mandyholbert

A glimpse into our family – the good, the bad, and, of course, the funny

Practical advice on managing stress June 30, 2012

While curling into a little ball and sleeping for hours a day could be therapeutic, it’s not necessarily the most practical (or healthy) method of stress management.  Besides, in real life, who has time for all that sleeping?  Part of the reason I’m stressed is I have no time for anything!  So, here’s how a real person – a working mom – handles stress on a daily basis.  Maybe not all of my ideas would be approved by my doctor, but I make it without medication, so that in itself should validate my strategies.  So, here’s the list:

1.  Exercise.  Now before you roll your eyes and quit reading, give me a chance.  There is a specific exercise that I use for stress relief, and it’s a physical and mental release.  This is a strategy I use specifically when my stress is caused by a particular person who may be especially hard to deal with or who just annoys the snot out of me and I can’t shake it off without a little assistance.  This exercise does not take long.  And you need minimal equipment.  I slip on my boxing gloves, blast an angry song, visualize whoever is bothering me, and beat my punching bag with everything in me.  This is extremely effective.

Take that you unreasonable, uncompromising, confrontational dumdum! And that! And that!

2.  Eat a gigantic bowl of ice cream.  Obviously, this one shouldn’t be implemented every time a person experiences stress, but every once in a while, it’s so healthy just to let go of all the rules and restrictions we place on ourselves and enjoy something delicious and sinful.  Relish it.  Lick the bowl when you’re finished.  Lose yourself in that ice cream.  The effects may be short-lived, but those twenty minutes of concentrating on nothing but the pure joy of that creamy frozen goodness may be all you need to refocus and let go of some of the day’s stressors.

Daintily enjoying a small portion of ice cream. Always a lady.

3.  Play.  This is a lot harder than it sounds.  When I get home from a particularly hard day, often the last thing I want to do is ignore the chores that still need to be done or my recliner or the fact that I have no idea what I’m going to prepare for dinner.  I don’t have time to play, and I don’t feel like playing.  But, you know what?  Without fail, if I make myself have fun with my kids, what starts out forced becomes fun in a matter of minutes.  The joy of kids is contagious.  They make me laugh.  When I play with them, I feel like a kid again.  When we’re finished and go inside to figure out what to eat for dinner, I do it with a fresh perspective and attitude.

Underdog!

4.  Create something.  I’m not a great artist, but sometimes when I’m feeling stressed, I pull out all the art supplies and paint something.  And to make this even better, sometimes all of us paint together.  Our little family focuses on a task.  We channel our inner artist.  We don’t worry about the mess.  And it doesn’t have to be painting – it could be anything – baking cookies or building with Legos can give the same feelings.  I think it’s the pouring yourself into something and seeing a tangible result of your efforts at the end is what relieves stress.

Ronnie built our cornhole game then the boys painted one and the girls painted the other. Can you tell which is which?

5.  Good old-fashioned hard work.  The idea here is to do something that will take exertion and absolutely wear you out.  I’ve always thought that God created us with the capability to work – I think it keeps us younger, stronger, and healthier.  Find a project and go at it.  Try to find something that stretches you so that all of your energy is focused on completing the task.  There won’t be room in that head of yours for anything else.  And when you finish, you’ll be too tired to stress about anything.  You’ll sleep well that night.  Hard work is good stuff.

6.  Be silly.  I wrote a post a few weeks ago called Why We Will Always be Okay one evening after Ronnie and I had both had particularly bad days.  Instead of talking through everything that made our days so terrible, we went outside, blasted our favorite song, and caught a jar full of lightning bugs while singing, dancing, laughing, and just letting go.  Silly?  Most adults would think so.  But who cares?  Being silly is a great thing.  Catching fireflies didn’t erase anything bad that happened to us that day, but we finished our day goofing off and letting go so we were able to start the next one refreshed and refocused.  It works.

Do we sometimes play with the kids’ toys when they are in bed? Why, yes. Yes, we do.

7.  Go on an all-expense paid vacation to a tropical paradise for at least ten days.  You know, one of those places where you just lounge in a cabana by a pool and someone massages your feet and brings your food and drinks and your whim.  One of those places where you swim with dolphins, eat dinner at a lone table right on the beach, and snorkel with tropical species of fish I’ve never even heard of…

I’ve never actually gotten to try this particular idea, but I could see where it would be extremely effective.  It is good to get away once in a while, though.

The kids playing at Myrtle Beach – not quite a tropical paradise, but fun nonetheless.

8.  Blog.  This one can get tricky because blogging can actually be a cause of stress if you allow it.  Make a concerted effort not to focus on your stats or whether you’ll ever be Freshly Pressed.  Blog because you love writing.  Because you love sharing what you write with people who enjoy reading.  And, you know, if blogging isn’t your thing, find another outlet, another hobby that you can do in your leisure time to stop you from dwelling on the daily stresses in life.  Maybe yours is running, reading, crocheting, or Zumba.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  It just matters that you enjoy it, that you take time to actually do it, and that you don’t inadvertently allow your hobby to become a source of stress itself.  Keep it light and it will be fulfilling.

Optimizing Stress

Optimizing Stress (Photo credit: cheerfulmonk)

9.  Give.  Do something for someone else.  No matter how stressed your life may seem to you, there is always someone whose problems are worse.  Think of someone going through a hard time, and do something kind for him or her.  Did your neighbor’s dog just die?  Bake him some cookies.  Is someone going through a hard time?  Write her a handwritten card of encouragement.  Putting yourself aside and focusing on the needs of someone else is almost always an effective method for stress relief.

"The Golden Rule" mosaic

“The Golden Rule” mosaic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

10.  Make a list.  This may sound cheesy, but I guarantee it works.  Make a list of everything that you are thankful for.  If you’re feeling particularly stressed and therefore negative, you may have to start with the fact that you are alive for number one.  You have food to eat may be number two.  But the more you force yourself to list these things, the more your blessings in life will come to mind.  Your list will be long.  In fact, you’ll have to stop this exercise before you run out of things to write about.  This is about changing your mindset.  No matter how bad things may be, we can choose to focus on the positive in life.  It just helps to write it down to put things back in perspective.

Like I said in the beginning, your doctor won’t give this advice, and may not even agree with all of it.  But, stress is a real thing that almost all of us deal with.  In our quest to live a healthy, balanced, fulfilling life, we have to learn to manage this stress that somehow finds a way to infiltrate our lives despite our best efforts to keep it at bay.  These are the things that work for me.

What works for you?

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We’ll end up sittin’ on a rainbow – 11 years and counting! May 16, 2012

This month marks eleven years that Ronnie and I have been married.  Nowadays, that’s quite the accomplishment for a couple our age.  Lots of marriages don’t make it, and many people are on their second or third at this point.

We are still going strong.

I thought I’d share some keys to our successful marriage, since statistically speaking, we’re practically experts in the area.  So, without further ado, here are the Holbert tips to a happy, long-term marriage:

1.  Remember when all your married friends and family gave you that great advice when you were about to tie the knot? – “Never go to bed mad at each other.”  Well, forget that.  Sometimes, all you need to work things out is to get a good night’s rest.  You can always re-evaluate in the morning.  Maybe you’ll still be mad.  Maybe not.  Just sleep when you’re supposed to sleep.  There’s no sense in arguing all night just to avoid going to sleep before working things out.

2. “Play fighting leads to real fighting.”  My mom used to have to tell us this all the time when we would bicker, poke fun, push buttons, and inevitably get carried away and hurt each other’s feelings.  These are wise words.  What starts out as fun teasing about something like the fact that Ronnie could not be on time if he wore seven watches can too quickly turn into something hurtful like Mandy, when was the last time you plucked your eyebrows they’re looking kind of bushy and unibrow-ish?

3. Take interest in the same things.  That’s not to say that you can’t have your own interests, but you should make an effort to enjoy the things that your spouse enjoys.  We camp together – I had never camped before I met Ronnie.  We garden.  We spend time together doing things that we both find enjoyable.  Maybe that’s the main thing – spending time together.

4. Build something together.  Ronnie and I always have some sort of project going.  Working together to accomplish a task has many benefits.  It forces you to adapt to each other’s capabilities, to develop teamwork, to hone your communication skills, to recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  There is absolutely nothing that compares to the feeling of working together to build something then sitting back and looking together at the tangible evidence of what you can achieve together.  That’s not to say the whole process will be peaches and cream.  There will be arguments (trust me), like when I laugh uncontrollably when the tape measure somehow falls off the top of the ladder and hits Ronnie square on the forehead and that little trickle of blood strikes me as the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, but the fact that you work through it makes it that much better.

5. Be real.  I used to think that there were certain things I was supposed to do as a wife, certain things he should do as a husband, certain things we were supposed to have, a certain kind of house in which we were supposed to live…you get the idea.  But, you know what?  I was wrong.  When we first got married, we tried to model our lives by what we thought was expected.  We bought a house, had nice cars, got a dog – we never quite did keep up with the Jones, but we could have been their slightly less accomplished next door neighbors.  And you know what?  We weren’t happy.  By the time we figured out that we don’t need a big house or lots of stuff, we were in debt and barely able to escape.  Maybe people don’t understand now why we live in the country in a little house, but it’s suits us.  We are living the life that makes us happy, and we don’t care what anyone thinks.  If only someone would have told us that before we racked up the debt!

6. Be each other’s best friend.  I tell Ronnie my secrets.  I laugh with him.  He is the person I go to when I feel happy, sad, mad, betrayed, annoyed, disappointed, frustrated, anxious, or any other feeling I may experience.  Why?  Because I know he cares.  I know he wants what’s best for me.  I know he’ll tell me the truth even when I don’t want to hear it.  I know he has my back.  He loves me.  What more could anyone ask for in a best friend?  And I strive to be that friend for him.  We’re buds.

7. Keep the romance alive (and by romance, I mean, well…you know…*clears throat* romance).  Do I really need to elaborate?

8. Trust each other.

9. Be stubborn.  We like to joke that the only reason that we’re still together is that we were both too stubborn to leave in those early years of marriage.  I can remember arguments so bad that one of us would try to throw the other out of the house.  That never worked – it went something like this: “I’m not leaving!  You leave!”  “No!  I’m not leaving!  You leave!”  Maybe it went on all night, but you know what?  Neither one of us ever left.  There’s a place for some good old-fashioned stubbornness sometimes.  At those especially immature moments in our marriage, it often ended up being our own immaturity that kept us together.

10. Pray.  I believe wholeheartedly that God brought Ronnie into my life.  I am so thankful for that.  I always pray that God will bless our marriage and that I will be the wife that He wants me to be.  We are devoted not only to each other, but also to God, and that spiritual commonality makes our union that much stronger.  We are both keenly aware that we wouldn’t be where we are today without God’s blessing, protection, and guidance in our lives.

11. Be respectful.  There’s absolutely no excuse to belittle or disrespect your spouse in front of anyone, including your children.  Some disagreements need to wait until you can discuss them privately.  Never tell jokes at your spouse’s expense.  Build them up!

12. Be thankful.  Never take what you have for granted.  Tell each other you love each other every day.  Multiple times a day.

Happy Anniversary, Ronnie!

John Prine – “In Spite of Ourselves”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCObON5sJzU&feature=fvsr

In Spite of Ourselves

 

My Gardening Playlist May 13, 2012

Path to our garden.

Most of the time when I’m gardening (or just sitting in my garden enjoying it), I like to listen to nothing.  Well, at first I hear nothing, and then the longer I sit and unwind, the more I hear.  The rabbits nibbling on crunchy veggies, the birds flapping and chirping near the feeder, the breeze blowing through the trees…

But, sometimes, I listen to music.  I’ve put together a gardening playlist.  Here it is.

1.  “Homegrown Tomatoes” by Guy Clark – Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes, what would life be without homegrown tomatoes.  There’s only two things that money can’t buy, and that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.

Grape tomatoes on vine

Grape tomatoes on vine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Guy Clark’s matter-of-fact, simple ode to my favorite veggie makes my mouth water as I think about the tomatoes that will soon be hanging from my plants.  It definitely makes the weeding worth it.

2.  “Spanish Pipedream” by John Prine – Blow up your TV, throw away your paper, move to the country, build you a home, grow a little garden, eat a lot of peaches, try to find Jesus on your own.  Well, we still have a TV, but we did plant a garden, we eat our own peaches from our trees, and we have all found Jesus.  Great song.

3.  “Hard Worker” by The Avett BrothersI got up early to sing.  I’m a hard, hard worker, I’m workin’ every day, I’m a hard, hard worker, I’m savin’ all my pay.  This one just reminds me that hard work pays off.  Whether sweating over a garden or spreading mulch or building a fence, I’m a hard, hard worker every day.

4.  “I’ll Fly Away” by Allison Krauss and Gillian Welch – Some bright morning when this life is over, I’ll fly away.  To that home on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away.  Being outside, digging in the dirt, considering the intricacies of nature, I can’t help but reflect on the Creator.  My heart always seems to end up in a spirit of worship when I’m in the garden.  Put that together with the twang of bluegrass and these two beautiful voices, and you have a perfect gardening song.

5.  “Where the Green Grass Grows” by Tim McGraw – I want to live where the green grass grows, watch my corn pop up in rows, every night be tucked in close to you.  Raise our kids where the good Lord’s blessed…  Maybe this one’s a little cheesy, but I’ve never been ashamed to like cheesy.  Country music tends to appreciate the simple things in life.

6. “Carolina in My Mind” by James Taylor – Can’t you see the sunshine, can’t you just feel the moonshine?  Yes, I’m gone to Carolina in my mind.

Clouds breaking up after a rainy morning in th...

Clouds breaking up after a rainy morning in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Photo taken from the Deep Gap overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina, with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 I would love my garden no matter where it was, but it happens to be in one of the most beautiful places in the world – the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina.  It’s where my heart is, and nothing beats looking up from the weeds I’m pulling to see the mountains that surround us.  Perfect.

7. “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” by Darrell Scott – It’s a great day to be alive, I know the sun’s still shining when I close my eyes, there’s some hard times in the neighborhood, but why can’t every day be just this good?  Every day is a good day when I’m in my garden.  Well, maybe the day wasn’t good, but it is once I can go to my garden and let go of the day’s stresses.

8. “Ice, Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice – All right Stop, collaborate and listen…Just kidding.  Just wanted to make sure you’re still with me.

9. “A Little Bit of Everything” by Dawes – Oh, it’s a little bit of everything, it’s the mountains it’s the fog, it’s the news at six o’clock, it’s the death of my first dog.  My husband and I discovered Dawes on WNCW 88.7 when we were building the tree house by the garden.  We listened to this disc over and over while we worked.  This is my favorite song out of all of them.

10. “Poor Boy Workin’ Blues” by Dailey and Vincent – Work the soles right off of my shoes, I’ve got the poor boy workin’ blues.  This one is Ronnie’s contribution to the playlist.  Truthfully, any good playlist in this area must have a true bluegrass classic.

There’s my gardening playlist.  What songs would you add?