In this issue, I’m going to talk about stress. Perhaps because I feel very stressed these days, perhaps because the holidays are just around the corner (which tends to send us into overdrive), or maybe just because a lot of people are talking about it.

Interestingly, most people’s stress seems to be centered on work rather than family or extracurricular activities. There’s no doubt that we’re all doing more in less time, but then we have been for a while. So why has it become such a topic of conversation recently? Are we all finally reach­ing that point of mental meltdown? I know some days I definitely feel like it.

I recently went to visit a friend who’s a college professor and a single mom. She has always been way too generous with her time, taking on 20 projects too many for as long as I’ve known her. I’ve always been amazed by how much she manages to do in a day, but after spending a weekend with her, I’m simply depressed. This woman does not waste a single, solitary movement. And despite everything she has going on, nothing slips through the cracks or goes by the wayside. And now I know why. Watching her only magnified the amount of time I waste in every minute. Which in turn just stressed me out about what a slacker I am.

But at the same time she was a nonstop whirl of energy, the two of us also managed to sit on the porch, drink coffee, and work on our “homework,” while her daughter (who was running for school vice president) and a friend made posters encouraging their fellow students to vote. We found time to take a long walk in the park during a beautiful day and discuss all sorts of ideas and problems. We talked about careers and co-workers while we shopped for groceries and made dinner.

Thinking back over the weekend while making my 50th to-do list and hyperventilating, it occurred to me that although we’re all often stressed out about whatever it is we have going on, managing to find some sort of balance can go a long way toward making us sane(r). If I could just keep a memory of that weekend tucked in a brain cell somewhere to be called upon at the most crucial moments, it would be an excellent reminder of the things that are really important and worth spending time thinking (and even worrying) about.

This thought was amplified when another friend and I had lunch. She was finding that because she often couldn’t shake off the pressures of the day by the time she got home, she was now cranky 24/7 (and at such a young age). She realized if she didn’t find a way to balance all of the stress at work, she was going to drive herself — and her family — crazy. And was her job really worth that?

Of course, it’s so much easier to talk about taking deep breaths, putting things in perspective, and not dwelling on things we can’t control. But it’s perhaps one of the most important things we can do. Stress isn’t healthy (for ourselves or our families and co-workers). And at the end of the day, if we’re not healthy and sane and happy, we probably won’t have a job. And think how stressed we’d be then!

So as the end of the year draws closer, and our nerves get shorter, keep these things in mind. And if you’ve already figured all of this out, please pass your secrets along to the rest of us.

Picture of Sheri Burns