On stress. And coping. Plus a housing court update.


There’s a famous study show­ing that when stress­ful life events pile up, ill­ness is more likely. This is true whether the events are good are bad. Among the 43 life events stud­ied, mar­riage and out­stand­ing achieve­ment take their place along with divorce and job loss.

I don’t even want to think about how I’d score on this test right now (though feel free to test your­self.)  Over the next month, I start two new jobs – along with my new full­time job at the Har­vard School of Pub­lic Health, I’ll be teach­ing one night a week at UMass Amherst. I’m thrilled about both of these. But man, it is a lot. On top of that, I need to find a place to live in Boston, pack up my Northamp­ton apart­ment, and move. My cat’s been sick. There have been fam­ily prob­lems. Also: I’m exhausted.

The course I’ll be teach­ing is called “Liv­ing Strate­gi­cally,” and it con­sid­ers ways to thrive amidst the chal­lenges that come our way. Talk about teach­ing what you need to learn! For obvi­ous rea­sons, this is a topic that deeply inter­ests me, and one that I never tire of explor­ing in this blog among other places. There. Are. Tools. This is the core insight.

These days, one idea is prov­ing espe­cially help­ful, and I’m doing my best to remem­ber it at every oppor­tu­nity: Feel­ings and thoughts are not facts. They are sim­ply thoughts and feel­ings. It helps to repeat this when I’m hit by over­whelm, when I can’t imag­ine how I’ll ever get through all that needs to get done. I think about my friend Molly, who made a sim­i­lar tran­si­tion last year. If she could do it, I can do it. I will do it.

I’m also doing my best to lean into the good.  To remem­ber that the stress – while intense right now – is far from the whole story. For one thing, I’m going back to work! This is a great thing. And while the changes under way feel over­whelm­ing, they are not as extreme as they might be. I’m mov­ing back to an area where I’ve lived before. I’ll even be work­ing for the same insti­tu­tion, just at a dif­fer­ent school. I’ll still be an easy day trip from the lovely place where I’ve been liv­ing and love. (Some brave souls even do a daily com­mute, though I find this hard to imagine.)

Also good: The evic­tion saga is over; hous­ing court is behind me. I got what I needed – time to pack and move – and can focus on the future.

While chronic stres­sors often pre­dict ill­ness, it’s not inevitable, as shown by research explor­ing the topic of stress har­di­ness.  There. Are. Tools. There are strate­gies. I doubt that I’ll ever remem­ber these weeks with any spe­cial fond­ness. But in 60 days this will all be behind me. That is my new mantra.