Recently, my husband and I have had temporary guardianship of our granddaughters who are two and seven. We’ve been battling dirty diapers, temper tantrums, homework, and disciplining naughty behavior—which isn’t what I pictured us doing at our age.
I enjoy my time with the girls, but I’ve been obsessed with worry about how long we’ll have to help. Is this going to be a lifelong situation? Will we need to give up our retirement plans?
Some nights I lie in bed and stress about how I’m going to do it all. And then one large worry hangs over me, smothering all other thoughts: WHAT IF I DIE? Who will be an advocate for our grand-girls? (I know, I’m a drama queen.)
But seriously, I’ve developed asthma and a few other weird health problems even though I’ve been healthy my whole life. I asked my doctor, “Why?”
She said, “Stress.”
Stress can kill. It silently worms its way through our bodies, sucking our energy and making us boring, complaining people. It had taken over my body like one of those sci-fi characters from Star Trek.
I decided I wasn’t going to let it violate me anymore. I needed more writing time and less worrying time. I had to take charge. After all, I’m a woman, a creative thinker, someone who can do almost anything she sets her mind to. I can figure this out. Right? What’s the solution?
And then I knew: I had to find the secret to coping like a MAN.
Yep, a man.
I’ve often asked my husband, “Teach me how you cope.” Nothing seems to rattle him. He can have obstacles thrown at him all day long and it doesn’t change his calm disposition. I love that about him.
But HOW does he do it?
He says he COMPARTMENTALIZES.
Huh? What’s that, I asked him.
“I divide things up into segments or chunks as a way to keep from feeling overwhelmed by the stress. I only think of one thing at a time.”
Really? That’s all?
I thought, shoot, can’t I do the same?
First, I researched how men COMPARTMENTALIZE, confident I could learn from this. (I’m hopeful it’ll help you, too. If you’re a man you’re probably already doing this, but if you have anything to add, please don’t be shy. I need to know! Leave a comment or two.)
Next, I outlined a PLAN to follow.
Here it is:
- I’ll visualize drawers in my mind.
- Each drawer will contain something important: my health, family, novel, blogging, grandchildren, home, etc. but only one item per drawer.
- Emotions go in a separate drawer–all by themselves, only to be opened when I’m working on finding solutions.
- Only one drawer can be opened at a time. For instance, when I’m working on my novel I’ll only have that drawer open.
- When I take a break from my novel I have to shut the drawer first before I can open another.
- Before I go to sleep I’ll make sure each drawer is tightly closed.
- If worries still consume me, I’ll visualize each worrisome thought floating into its corresponding drawer and slam it shut.
- At the end of the day (or the beginning) I’ll make a list of everything that needs to get done and put the list in its appropriate drawer.
- I can’t share what’s in my emotion drawer with friends if it’s nonproductive. That drawer has a lock. I’m only allowed to unlock it when I’m with family, and when it’s to find a solution to a particular problem.
- When I’m exercising I’m allowed to open any drawer I want to think about, but only one at a time.
- There isn’t a “worry” drawer or any drawers for negative thoughts because they’re too nonproductive.
- All social media, email, Twitter, and FB are together in one drawer. I’m only allowed to work on them when all the other work is done. Preferably for only an hour in the morning and one in the evening.
- I’ll only open those drawers I have time for and they’ll be in order of priority.
- God will be in each drawer like a flashlight leading the way, guiding my efforts.
How do YOU cope with stress? Do you compartmentalize?