Stress and separation

When I was a law student, I learned a valuable lesson in stress management. I had a large assignment which I had helpfully left until the last minute. Burning some midnight oil, I was tidying up my footnotes when my monitor froze, and then went black. A reboot proved that all of my work had been wiped. I had only a few hours to redo the assignment, put it on a floppy disk (gentle reminder: It’s not polite to ask a lady her age!), bus to the uni computer lab, print my work and submit the assignment before the deadline.

I cried my little eyes out! I envisaged a great big fail on my academic transcript that semester. No amount of coffee could make this happen in time.

Then, I got my act together. I put on my running shoes and #activewear (or gym gear, as it was known back then!) and sprinted through the dark streets, dodging revellers returning from the local student pubs. My tears turned into fire, and when I returned to my desk I was ready to take on the world and if not, Microsoft Word!

This hiccup taught me many things such as time management and to always save my work as I go. One of the biggest things it taught me however, was that developing good stress management techniques is the key to successful performance.

As a family lawyer, I regularly see clients coping with one of the greatest stressors in life. Some cope better than others, and others who appear to be coping very well are actually not coping at all. I would like to share a few tips that I have learned about getting through this difficult time:

  • Go: Get active. If running around the block in the dark is not your thing, try something low impact such as pilates or a barre class, or join a social sports team. Your endorphins will soar and give you a healthy glow, and you might just make some new friends.
  • Stop: Meditate. If you have time, take yourself to a meditation or yoga retreat, or simply dedicate a few minutes every day to focus on just yourself and your breathing. Light some candles, turn off your phone, and recharge your energy.
  • Play: Make time to reconnect with people you have not seen for some time. They say that people come into your life for a season, a reason or a lifetime, and now is a perfect opportunity to get back in touch with your oldest and dearest.
  • Dance: There is a song for every occasion. Some Whitney to cry to, some Alanis to shout to, some Metallica to mosh to, and my recent favourite, some Pharrell Williams to brighten your day. Draw your blinds, crank the stereo, and dance like the funkiest chicken around.
  • Ask: Get help from people around you. Family counsellors are there to guide and support you, and lawyers can help you navigate through the legal system. You don’t need to be a superhero – Your friends, family and even neighbours are often more than happy to babysit or do a school pickup on occasion.

Separation is never going to be easy, but if you make a conscious effort you can make it as stress-free as possible. It is about finding a balance, and making sure you put yourself first.

And if you were wondering, I did make my deadline, and scored a high distinction on that assignment!