Recently I shared with you the Washington Post article about the impetus of our move from the Chicagoland area to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The decision was many years in the making and for many reasons. My husband and I wanted to live more authentic lives. We wanted the experience of living in a new culture. We wanted to learn a second language. We desired a life uniquely designed for us. And, let’s be honest, we also wanted to escape the Chicago winters.
This week’s Washington Post article is about all the stressors we experienced in preparation for making this change. Along with home repairs, renting our home, selling most of our worldly possessions, and my husband leaving his stable reliable job, we also had the stress of my mother going through a major surgery during this time of transition. A lot was on our plate for the first half of this year. The stress we both shared was more than we had ever experienced before.
Here are a few tools that helped me through this trying time.
Identify the Pain
What was amazing to me was the general feeling of malaise which seemed to hang over me day and night. I was irritable without knowing why. I was anxious but didn’t know what about. I was tired and fatigued. The amount of stress I experienced was overloading my system. I was trapped in stress brain and did not feel myself. The first step to breaking out of stress’ grips was identifying what was truly upsetting me. When we don’t know what is troubling us, there is no way to fix it. Step away. Take a break. Then identify what is truly upsetting. This gives us the power to make changes for the better.
Both my husband and I were the most stressed we have ever been. Keeping things bottled up, letting our anger be misguidedly released against each, and reaching for soothing addictions only caused further stress. These habits weren’t even bandages but were fuel for the fire. As we both learned to be more honest and vulnerable we not only deepened our connection and relationship, but could be truly there for each other. By sharing our honest truth, no matter how silly or small, we were then empowered to find solutions or at a minimum provide comfort and empathy for each other in this trying time.
During our transition, people would come by daily to purchase our furniture and possessions. Many rooms of our house were under construction. I was not only trying to live but work in a home ravished by chaos. As a recovering Type A, the instability, disarray, and constantly changing environment were trying on me. I could identify it and communicate it but there was nothing I could do to change the situation. It was the truth of my life at that point. The only tool I could use was acceptance. Accepting that chaos was my new reality. Accepting that instability may be my life for the next year. Accepting that the only constant is change. Through acceptance I released my preconceived notions of how things should be, and slowly found a way to embrace the flow and flux of how things really were.
Stress is What You Make It
For me, most of my previous stress was self-imposed – putting meaning into deadlines, fear of insulting or hurting another, worry that I was not good enough. This time, the stress was more tangible and real. We had to be out of our house by a certain date. Our income would no longer be stable. We had facts tied to these stressors. But did we really? We were empowered to change the rental date. It may cost us money and an unhappy tenant, but we could. Did we really know what our income would be like once we moved? Once I broke apart each seeming fact, I found I was still the one creating the stress. Yes minor stress of the move existed, but it was my added perception of what that stress meant that created more stress. By breaking apart real and imagined stress, I was able to release some of what I was experiencing.
Have you ever gone through a major move? Can you relate to having many stresses occurring at once? What did you do that worked or didn’t? How can you use these tools in your life today?