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.

© 2012, amy gut­man. All rights reserved.

13 thoughts on “On stress. And coping. Plus a housing court update.

  1. Exactly 14 years ago, we sold our house, left our jobs, started one new one, had a baby and moved half way across the coun­try with said baby (3 weeks old when we left). Now it’s just a good story. Some­day, all of this will just be a good story. I promise.
    Megan Zinn recently posted…It’s the Lit­tle ThingsMy Profile

  2. How per­fectly well suited you are to be teach­ing a “Liv­ing Strate­gi­cally” course, Amy! You’ll get through this period, no mat­ter how you approach it. For what it’s worth, my strat­egy would be to recon­cep­tu­al­ize the hash of things cur­rently crowd­ing your men­tal hot plate. You don’t begin work at HSPH until the end of this period, so set that aside com­pletely. The LS course will require some prepa­ra­tion, but you’ve already got a lot of mate­r­ial that you devel­oped for this blog and that will get you through the first month or so of classes. This tran­si­tional period is going to read­ily pro­vide you with even more mate­r­ial — for both your course and your blog. These jobs com­ple­ment each other com­pletely so we can think of them as one ‘dish’, and the only prep it requires tak­ing some notes dur­ing this tran­si­tion period. So, in this re-arrangement, you’ve got to 1) find­ing a place to live, 2) mov­ing your stuff from A to B, 3) tak­ing good daily care of your­self and your kitty, and 4) not­ing any cop­ing strate­gies that you’re employ­ing. Now, because task 1 has to pre­cede task 2, all you need to do — and the only things on your plate are 1) find­ing a place, and 2) car­ing for your­self and Clarence. And, of course, not­ing your strate­gies, and your bless­ings before you retire each night. Con­grat­u­la­tions on all the well-deserved grace!

  3. This breath. This moment. Love. Grat­i­tude.
    –My friend’s mantra when his com­pany nearly took down the gov­ern­ment of India last year. He sur­vived and has grown in amaz­ing, beau­ti­ful ways. His faith and grace in unnamed spirit encour­ages me enor­mously.
    Alle­gra Jor­dan recently posted…The Joy­ful LawyerMy Profile

  4. Eat well. A wide vari­ety of healthy foods you love in as close to their nat­ural state as pos­si­ble. Often. Five or six times a day, eat some­thing.
    Sleep. Even if you can’t, lie in bed for 8 hours a night.
    Get out­doors. Exer­cise. A 20 minute walk.
    Don’t do drugs — even pre­scrip­tion. Lots of peo­ple rec­om­mend them. Choose instead to be your whole self.
    Sixty days? way to go! — I’ve coped with those times telling myself “A year from now . . .“
    Go get ‘em, girl!

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