Sometimes we all get overwhelmed. Earlier this week, I became a bit overwhelmed by work issues. I’ve always felt like I was non-essential, which worried me throughout the early part of the pandemic. Recently, though, I have felt a bit left out of the loop with some projects the museum has been developing. I am good at what I do and a better (and more professional) historian than my colleagues. While they were trained in museology, I was trained as a historian (and have a certificate in museum studies). However, I feel like they don’t value that knowledge. When I had gone above and beyond for the museum and stepped in when there was no one else to do the job, I have not been given any credit, which is one thing, but when the credit is given to someone else, it’s frustrating and infuriating. It is something that has become very stressful in my life.

Like many things in our lives, stress can become overwhelming, and I don’t always handle stress very well. Sometimes, it becomes too much, and I want to shut down or check out. Stress is among numerous factors and triggers for my migraines. Sometimes, I can step away from the situation, calm down, and think rationally. Once I’ve done that, then I can relax. We all need to relax sometimes and not let the stress of the world get to us. We should not view relaxation as merely a luxury. It must be considered an essential part of our overall well-being, healing process, and personal growth. When we relax, we replenish. When we replenish, we feel more capable. When we feel more capable, we shift from survival mode to growth mode.

Without relaxation, we end up just trying to stay afloat, which isn’t enough. Eventually, we will get worn out, which can cause a myriad of health issues, not just mentally but physically. Here’s my advice: if you are short on time, take a few minutes to close your eyes, breathe deeply, and clear your mind. I used to have problems “clearing my mind” until someone gave me some advice. They said, “Close your eyes and picture a blanket with all your worries piled on top. In your mind, take that blanket and bundle up all those things piled on the blanket. Then, imagine that bundle getting smaller and smaller until it disappears. You should then have a clear mind.” For the most part, that advice works for me.

If I have a longer amount of time, I might take a nap, but most often, I log onto Paramount+ and rewatch episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I’ve seen the whole series a dozen or more times. It is my escape, my happy place. I can have it on, and it relaxes me, even if I am doing something else at the time. If you have an old favorite TV show you enjoy watching or even a book you enjoy reading, immerse yourself in that activity for a while. Sometimes, I like to cook. The more complicated the recipe, the better. You can also do something physical, like going for a walk, a run, or a swim. Exercise is a great way to clear the mind, get your endorphins flowing, and help you to feel better. 

There are also more intimate ways to relax. I was attending a staff retreat and the keynote speaker was talking about how to relieve stress through exercise. She was listing off things we could do to get exercise that was enjoyable. One of the suggestions was sex. She said, “If you enjoy having sex, have lots of it. It can be exercise too and get the blood pumping.” If you don’t have a partner, sex can also be a source of stress, but you can always take matters into your own hands. You know your own body more than anyone else.

Whatever you do, make sure it’s enjoyable. If you are in the middle of an activity and it’s not as enjoyable as you thought it would be, stop as soon as you can. Try something else instead, but don’t let it add to your stress. Have fun and let go of your worries for a while. Now, if I could just take my own advice.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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