Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Short Weekend

This is my sixth day of work in a row, and I'm tirrrred. I know that I deserve zero sympathy - after all, there are jobs like forest fire spotter and nursing that require you to basically be on call around the clock, and I get a nice cushy evening window in which to unwind from my job. But the one-day weekend is basically the psychic opposite of the long weekend: rushed, emotionally cramped, and tiring. I need a nap, y'all.

There's a difference between good-tired and bad-tired. Good-tired stems from a job well done: a weekend camping trip, a hectic night of dancing, a great run, a game of frisbee with the kids. Or a mentally taxing day, like when you're able to sit down and strike out that last item on your to-do list? That's a satisfying feeling. But bad-tired is when you're up late drinking, or there are too many work days in a row, or you get a bad sunburn, not to mention some wicked blisters, when you're out biking and woefully unprepared for your new case of heatstroke. Good-tired makes you sleep well, whereas bad-tired makes you wake up in the middle of the night, freaking out about the day ahead.

I guess what it boils down to is stress. Human being like stress, to a certain point. We like roller coasters and having interesting high-pressure jobs (some of us: I feel like if I was an air traffic controller or a Bay Street chick, my hair would start falling out in clumps about halfway through my first shift), and we often choose to put ourselves in those positions. But there are other, less pleasurable kinds of stress; the exhaustion of new parents springs to mind, or the worries that come from a scary diagnosis, or the chronic anxiety of a really crappy job. Those kinds of stressors aren't manageable without the help of some Ativan or a really reliable shrink. Less roller coaster, more "stress leave brought on by years of callous, callow treatment at the hands of co-workers/bosses."

The necessity of downtime can't really be overstated. I know some people are like, "I only sleep four hours a night, and I run the Boston Marathon for fun, and I'm showing at MOCCA next month, plus I just delivered twins!" and they look perky and can make whole entire sentences without using the words "Oh God help me" even once. But like the rest of us civilians, I need some time off. Sometimes I use my time productively, to read or cook, or hang with my friends. Other times, I'm too zonked to do anything but lie on the floor and count the dust bunnies under my couch. Sometimes hanging with the dust bunnies is good for the soul.

The moral of this story, besides "weekends are baller" is that it's important to know when your particular stress wave is riding a little too high. My friend Liz hooked me up with an awesome document based around the idea of "moral distress" - when a situation makes us feel stressed or uncomfortable, but we somehow lack the ability to act immediately. When faced with these stressful situations, there's a method to assess the risks of acting (and not acting). This handy information is starting to shape how I feel about the stressors in my life - work, relationships, money - and what the emotional carrying cost of the status quo really is.

So I guess the real moral story is, when your stress can't be undone by your weekend, either because your weekend is too short or your stress is too intense? It's time to make some changes.

1 comment:

  1. Good comments on the good stress and the bad stress and the need for change. Someone recently told me that the real measure of stress management is how well you handle Plan B when Plan A doesn't work out. Which is pretty much 70% of the time....
    Hang in there - you need to hang with the dust bunnies more so we can get more blog entries!