work on, take meds for, see a great shrink for), so I know this is going to be (and already is) a big trigger for me.

In the past, I've used television and other numbing things to avoid my stress or anxiety in tough times. Not to extreme levels, but it doesn't make me feel that great or feel like I'm moving on in a good way. So, I think I've got an opportunity this time to create some new, cathartic, maybe even fun coping strategies for my stress and anxiety.

So, hive mind, what do you do to deal with the stressful times? While I welcome healthy suggestions, I'm not against suggestions of reveling briefly in something hedonistic. I acknowledge that that can be important and cathartic too.
posted by lucyleaf to Human Relations (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Walking for the healthy part.
Bubble baths for the hedonistic part.

Honestly. Bubble baths (and their less frothy counterparts, herbal baths and mineral baths) have gotten me through many transitions, from cross-country moves to breakups.

I also suggest a good massage therapist.
posted by lleachie at 8:13 AM on December 18, 2007

Also remember that sometimes the anticipatory anxiety is worse than the actual dealing-with-it stress. You may find that you have better coping skills than you think or fear you do, and that you will actually find yourself more attuned to the positive aspects of your new situation than you may have been able to in the past. That said, lleachie's suggestions seem spot on. Best of luck in your new job!
posted by judith at 8:27 AM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Exercise is a great way to channel stress and anxiety. Find what works for you, whether it's walking, cycling, swimming, running, joining a gym, or playing an organized sport. And after a good workout, you feel perfectly justified being hedonistic, whether that's treating yourself to a decadent meal or dessert, watching a movie, marinating in a hot bath, or getting a massage.

Perhaps build a new routine for yourself, so that you know that at 7pm you will deal with your stress by doing X, and then you will go home and do something comforting, and so on. Having an outlet to focus on can help you deal with the anxiety in the stress-ridden moment.
posted by bassjump at 8:53 AM on December 18, 2007

Seconding bubble baths. At one of the most stressful periods in my life, I would come home and take a glass of sherry and a trashy novel into the bathtub (scorching hot, but that's just me) and stay there until the water cooled down.

In fact, I now use my need for a bubble bath as a sort of early warning system that I'm feeling stressed.

Recently I started writing down family stories and memories. I pull out lots of details I thought I've forgotten, get in a good cry, and feel really great afterwards. Amazing stress reliever!
posted by nax at 9:07 AM on December 18, 2007

Do you have little children you know, whom you could play with? Playing with my neices during stressful times is a great stress-buster for me. Kids are so good at taking each day as it comes, it's a great reminder for me not to get anxious.
posted by LN at 9:40 AM on December 18, 2007

Exercise is always good for stress, and I second the massage therapist: using your muscles and then having someone work the tension out of them is a fine way to feel better.
posted by LeisureGuy at 10:17 AM on December 18, 2007

Use affirmations to stay focused on the benefits.
Aromatherapy. Get some ground cardamom, put it in a small plastic container, have a deep breath when stressed. I love the aroma, and since I started using it as a conscious stress reliever, it's a big help.
posted by theora55 at 10:53 AM on December 18, 2007

exercise is great. dancing, sports, whatever. just get out there and move around and discharge some of that energy.

also, i hate to advocate this, but getting an rx for a months' worth of sleeping pills might help you, too, if you tend toward insomnia. at least you won't wory about not sleeping, and it'll help your mood during the day, too. by the time you run out, you should be in a good enough routine that you won't need them anymore.
posted by thinkingwoman at 11:59 AM on December 18, 2007

I highly highly highly recommend the book The Way of Transition by William Bridges. I think it helps provide some context and structure for all the uncertainty and confusion that life changes can bring.
posted by occhiblu at 12:03 PM on December 18, 2007

Nthing the bubble bath thing. My therapist was the person who actually recommended it in the first place, at one point telling my boyfriend that if I was having a panic attack he should draw a bath for me.

Other things I've found useful:

Painting with oils on canvas. Don't stress out about getting things just right, but do experiment with palette knives and all sorts of other things. It's a good way to vent and to absorb yourself in something that isn't just numbing.

And not to be the yoga evangelist, but I find that taking yoga a few times a week can really really bring the stress levels down. Talk to your shrink about it, though: there are a few things you might want to avoid based on personality type, etc. (If you go through dissociative periods, certain kinds of breathing and meditation may make you more anxious instead of less.)

Good luck with the new job, and with the anxiety.
posted by brina at 12:55 PM on December 18, 2007

Sing something really cheerful as loudly as you can until you're physically exhausted and your head is all buzzy :D
posted by RobotHeart at 4:54 AM on December 19, 2007

Exercise does the trick for me, but only a specific sort of exercise. In my case, the great de-stressor and brain decompressor is walking. If I have a day at work that leaves me feelng like my head is going to explode, I hit the bricks, walk a few miles, and feel infinitely better. Something about it allows my brain to have a conversation about the stressful things without me really being involved, so I am free to muse about other things, like what's for dinner. I highly recommend it. Side benefit: great calves!
posted by missmobtown at 10:10 AM on December 20, 2007

Hot baths late at night

Reading an engrossing book (any thing from chit lit to thrillers to spy novels to fantasy)

Walking (and cuddling) the dog (or a friends dog, if you don't have one yourself)

Nthing excercise.
posted by zia at 9:54 PM on December 20, 2007

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