Learning To Manage My Stress

When I was in high school, I would stress over everything. I wanted straight As in school, I wanted to be part of — or in charge of — every club possible and I spent my nights and weekends at the dance studio, trying to be the best I could there. I took on as much as possible and somehow I found time for homework and meals. But I remember always being wound-too-tightly and I had far too many mental and emotional breakdowns to tally up.

When I went away to college, I loosened up a bit in the early years, but by the time I was a senior I was back to being overwhelmed and overworked. Thank goodness for that ever-present box of Franzia to help take the edge off.

Now I’m a little older and just a touch wiser, but I still have a tendency to pile a bit too much onto my plate, both at the dinner table and in the not-so-literal sense of the phrase.

I love trying to do it all. I love being busy. I thrive under pressure at work. (Not so much on the race course. I break down there.)

For the past eight months, I’ve been running around on top of the world. It may have something to do with my new friend.

This is Brian. He likes flashy colors, just like I do.

Since we started dating, I found myself less and less stressed each day. Sure, marathon training got to me sometimes, and fundraising for Run For The Rabbit was a huge undertaking that led to many hours of lost sleep. Ultimately, though, I was happier than ever, so little things, like doing the dishes every night and folding my laundry as soon as it came out of the dryer, weren’t exactly priorities.

I spent this weekend with some of my favorite people.

We're racing! Just kidding. We're walking.

The entire time Lauren and Emily were in town I never felt stressed or overwhelmed or, as Brian would like for me to say, excitingly busy.

We ran, we laughed, we ate, we drank and we played with many puppies.

This is Lulu. She was amazing.

It was perfect.

But then, Emily and Lauren left, and I got sad.

If I hold your hand, you can't leave...

I ate a bacon egg & cheese sandwich in an attempt to cure my hangover, but that didn’t help me the way it used to in college.

Brian came over yesterday afternoon. The plan was to be productive — dishes, laundry, cleaning, responding to emails and definitely not catching up with the Kardashian family — but instead I fell asleep. For almost two hours.

I woke up and freaked out.

I was mad at myself for not being productive. I was mad at myself for “wasting” that precious time. I was annoyed that my laundry wasn’t folded and put away and I was concerned that the weird smell coming from my trash was possibly something that was alive.

Carefree Ali came out to play all weekend.

See how fun I can be! There's no stress in my life!

But then Psycho Beats Herself Up Too Much Ali wanted to hang out last night. I don’t think Brian appreciated that. He doesn’t seem to enjoy her company. She’s rude.

So Brian and I had a little chat. “Little chat” means Brian gave me a stern talking to about how I need to relax.

It helped. And for once I’m not being sarcastic.

Brian has this interesting way of being able to stay calm no matter how much work he has taken on or how much crap he has to do. He’s very good at living in the present and not obsessing over the future. We’re different that way. He tackles tasks one at a time, gives them his full attention and then moves on to the next thing. I’m very envious of his ability to always be rational. I don’t even know what that word means.

Brian stays cool under pressure and still cooks dinner every night. Who does that?

Last night, as I chilled out and relaxed, I realized that stress is so stupid. It makes me sick, there’s no doubt about that. Stress almost always comes with a sweet side of Crohn’s.

And really, what am I even stressed about?

Money? Sure. But I’ll find a way to work that stuff out.

My overflowing inbox? OK. So I’ll spend 10 minutes every night this week responding to personal emails and eventually I’ll get caught up.

My diet? Yes, I have eaten like a somewhat gross animal since September 24. But I can change that, starting today. I’ve been feeling a little flabby lately — less toned than I was during marathon training, and significantly weaker. The heavy weights are feeling heavier and everything just feels a tad more difficult, like, you know, walking up those dang subway stairs every morning. But I can eat well today, and I can eat well tomorrow, and if I don’t eat well every single day, that’s OK, too. Plus, I’m pretty sure I sweat out at least one of those peanut butter chip brownies that I ate this weekend at SoulCycle this morning. I spun my little heart out and I loved it.

I’m pretty sure no one is going to die if I don’t go home tonight and wash my dirty wine glasses. No one else will be affected if my jeans are a little tighter this week than I’d like, and I don’t think it’ll ruin your day if I cut back on my spending this month. Right?

This week I resolve to not be stressed.

I will not like myself get worked up over menial things.

I will remember that Fun Weekend Ali is so much cooler than Stressed Weekday Ali. Weekend Ali is way more popular than Stressy Ali. Stressy Ali has like, one friend. Weekend Ali has at least two.

They might only be my friends because I provide them with freshly-grated cheese, but I can live with that.

I will now go about my week in a totally relaxed, totally chill, totally “Whatever man, I’ll get it done later” mindset. Because like that wise man Brian once said, right now is so much more important than 10 years from now.

Sounds good to me.



50 Responses

  1. I think there is something in the Male Chromosome that makes them calm like this. Aaron, my husband, is the same way. It sounds like you have found someone who can be the balance you need. All this is not easy. It is hard. Making one step at a time each moment is progress. It may never be exactly perfect. But that is ok. Take deep breaths. Enjoy the week 🙂

  2. Thanks for the reminder! Living life as “excitingly busy” is one of my goals this year as well. One day at a time and one task at a time. I appreciate it and always love seeing your cheerful face that you post! I’m sure that running in watermelon colors also helps to destress too?

  3. I need a boyfriend that makes me less stressed! He’s a keeper! Maybe these ‘calming boyfriends’ have a secret society I can tap into. I would like one of those boys in Seattle please.

  4. It sounds like you had a similar night to the one I had last night! I was stress free all weekend too, and then last night I freaked out because I had a bunch of stuff on my “to do” list and didn’t think I would get it all done. And just like you, I have a boyfriend that doesn’t seem to stress out about anything. I don’t know how they do it! Good luck with trying to have a stress free week! I’m going to try to do the same thing.

  5. This post sounds just like me and my boyfriend! I’m all over the place and always worry about something in the past or future but never actually enjoy the moment. My boyfriend is the opposite he doesn’t worry and is super calm. He is such a big help to calm me down and just ENJOY! And many times the problems don’t seem so big the next morning 🙂

  6. Brian seems sooo wise. I love that he said that!
    With school starting up again, I’m pretty sure I’m going to turn into psycho-Ang, but I’m going to try really hard not to!!! Thanks!

  7. You have a wise, wise man-friend, Ali. You and I would get along because we’re both super intense type-A overachievers (right? Right). And luckily, we both have men in our lives who don’t mind telling us to chill the hell out. When I feel the need to jump out of bed at 7 am on a Sunday to go to the gym/grocery shop/grade papers/read articles for grad school/clean my apartment from top to bottom, it’s nice to have my boyfriend tell me that it’s totally unnecessary (or, at the least, that it can wait an hour).

  8. Brian sounds like he perfectly balances you out and I bet he needs you as much as you need him to balance him out. It’s great when you have a relationship like that : )

    I think your strategy for the week is a good one…. hope your week is stress free and full of fun!

  9. So glad I started reading your blog a year ago and soo glad you met Brian. He’s smart and I like his style. Nice work Miss Ali! I hope your week is stress free!

  10. This is so me too. I am the queen of beating myself up for not accomplishing something asap. We be crazy. Being insanely busy last fall actually made me more laid-back in this area–because I was so over scheduled, I had no time to feel guilty.

    But, keep me posted on any tips to feel less high-strung. Cause during my break between semesters, when I’m less psycho busy, I’m feeling a little life-stressed again. Ick.

  11. I used to be WAY more uptight (back in high school). College really mellowed me out. I think yoga had something to do with it too, although who really knows? I’m so glad Brian has been such a good influence on you!

  12. Not sure if this will make you less stressed/excited (to any Juno sports bras lovers out there) – but Sierra Trading Post is selling certain sizes and colors for $29 (I just bought 3 of them!).

  13. I’m the Brian of my relationship and I’m slowly helping my SO cross over to the un-stressed side 😀 Just remember, you can still think/worry about things and strive to do your best in each endeavor without having to stress out 24/7. Give yourself permission to worry about whatever it is for 20 minutes or an equally small amount of time each day and THATS IT. It’ll resolve itself beyond that and the rest of your day is free to focus on the positive and have fun.

    I used to be a worry wort and have found that it helps when I give myself the time to worry instead of going over everything that’s troublesome the entire day.

    P.S. LOVE LOVE LOVE the bright colored outfits for the race!!! I wish you lived closer so I could run with ya in some fun costume/outfit!

  14. Brian is a smart man- you should listen to him 🙂 Stress is good up to a point, but then it actually hinders us and decreases our motivation instead of increasing it. The key is to use a small amount of stress to motivate yourself without letting it go too far!

  15. My fiance is also WAY less of a stress-case than I am. I think it’s a man thing 😉

    Yoga really really REALLY helped me manage my stress level in 2011! Even moreso than running because sometimes running (injuries, always trying to be faster etc.) can cause me stress. But yoga is so calming. For me anyways!

  16. It`s weird how I know what you feel like and I stress a lot, but I managed to adapt a way to just calm me down. I think I can just influence myself so well, that if I say that yes, everything is all right, everything will work out just fine, most of the time I instantly calm down. But I think it is so great, that you have someone who tells you that it`s okay and fine and who respects you and gives you all the love you need!

  17. There’s no doubt that stress has a significant impact on your health. It’s great to have a “friend” who can help you understand how to manage it.

  18. So glad you had a fun weekend with the girls! And glad you have Brian to help you keep your cool. My boo has a way of helping me with that too – he is totally laid back and deals with all of my high maintenance, crazy girl moments. It helps to have someone to balance you out 🙂

  19. I love this! M is the same way, NOTHING ruffles him. NOTHING. And that helps me stay calm when I am all over the place stressed about nothing and everything all at once. Vow to be a teensy bit less stressed and the rest will somehow fall into place 🙂

  20. Like… how awesome is it that you ran in shorts/sparkle skirts and tanks in January? The weather this weekend was amazing!

    And I have 107 emails in my work inbox right now… resisting the urge to freak out. AHH!

  21. Totally love this post. My stressy side comes out far too often, and I have a hard time managing it, too. Luckily I also have a better half who’s far more relaxed than I am; somehow, he can always balance out the crazy in me. Just wish he knew how to cook like Brian!

  22. In high school, I did everything and it was fun. In college I kind of did the opposite and just went to class and hung out with friends and did no activities, and in hindsight it was boring and I regret not taking advantage of all the great opportunities to try new things/meet new people. Post-college I continued the “not doing anything” for a bit and then slowly started adding in hobbies until it got a point where I felt stretched too thin and wasn’t able to excel at anything, so I didn’t enjoy any of it. Now I force myself to focus on one big hobby at a time, so I can truly enjoy it and see how far I can take it. Right now that’s running. I know the other activities will still be there in the future if I ever grow tired of running. But it’s made me a lot happier.

  23. I’m with nearly everyone else who commented, this is exactly what I needed to read this morning!! My middle name starts with an “A” – I often thinks it stands for Anxiety. Mental note made to live more in the present and know as long as I give each task my all the rest will sort itself out. My boyfriend always says, “worrying won’t fix anything.” Worrying just makes me feel like I care. 🙂 HA HA HA! I’m a stubborn brat.

  24. Oh god, did you write this post specifically for me?

    But seriously…this is exactly what I needed to read on a Monday morning when the inbox is out of control, my to-do list takes up 2 pages, and I’m beating myself up for not getting everything accomplished this weekend. I get stressed way to easily and when I feel overwhelmed, I end up not wanting to do ANYTHING. And then I feel guilty for not tackling the things I should…it’s a bad cycle. Do you have any spare Brians around? He seems wise.

    Also, I like your weekend friends! And I’m sad that I live so far away from the UES and could not pop in to say hello 🙁 This Brooklyn thing has it’s downsides.

  25. Chrstian and I are opposite of you and Brian..Christain tends to stress and I tend to be more chill.. It’s funny because I am a pretty A-type person but when I started dating him things changed for the better.. I guess that’s why relationships work everyone is different 😉

  26. Weekend Ali is probably much more enjoyable for both you and everyone else around you! Plus, I’m sure you’re a better runner in the long run by being weekend ali as well:)

  27. Bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches have failed me too – they were always a win in college but not so much anymore! (I learned in chemistry that you should eat burnt toast to cure a hangover – the “charcoal” from the burnt part neutralizes the acid in the stomach…or something. But that’s probably another really scientific-sounding thing that really doesn’t work).

    Anyway, yes! Stress is stupid! I try to focus on the big picture. The work and annoying little things like laundry will always be there – I’m also working on accepting it and remembering that eventually I’ll take care of those things, but no need to obsessively worry; that doesn’t do me any good.

    Regardless, running is good for stress so you’re covered, right?!

  28. Oh my gosh, I’m totally with you.. I’ve been stressing out about work lately, and wheneveeeer I get stressed, I think about my boyfrind. He’s similar to your friend – no matter what is going on, he is SO freaking calm. Sometimes I want to be like “HEY, maybe you should start to get concerned here!” but no.. and then everything magically gets taken care of.

  29. I like weekend Ali, especially if she invites me over to drink wine and mimosas and eat brownies. Brian is also a genius, and the best ever. I can’t wait to sign up every guy I know for his training school.

  30. Once upon a time when I was home on college break my parents sat me down and told me to chill out and have more fun. I cried. So, I get it.

    Because I’m me, I’ll turn to Avenue Q for some sound advice here: “Don’t stress, relax. Let life roll off your backs. Except for death and paying taxes everything in life is only for now.”

  31. Hm, did you crawl into my head and write this for me? Pretty sure my abnormal talent for stressing myself out over the fact that my coffee table isn’t straight might have driven a once nice boy insane and now I am alone to be stressed about that as well. Seriously, though, being stressed is no fun so I don’t know why I do it to myself…but I have to say puppies do help everything and when and if I ever relocate to NYC, you can feel free to babysit! And find me a normal, level headed man who gives great Brian like advice.

  32. I LOVE that Brian has been such a positive influence on you. Scott is the same way for me – he’s literally the ONLY one that can talk me down when I go off into my whirlwind-must-do-everything-RIGHT-NOW mode. He’s the only one that can get me to laugh at myself when I’m being ridiculous. He’s the only one that can give me that “talk” and I’ll listen. I’m very lucky to have him in my life and it sounds like Brian is the same way for you – total blessing! Carefree Ali, stay out and play awhile!

  33. I’m so glad I read this post this morning! Throughout college I progressed from very carefree to someone who struggled with getting too anxious about little things. I wasn’t stressed all the time, but I could get pretty worked up about things. Now I’m about to start working for the first time, in a pretty stressful career. I really identify with your definition of “weekend you” vs. “stressed weekday you.”

  34. Andy also doesn’t get stressed the way I do. But I am much less ambitious and much lazier than you, although I beat myself up constantly. It’s good to have nice boys to tell us to calm down. I was just thinking you look awesome in your photos from the race (btw congrats!!!) but I know how you feel, so please join me at Refine! OK I’ll stop bugging you!

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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