the supreme guide to handling household stress

10 Dec

You guys, this is a stressful time of year.

It is getting colder.  Those of us who have recently moved are finding the cracks and flaws in their homes.  The holiday season has dropped around our ears like a swarm of furious bees, nobody can find a job, and the semester is ending for a friends in college which means finals finals finals.

Taylor and I have been dealing with a shitstorm of household stress lately, due to several factors.  He’s enduring the end of the first semester of his grad school experience, and it’s not ending as smoothly as he had hoped.  Our apartment is crammed full of furniture and knick knacks that we’re storing for a family member that’s moving.  Our dishes never seem to be done.  Our heaters never seem to heat enough.  Times are tough, my friends, times are tough.

Through my experience, though, I have managed to put together this guide to managing stress  Hopefully it’ll decrease the Stress Alert in your home from an orange to a…um.  What color is soothing?  Lilac?  Lilac is pretty soothing.  So is burgundy.

Maybe to a Code Burgundy.


Read it.

1.  Make dinner.  When you’re tired and anxious and ready to drop, buying groceries and cooking something isn’t an appealing prospect, but guess what?  Do it anyway.  Dinner is an opportunity for you to work at achieving a short term goal, namely, creating a meal, and it feels nice to achieve goals.  When you sit down with your plate of steaming food, you’ll be happy you took the time, and you’ll feel a little more capable.  Dammit, you can’t pay your bills, but you can make a fine chicken-fried steak, and we need to be reminded of our little strengths and accomplishments every now and again.

2.  Be the big kid. Chances are that you are not the only one in your household.  Chances are that you and your partner are BOTH feeling the burn of these nervy days, and SOMEBODY’S got to dig in their heels and be a rock, and it might as well be you.  When each new calamity comes up, take a deep breath and declare to your partner (and yourself), “We can HANDLE this.” Even if you’re wigging out on the inside, sometimes maintaining that aura of calm between the two of you can make the difference between dealing with the situation and degenerating into a writhing ball of hormonal hysteria.  Remember, kids, flopping around violently on the floor in a pool of your own snot and tears may sound like the best idea, but you’ll find that working to solve the problem will relieve your anxieties much faster.

3.  Be extra patient. Stress wreaks havoc on even the gentlest personalities, and when are days are getting longer and our wallets are getting slimmer, we all have the urge to lash out at easy targets.  Sadly, the easiest targets are often those we are closest to, but remember, friend, you have to LIVE with this person.  Let’s say that maybe your partner said they were going to vacuum and then they didn’t.  You have two options.  The first is to give in and light your already short fuse and explode at them in a cannonball of rage and projected fury.  The surprise and hurt they feel will probably cause them to explode back.  When both of you are exploding and neither is backing down, you’ll take it to the next level and start with the name calling, the dredging up of ancient battles, the score-keeping, and before you know it you will be on some remote island engaging in a televised battle royale with machine guns and knives carved out of the bones of your fallen foes with the blood of your enemies rumbling in your stomach and spurring you on to a great and violent victory over –

I mean, what?

Look, just leave it alone and let your partner vacuum the floor when they get to it.  Save the battle royales for happier days.

4.  Indulge in little pleasures. When I am having a shitty day and the world seems to be crumbling away from under my feet, I find that nothing makes me feel better than walking in to a 7-11, buying a bottle of Diet Coke, and nursing it through the long evening.  I am not supposed to  be drinking so much Diet Coke, but it is my special little indulgence, my magic fix-all and life-mender.  Find something tiny that makes you happy and enjoy it slowly, deliberately.  If possible, share your treat with somebody else.  Happy as I am to get a Diet Coke, it doesn’t compare to the fuzzy feeling I get when I bring Taylor a Mtn Dew and he gives me a look like a wet cat that is finally being allowed to come inside.  Poor thing.

5.  Cry. I don’t always endorse this, and I know it goes against the whole ‘being a big kid’ mantra that I had back in #2, but sometimes a soul just needs a good cry.  I advise you wait until AFTER you have dealt with the brunt of your problems, though.  Wait until after you get back from your awful day of work/fruitless job hunting, after you try to tackle your mountain of dishes and cyclical cleaning, after you’ve made dinner and handled whatever situations have arisen during the day, and then take a hot shower and bawl your eyes out in private.  There’s no shame in that.  Sometimes you just have to get your frustrations out of your system.  Afterwards, dry off, get dressed, and keep plugging away at life.

6.  Make time for something moronic. When dealing with the grand scope of Very Serious Issues, it is often easy for you to lose your sense of humor.  Sure, your hamster died, you lost your job, and your mom caught fire, but did you hear the one about the rabbi, the priest and the pope?

O-okay, maybe not super applicable.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s useful to be able to give your brain a break from time to time.  I am not talking about enjoying A Gentleman’s Game Of Chess or tackling that Proust analysis that you’ve been meaning to get to.  I mean like, finally rereading Harry Potter or playing CandyLand with your best friend.  My current idiot-release is an old copy of Sonic Adventure that I purchased off Amazon for five dollars.  It is an awful game.  Just awful.  The voice acting gives me hives and the camera angles make me feel like I’m in Cloverfield or something (zing! almost topical!) but you know what?  It’s fun.  If only for the horrible faces Taylor makes everytime Sonic says, “LET’S GET ‘EM!”

7.  Keep up your beauty routine, if you have one.  Okay, just like…hygene.  Stay hygenic.  Lots of people start sacrificing little parts of their day when they get stressed, and I feel that this is ill-advised.  When you look (and smell) good, you FEEL good.  Your awful day will be that much worse when you are obsessing over your greasy hair, unplucked eyebrows, and the cloud of B.O. surrounding you like sparkles on a Care Bear.  Even if you feel crappy, you don’t have to LOOK crappy, and even the routine will be a comfort.

There you go!  I hope some of these methods are effective in reducing your stressful days.  You guys had some great additions to my ‘Ultimate Guide To Getting Warm’ (hell-o hot water bottle!) so I would love to hear if you’ve got any tricks to reduce your winter anxiety!

Edit: My big sister Sarah read this post yesterday and gently reminded me that chances are not that you are the only person in your household, and that times are just as stressful for single folks rockin’ their solo homes.  She had this piece of advice for people living on their own:

“and also, i will add a tip for single people that worked when i was single: take a minute to treat yourself like a significant other might. get yourself that mountain dew, but pretend like you are also that special someone who was thoughtful enough to get it for you. eat a dinner you prepared for yourself, but think about how nice you are to take care of yourself like that.”

Good advice, Sarah!  Thanks!


Posted by on December 10, 2009 in Uncategorized


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4 responses to “the supreme guide to handling household stress

  1. Rebekah

    December 10, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Good advice all around! I’m still adjusting to cohabitation, and some days are a *cough cough ahem* struggle.

    Listening to feel-good music while you make that dinner/sip Diet Coke/cry your heart out may just remind you that life isn’t TOTALLY meaningless. Unless life IS totally meaningless— in which case you should DEFINITELY be listening to more good music and having six times more fun.

  2. sarahcbagley

    December 11, 2009 at 8:59 am

    um, if i may quibble just a bit, chances are NOT necessarily that one is in a household with other people. lots of people live alone, and those people get stressed too… just the way you phrased that made my hackles go up, like “wait, so now not only am i stressed, but i’m weird?” so yeah – this seems like a stress guide for cohabitors which is totally fine, but cohabitation does not a household make.

    sorry to be all defensive like that.

    and also, i will add a tip for single people that worked when i was single: take a minute to treat yourself like a significant other might. get yourself that mountain dew, but pretend like you are also that special someone who was thoughtful enough to get it for you. eat a dinner you prepared for yourself, but think about how nice you are to take care of yourself like that. this kind of thinking made a huge difference when i was lonely and stressed.

    • Jessica

      December 11, 2009 at 9:42 am

      Oh, I’m sorry, sister, I didn’t mean to leave people out in the cold like that! I wasn’t suggesting that you need more than one person for a household. Sorry if it came out that way.

      I like your tip for single people! I think I will add that to the main post.

  3. lisa

    December 11, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Great tips here! I’ve been feeling really burned out lately myself–Christmas vacation can’t come soon enough. Until I can get a real break, I’m trying to take it easy and cut out any extraneous obligations and prioritize what I have to do. It makes me feel guilty that I might be bailing on something I RSVP’d to, but sometimes having a night in at home is the best thing to refresh your spirits.


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