Ellen…

I feel incredibly stressed lately but, to put things in perspective, I am grateful that I haven’t had any serious stressors in my life for 10 years (when my mom passed away). I haven’t experienced any major health issues; I haven’t moved; I haven’t lost a job; and I haven’t had (another) divorce!

Yet putting things into perspective is often difficult for me when I am going through a stressful period.  Things that cause me stress are: 1) having too much to do; 2) new situations/projects where I doubt my abilities; and 3) relationship issues.  I’d like to think that I’ve learned from years of experience how to manage stress and gracefully work through it; but lately, I’m not so sure I have.

I am an independent consultant and my work ebbs and flows. Lately, it’s been flowing, and while I’m excited about taking on new clients and interesting projects, I worry about how I’m going to get it all done. For the past two weeks, I’ve been working long hours and stressing to make sure I meet deadlines and provide quality work. Plus, Jenna and I have been organizing a Wharton Mother-Daughter Weekend for months and it’s happening this weekend, so there’s lots of last-minute things to get done!

When I am stressed, I worry a lot, become irritable, and focus too much on myself and my problems. I know the things that lower my stress level – yoga, walking, meditation, priority-setting – but so often, I let these things go during stressful times because I don’t make time for them – I’m too busy!

Jenna and I are both high achievers and doers, so we understand each other when one or both of us talk about being stressed by having too much to do. It’s comforting for me to be able to confide in her about feeling overwhelmed. While I may not be modeling the best behavior for her as a mom, I’m reaching out to her as a friend. Likewise, when she calls on me during stressful times, I can relate and help her talk through whether there are things she can drop or say no to. I admire Jenna for maintaining her exercise regimen through times of stress. She didn’t learn that fitness discipline from me (it’s the first thing to go)…maybe I can learn it from her!

Jenna…

Similar to my mom, October has been a stressful month for me. I’ve been working incessantly on two big events that are very close to my heart: a mindfulness retreat that took place last week and a Wharton mother-daughter weekend that we are hosting in collaboration with Wharton Women in Business and Mumsy. And not to mention, keeping up with my schoolwork, traveling to Atlanta bi-weekly to visit my boyfriend, and staying on top of all my other commitments at Wharton and within the Jewish community in Philly.

And while I’m similar to my mom in that I overcommit and can stress myself out easily, this time has been different. I planned for it. I distinctly remember the moment in July when I agreed to plan both of these events in the same month. I knew it would be challenging to take on so much, but at the same time, I was willing to deal with the short-term added stress since both projects mean so much to me. I promised myself that if I committed to bring more stress into my life, I would be equally committed to making time for things that help me stay calm like yoga, meditation, journaling, and downtime with friends.

I have definitely had my moments this month where I’ve lost my cool! But at the same time, the stress has been bearable because I’ve been able to maintain a lot of these important practices the past few weeks – even though I’ve been pressed for time:

  • I started using the Headspace app again and have been meditating every morning. I finally finished the 30-day challenge!
  • I continued to maintain my usual 5-6 day a week exercise regimen, including at least 2 yoga classes a week.
  • I started taking a weekly Jewish class in Center City to make sure I find time to learn about other things besides business!
  • I hosted a potluck for 10 people to make sure I am making time for my friends.

So, how did I do it? Ferociously scheduling time for things that matter to me, and sticking to it. I’ve realized that (similar to my mom) everything always gets done. We are both so hard-wired to complete the things we’ve committed to that we somehow always make it happen! And I’ve never regretted taking time to go to yoga, cook myself a nice dinner, or grab coffee with a close friend during this stressful period. I’m always grateful that I made the time – and usually leave more energized to return to my work!

Still, I can do all the yoga and meditation I want but I will still have my moments. And that’s where my mom comes in – especially since we are working on the same project, we’ve been able to keep each other in check and back each other up when things seem overwhelming. I’m lucky to have such a wonderful partner during these stressful times!