Crap, he forgot my extra whip!-River City Counseling

You know those guys: 615 p.m. and they march, double-time through the doors of the gym with their top buttons unbuttoned, ties loosened, and gym bags slung over their shoulders. Muttering as they stare at their phones, they don’t notice when they bowl you over on their way to the locker room.

Although they’d never admit it, their wives have mandated that they go to the gym on their way home. After all, they aren’t interested in having their humorless, short-tempered, and speed-reading nighttime stories husbands come home before they’ve “worked out” their stress.

Believe me, I’m one of those guys. Some nights, when I try to sneak in the front door without hitting the treadmill, my wife barricades it. I don’t even think about heading in the back door, for fear I’ll get stuck in the doggy door. Out of options, I hop on my bike for my “ride of shame” back to the gym.

Fortunately, a couple of weeks ago I had a little extra time and hit the gym first thing in the morning, before heading directly to see my therapist. (Yep, this therapist has a therapist. As I’ve said, I would never encourage someone to see a therapist who hasn’t had a bunch of therapy). Feeling rather relaxed after my workout, I strolled into his office and proudly told him how I’d started my day. Rather than throwing a parade, he calmly told me I’d “gotten ahead” of my stress.

Incredibly simple as it might sound, this was an “ah-hah” moment for me, as I’d never heard this concept framed quite this way. Sure, we need to take care of ourselves. But to think of using our self-care as a way to inoculate ourselves against future stress was a novel idea.

It’s easy in principle, but difficult to pull off in real-time. In our culture, we react to problems more than prevent them. Who has time for self-care first thing when we’ve got to get our crabby kids dressed before shoveling in some instant oatmeal, then try not to run over other kids as we speed through the school parking lot, scream at the barista in the drive-through line when they give us six pumps of hazelnut instead of five, and head the wrong way down one-way streets so we can make it before the boss strolls through the office taking mental roll? It’s not a matter of “if” you’ll bite off a colleague’s head; it’s “when.”

The challenge is that whatever you do to take care of yourself may not seem like a priority. On one level, we don’t want to get out of our warm beds before we absolutely have to. On a somewhat more complicated level, why should we do anything to help with stress when we haven’t accumulated any yet? Maybe we’ll rush to the gym at lunch, but there’s no need at the beginning of the day.

I promise you that even if you think you don’t have the time or see the need, taking time for self-care before the stress of the day hits will pay-off exponentially. Of course, there’s no one way to do it. Some of us like to hit the gym for some cardio; others of us like the early morning yoga class. Some of us meditate; others of us drop-off the kids early and stop for a cup off coffee and newspaper. Regardless of what you do, when you’ve started the day by getting ahead of your stress, it’s more likely you’ll freak-out your boss when you calmly smile and say “good morning”, instead of scowling and flipping her the bird when you think she can’t see it.  And that can’t be a bad thing…

2 Responses to Crap, he forgot my extra whip!-River City Counseling
  1. elizabeth
    February 18, 2015 | 4:30 pm

    In my world that means organizing dinner first thing in the morning. Do meditation right after you wake up. Make a to do list early on….

    Doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it really lowers the stress level for late in the day when you are tired from the day.

    Good article. Food for thought.

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