Wednesday, 30 January 2013


Inevitably everything has started to pile up beyond my own control. I'm a 'yes person'; I like to take things on and flirt with new territories, but it can sometimes fall down on top of me as I try to balance the everything that is my life. I'm busy getting involved with things, spreading myself pretty thinly over the 18 hours or so that I spend awake each day, and I found myself ready to burst at the seams in the latter part of last week.

I was about to sign us up for a cycling sportive on the day before my birthday in August. I thought 'hooray!' at the opportunity to spend the last day of my 25th year cycling gleefully around Yorkshire, followed by a meal in our favourite restaurant with one of their awesomely huge servings of STP and ice cream in lieu of a birthday cake. Then I remembered the other commitments that I've got going on between now and October. Two marathons (I signed up for the Yorkshire Marathon at 7am on the morning it opened, oops), a potential month spent doing research in Stockholm, a whole month away at conferences, putting on a conference at the department in York, taking workshops for the Strange Bedfellows programme, confirmation onto my PhD programme and the viva voce that will follow, doing a PhD, and organising my very own wedding.

I tried to rationalise all of this, the one step at a time sort of pep talk, but anyone who has planned a wedding or done a PhD or trained for a marathon will know that it doesn't work like that; it is all-consuming, almost an obsession (in my case, definitely an obsession), and it requires 100% of yourself to see it through. Forgetting the travelling, the conference, the workshops and the confirmation, that only leaves 33% of me to focus on each of these tasks; I got stuck on how I could possibly be wholehearted in my attempts at these things with only my one heart, and then I started to feel sick and overwhelmed and utterly stressed out, which is never a productive state to be in.

But it only takes a minute really to get out of the downwards spiral that is stress. It builds up in a moment but it can also be tackled in a moment, given the right words or a hug from a good friend or just a bit of happy news. In my case it took a good friend, and not a hug but the right words, and the sun dawned on the horizon and all was right in the world. The key was perspective. I was suddenly ashamed at the way I'd taken my 'problems' to be at the centre of the universe, when in fact I can't think of a situation I'd rather be in. Stressed about the fact that I get to marry someone awesome in September in a day put together just for us, stress about the dream-come-true that is my PhD and all the magic it entails, stress about running around some of the world's loveliest places while I think and breathe and enjoy just being me. Stress is such an ego-centric issue, so undoubtedly caused by too much thinking inwards and not enough looking out at the world and your own place in it.

I don't know how long it will be before I find myself stressed out to breaking point again, but I hope that when it happens a kind friend will take me aside and ever-so-subtly remind me how awesome all of this is. 18 hours a day of doing all the things I love - writing, running, reading, thinking, talking, eating, laughing, cooking. We even got a dishwasher so I don't have to wash up any more - one less thing to stress out about. So now I'm off to stretch, shower and eat my breakfast with a spring in my step for what will be today and all the greatness it could bring. And there's one last buckwheat muffin left for lunch, hurrah!


  1. Over the last few months I have been learning the art of saying no. I have never done a phd or planned a wedding (and probably never shall!!) but owning your own business is, I suspect, equally as all consuming. And I have learned that we are not supposed to do and experience everything in this life. That to think so is as ego-centric as stressing about it. And that sometimes we have to prioritise.

    And delegate. Saying no is really hard as I keep thinking I'm missing out on things or I can't control things if I don't do them. Which is all bollocks of course. As the great Stone Gossard says:-

    “Because we had waited so long for anyone to ask us to do something, we were saying yes, yes, yes. That was a moment where it was really evident that there was always going to be one more thing that they’d want you to do. At some point you had to say no. That was the birth of no.”

    Yes, stress is super ego-centric. But in many ways so is everything that isn't present moment living. Because that's all we have really. Right now. With our dreams coming true left right and centre there is no better time to live in the right now!

    1. Ahhh I couldn't agree more!! My mantra is that the present moment is all we have. I am learning, slowly, to let things go, and it's both terrifying and wonderful in equal measure.

      I love the quote...'the birth of no' - I think I've heard that somewhere before... ;-)

  2. What a wonderful friend you have there, a few words to make you look at life from a different angle and see all the good.
    Lucky you.
    Lisa x

    1. Hi Lisa,

      Yes I am lucky, I was humbled by this particular friend and have been on many occasions. The worst thing is that I think stress takes away your capacity to be a good friend, which is just another reason to chill out I guess! xx