Jamie-Lee McMillan shares with us how she copes with the stress of balancing a busy schedule and how she prioritises her self-care to combat negative emotions and prevent burnout.
Stress is something we all find ourselves struggling with at some point in our lives. Today I find myself working two part time jobs and studying part time on the Access to Degree Studies course at Stirling University. Working between two jobs Monday to Friday and coming home to attend online classes two evenings per week can take a lot of effort and at times be very stressful; particularly after a difficult day at work, then having an assignment due for university.
How I spend my free time in the evening and weekends is very important. If I am busy with family and friends all the time when I’m not at work or studying, I run the risk of becoming burnt out. I love my friends and family dearly and want to spend quality time with them, but I need to realise I can’t do everything. I am lucky enough to have people around me who understand the importance of ‘Me Time’ and allow me time to relax without being offended if I decline invites or rearrange plans to fit my busy schedule.
Those friends and family help me cope with my stress by being there for me to talk to when I am in my own head and struggling to keep my emotions and anxiety at bay. For example, I enjoy helping my grandparents as much as I can, whether it’s a quick shopping trip, a day out with my gran or an overnight stay to keep them company and help as much as I can around the house when I am there. My grandad has Alzheimer’s and we try our best as a family to take some of the strain off of my gran as she is his primary carer. Unfortunately I am unable to do this every week, as I have been up until recently. Thanks to my mother and sister, I can admit this, and they now make up the time with my grandparents. It is going to take some getting used to, but as a family we can work together to make this happen. No one person must do everything all the time, we share the load.
I also take the time to enjoy my travel to and from work, I listen to music or meditations while on the bus and use this time to relax as best I can. Sometimes I phone my best friend on my way home and we check in with each other, have a much needed moan about our worries and help each other to offload when needed. This can sometimes be all I need to destress and see the problem at hand for what it is and how it can be fixed. Other opinions can help, especially when it comes from a place of love and respect.
Being organised is something I try to be, this relieves a lot of stress for me. I keep diaries both online for each of my jobs and I always carry one with me in my bag and update them as needed. This helps me to know what I am doing week to week and helps me to make plans, outside work and study, with my friends and family without having to cancel. The diaries also help me stay in the day or week and not stress over forgetting appointments etc. I also have a weekly planner that I fill every Sunday, with general things such as my work schedule and study time. This allows me to take control of my week and even pencil in time for self-care and relaxation.
Self-care is something I try to practice regularly at least once a week. The definition of self-care is “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.” Anything that you enjoy or take pleasure from that helps to slow your mind or distract you from everyday stress can be considered self-care. How I do this varies depending on my mood: watching a film or TV series on my nights off; taking an hour to have a relaxing bubble bath; completing colouring books; painting my nails from time to time; going a walk and mindfully taking in the scenery around me is also a great way for me to slow down and destress.
Housework is another form of self-care, that not everyone would consider. Putting effort into making the space you live in clear, tidy and clean is a great feeling once you finish and sit down and take in what you have just accomplished. Once a month I like to take a full day to myself and do absolutely nothing. I get up, have breakfast then enjoy a hot bubble bath, slip into fresh pyjamas and spend the day binging on a Netflix series. I order a takeaway for dinner then enjoy a film in bed before an early night. This helps me to recharge and reset, and if I’m really stressed out and struggling with my emotions, my partner encourages me to practice this more than just once a month.
These are some of the ways I cope with everyday stress. I hope you have enjoyed reading this and are able to take something from it. Everyone enjoys different things and whatever works for you is ok if it is safe and you feel better for it. It has taken me a lot of trial and error to work out what works for me. If you try something once and don’t enjoy it, try giving it a chance a few times before giving in. Something new can take a few attempts to get used to. If it’s not something you enjoy then don’t be afraid to try something new, you will never know if you can grow to enjoy it if you don’t try.