Tag Archives: stress

Rethinking My Morning Pages

morning pagesScribble, scribble – my morning pages

I’ve posted a few times recently about being stressed—and often not even knowing I’m stressed until I manifest physical symptoms. So I’ve been working on ways to help me deal with my stress.

Doing Julia Cameron’s morning pages is one of the things I’ve turned back to. The idea of the morning pages comes from Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way; the idea is to handwrite three pages of stream of conscious writing every morning, words which you will never go back to reread (so it’s nothing like a journal).

I’ve had great success in the past with morning pages, in terms of commitment—I did them for about an eight year period, during which I very rarely missed a day. I never reread any of them, either. I just kept them all in a stack, and when we moved to the city several years ago, I spent half a day putting all those pages through the shredder. (Not that I really had to. I could have just recycled them as-is. The picture above is a sample of one of my pages, and as you can see, it’s a scribbly mess.)

And I’m finding now they work really well for me when I’m stressed. Just the act of dumping all the things that are stressing me out—sometimes things I’m not even aware of until the words show up on the page—seems to provide the kind of relief I need. My day usually brightens up from there, and I feel lighter.

But I don’t feel the need to go to my morning pages all the time. I have mornings when I’m feeling inspired and motivated, which for me signals the start of a really great day. And I’ noticed something—on those days I put off doing my morning pages, and have to drag myself to do them. And then when I’m done, the inspired, motivated feeling is gone.

I say I “noticed” this, but what really happened was this: yesterday, while doing my morning pages (which I really needed, as I had a lot to unload), this observation spilled out as well. It took me by surprise, but when I examined it, I realized it was true.

The thing is, I did the morning pages for eight years. They felt magical to me. But the bottom line is, I never got anywhere closer to my dreams during the time I did them. In fact, I backtracked. I did hardly any writing at all. Those were my “lost” years when it came to writing, except I felt really productive, because hey, at least I was doing my three pages of stream of conscious, braindump it on the page writing every day.

Based on my past experience, I think I’ve figured out what works best for me. The morning pages are great for helping me let go of the stressors in my life. But it seems they also help me let go of inspiration and motivation, too. So I’m going to use them when I need them. And even though I don’t always know when I’m stressed, when I wake up in the mornings I can always feel if it’s going to be an inspired day, or if I’m feeling ho hum.

Those ho hum feelings? A sign that I’m stressed. And when it comes to blasting away those stressors, the morning pages are second to none.

Have you ever tried doing morning pages? How did they work for you?

Ten minutes

ten minutes

I am stressed.

But the funny thing is, I don’t feel stressed. Not in my mind, I mean. And that, apparently, isn’t such a good thing. Because my body, unable to signal to me that maybe it’s time to slow down, let go, and indulge in self-care, has to find other ways to tell me I’m stressed.

Last month, I went to see my doctor because I’d started feeling tingling and numbness in my hands, arms, legs, and feet. (Checking these symptoms online wasn’t such a great idea, as you all probably already know.)

My doctor listened patiently as I described my symptoms. Then she told me I didn’t have to worry about the worse-case scenarios. And then she asked me, “Have you been stressed lately?”

I thought about it. “No,” I said, shaking my head.

But even though I didn’t feel like I was experiencing stress, she said my symptoms were most likely the product of stress.

My body, she explained, reacts physiologically to stress.

It’s true, and it’s something I’m just now getting around to accepting. And my main problem? I don’t actually know I’m experiencing stress, not in my mind anyway. An example? When my doctor asked me if I had been feeling stressed lately, I told her no.

And yet … both my cats were ill and my mother had just broken her hip.

I felt exhausted, yes, but other than that, I didn’t think I was stressed. So obviously my body has become adept at signalling my stress in other ways.

This causes some problems. How can I let go of my stress when I don’t actually feel like I’m stressed? I don’t have problems sleeping and I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the stressors in my life right now.

I could go the medication route. But I’d rather find alternate, natural ways to relieve this stress that my mind doesn’t feel but my body does. After doing some research into this, I’ve decided to try the following things:

Exercise. Exercise seems to be on every list of ways to destress. I haven’t exercised since last fall, and I’m obviously feeling it. Feeling it so much, when I walk anywhere these days I get all these “glad sensations”. My feet want to take off, go faster. My body says, yay, motion!

Ti of Book Chatter and I have been talking about making small, healthy changes, starting today, May 1. I’m always biting off more than I can chew, so small changes are a good fit for me. Ten minutes. That’s what I’m starting with. Ten minutes of exercise a day.

Meditation. It’s quite telling, but I’ve not been meditating for a couple of months now. And when I try to meditate, my mind goes crazy. An avalanche of thoughts. Nothing earth shattering though. Mostly mundane things, like what I’m going to eat for lunch. When will they turn on the air conditioning? My goodness, it’s hot in here this morning. But I do like the sunshine. On and on it goes.

So I’m going to go back to a tried and true method that’s helped me with my meditation in the past. I have several Brain Sync meditations. They’re supposed to be a scientific way to help you get into the meditative state. I don’t know about that, but I do know they’ve always worked for me. So, ten minutes. My month of small changes—ten minutes of meditating with Brain Sync every day.

Morning Pages. The book-reading demon has this theory about my stress. He thinks I’m not allowing myself to feel my real feelings because they’re not what I’m supposed to be feeling. I think he has a point there. I used to do morning pages—three pages of stream of conscious writing, quite literally a brain dump. They were my daily ritual, and I’d gotten to the point where writing those pages became my happy place. For eight years, I literally would not do anything until I’d done my pages. And then I stopped doing them because they’d gotten me to a place where I felt quite good most of the time and I didn’t need them any more.

But happiness and feeling good are ways of living that need to be maintained. I obviously need some sort of practice that will get me there and keep me there. And a daily brain dump will perhaps let those feelings I’m not aware I’m feeling flow out of me, onto the pages of my notebook.

Again, ten minutes. (Although I’ll probably revert to habit and do three pages.) Ten minutes isn’t a lot of time. These changes won’t work for me if I feel like they’re a burden, or I don’t have enough time to do them. I can’t resist “ten minutes” because it’s only ten minutes, after all.

So that’s my list. Do you have any tips on destressing? I’ll gladly add to this list because this whole body reacting to stress thing has got to change!