Stress Management

I’ve been doing a lot of navel gazing lately. It’s easy, because my navel is very, very shallow (I’m on belly button pop-out watch!).

I know I’ve talked before about how I prefer to operate at the busiest possible level pre-nervous breakdown. My former therapist said that I seemed to function best when going at an 8-9 out of 10 of busy. I felt that was an approbation. I’m not sure it was.

[Side note – I should’ve known that it wasn’t normal, but my favorite quote in high school was:

My candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night; but ah, my foes, and oh, my friends – it gives a lovely light!
Edna St. Vincent Millay]

The problem with operating on all cylinders at all times, burning the candle at both ends, etc. is that it doesn’t take much to push me from optimum operating speed to nervous breakdown-adjacent.

One of my goals for 2012 (not an official goal, or anything) is to learn to operate at a lower level so that when life throws a wrench at my head (as opposed to just in my plans), I can continue to function.

So – how do I stay productive without 15 million things to do? Since June of 2009, I’ve been going to grad school, working a fairly busy job with lots of hard deadlines (hence the working yesterday on my planned vacation day AND today on my day off, oh! and next Friday, too), training for various athletic endeavors, participating in volunteer activities, and for the last few months, being pregnant.

I am almost done with school (two weeks!), almost done being pregnant (two months!), and have hired someone to help out with the deadline-oriented stuff at work (she starts Tuesday!). It kills me to not be signed up for any races right now, but I can’t train for anything, really, so it seems silly to waste more money on race fees (if I had all the money I’ve spent on races that I didn’t do because of injuries and/or pregnancy in the last two years, I could buy a lot of very cool stuff). I know that having a baby will bring on a very different kind of busy/stress level, but I’ll be down to only baby & job until I feel comfortable starting a training plan again (half mary in 2012! marathon in 2013!)

BUT, when I don’t have a lot of stuff going on, I become…lazy. I procrastinate. I apparently feel that I need  a high-stress situation to get things done. No matter what my intentions are, if I have time, I leave things to the last minute. I HATE that. I’d rather just do things as they come up & revel in the free-time at the end.

How do other people handle things? Are you a procrastinator? A recovering procrastinator? (If the latter, can you direct me to your 12-step program?) Do you prefer to run at a super high level, a medium level, or a sane level?

How do you manage stress?

And for those of you who are parents working outside the home, how do you deal with work/life/family balance?

(I am not, in any way, trying to start any kind of discussion about parents who go to work at a not-home place, parents who work from home, and parents who are stay-at-home parents without outside income; all have benefits, pitfalls, and are easily judged by others, which I have no intention of doing. Big fan of everyone doing what works best for their particular situation/reality. My situation/reality is that I will be working after my 12-week maternity leave, both out of necessity [yay money!] and because I generally do enjoy my job [just not lately, due to overload]. I work 4 days/week, and the architect is going to a 4-day a week schedule after Alvie is born, too, so that Alvie will only need daycare 3 days/week.)