Personal Writing

Manage your stress or it will manage you

I am on week three of an absolute whirlwind of busyness at my day job. I came home from my peaceful, disruptive, transformative writing retreat, and 24 hours later, after hand-delivering food, wine and art to a number of patrons, I was dressed to the nines, hosting the virtual final party of the season for our Community Supported Art program. Underneath my stunning 4″ heels, there was still dirt on my toes from the miles of gravel roads I walked. But, I scrub up pretty well (not my toes, I guess), so I doubt anyone knew.

Celebrating our 50th year at The Arts Partnership

Two days after this event, we held our annual ChalkFest at the Red River Zoo for 1,800+ of our closest friends and neighbors.

And from the minute we left that parking lot, my team and I have been feverishly at work on our fall fundraising campaign. As Chief Development Officer in addition to all the other hats, it’s my job to ensure that we set stretch goals and then that we meet (and hopefully exceed) them. It’s never a small task, and you can imagine that COVID has not made it easier to raise funds. So far, so good, but it’s fraught with plenty of stress and uncertainty.

I started the work week with this Facebook post:

If you follow both The Arts Partnership and Daily Dose of Dr Marry & DD, I apologize in advance for the wall to wall, 8-9am Dayna Del Val show that will be coming to you this week. 😁 TAP is 50 and we’re live-streaming every morning at 8:05, and “Daily Dose” is doing episodes 61-65 at 8:30. Lots to do as we #SupportLocalArt and #celebratesober! 🥳🎉

On Saturday, I woke up in a panic. I knew what was coming, so I made a decision from my warm, flannel-sheeted bed that something had to give this week. There was just no way I was going to be able to do it all and keep any semblance of sanity. Here’s what I decided:

I can’t express how right that decision was. I’m here writing this now instead of sweating it out on a bike in the semi-dark. Dr Marry went off without me, and I have a bit of time to breathe.

Yesterday, I felt like I was in one of those wind boxes where you have to try to grab as many dollar bills as you can. I was writing emails, calling people, responding to texts, preparing for my upcoming night class, reading blogs about fundraising, uploading videos, listening to a state-wide livestream, eating raw almonds and letting the dog out. And this went on for much of the morning and into lunchtime.

And then at 1:30, just when I thought, “I can’t possibly take a break!” I stopped. My friend Sandra McCutcheon had invited me to attend a mindfulness meditation session she hosts, and I had signed up.

I (a little bit) reluctantly got on Zoom, and there was Sandra, and a number of other women from Scotland and Lincolnshire, England. We had a nice wee chat and then we got to the point of the event: the mindfulness meditation practice.

I didn’t have time for this. I was too busy. There was too much to do. Too many responsibilities to address. It was a 20 minute meditation session—made me a little nervous to get going. But I settled in and just let go.

Seemingly seconds later, the bell rang and it was time to come out of the trance-like state I had fallen into. I opened my eyes and felt completely transformed. All the frantic worry, all the White Rabbit “I’m late, I’m late…” feelings had just evaporated. I was calm. My breathing was restored. My posture was corrected. My mind was settled.

It was a 90 minute systems disruption with a group of women nearly 6,000 miles away, but proximity was irrelevant. I needed that time to reset, and I took it.

So my question to you is, what are you doing to break the cycles that are holding you up, weighing you down, dragging you under?

Stress is inevitable. Jobs, families, money, personal anxiety, mental and physical health, politics, the economy, a global pandemic…the list goes on and on. But almost nothing is ever better accomplished by a panicked, frenzied state of being. And if it is, the price to pay is with your own health.

We’re all in a whirlwind these days—so much uncertainty, so much division and despair. So much “unprecedented territory.” But no one, including you!, will be better served if you’re out of control and not taking care of yourself. Take the time you need, even when you’re sure you don’t have the time to give, to check in with yourself and realign. You’ll never regret getting centered. Take a walk, make a cup of tea, sit in a puddle of sunshine, read a poem…just do something that slows you down and restores your state of being. The stress and work won’t go away, but you’ll be so much better able to face it and take it on. It worked for me, and I know it’ll work for you, too.

Carpe Diem!

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


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