Stress in Peace Corps is a crazy thing, by sheer volume and the nature of the beast. I've always been a pretty calm guy, but when the annoyances pile up and the ridiculousness gets taken to a whole new level it's no wonder that one little old lady stealing an ice cream cone out of my hand can really push me over the edge. Why?!? I don't have perfect advice, maybe ever, but my Peace Corps Medical Officer Amy asked me to write to my fellow Volunteers about handling stress this month, so here are some of the ideas I wrote for her to share:
- TEXTING... Oh the magic of texting other Volunteers. But not just any old texts, I recommend Random Mongolian Lessons of the Day (RMLD), Mongolian Revelations of the Day (MRD), or whatever ridiculous name you prefer. Sum up as best you can in 918 characters the humor, the stress, or the insanity that you witnessed and/or took part in and then send it to your closest friends. It might start as a rant, turn into a reflection and end who knows where. Whatever the case, it will probably get good responses and start a chain of hilarious texts.
- WRITING... Similar I know, but here you aren't limited to characters or the fact that you can't stare at someone in the eye while you speed-text like a maniac, like some people. Here you are only limited by your ability to sit still, think and get those thoughts out into words. Scribble if you want to, blog if you want to, you can even write a book if you want to. Peace Corps Volunteers are pretty prolific writers and it's a great way to gain perspective on yourself and the world.
- EXERCISE... I know, I know. Thanks a lot Travis, I'm already tired and stressed out and your advice is to exercise. Perfect. Believe me, it's usually the last thing I want to do too. So if I get stressed out or angry, I usually just start with one push-up. It's hard to stop with one though. By the time I've physically gotten down on the floor or awkwardly stretched out in my office to do an incline push-up on an office chair, I usually just go at it. Everyone stares, but they do anyway, so whatever. Watch me, look at the crazy American! By the time I can't do any more, I'm usually so worn out I've forgotten why I was stressed out in the first place. If I exercise in the morning, I'm such a combination of soreness and crazy energy the rest of the day that I don't really care to be stressed about anything else. It's sort of like Tyler Durden says, "After fighting, everything else in your life got the volume turned down." Except don't fight, you're in Peace Corps! Unless you are sited with Matt Becker, you can punch him for me.
- SIT IN THE HOODO... I don't do this as often as someone I know but I think it's pretty awesome. Just go out into the hoodo (countryside) and sit. You'll probably fall asleep. Sugeer! (It's okay!) Sleep. Just relax, take it all in, and come back hours later. Text your sitemates to keep them in the loop if you want. This seems to work well in the 9 warmer months here, which we are rapidly approaching. Also, from the makers of sit in the hoodo, comes sleep in the hoodo! Way fun too, especially if you bring the inflatable mattress.
- MAKE A LIFE LIST... I'm a huge fan of lists, so the idea of a Life List gets me jittery with excitement. Basically the idea is to think about your life and what you really want to do with the time you have (probably less than you think by the way) and then write it down bullet-point fashion. You can keep it secret on your silver laptop or you can share it with the entire planet on a site like 43Things.com. Whatever you choose, it's fun to have a reminder of what success and happiness mean to you and then work at it day by day. Aww!
- EVOLVE & DEVOLVE... Don't read or watch just anything, read or watch with a purpose. Sometimes I read to improve myself (ZenHabits, PhilosophersNotes, spirituality stuff) but sometimes I try to do the opposite (Die Hard and any Samuel L. Jackson movie are perfect). I guess it's helpful to purposefully waste time by doing things that you know are ridiculous and not feel guilty about it.
- WHY SO SERIOUS?... Oh Joker, you're so right. It's nice to take the time to realize that we have it pretty good. Pretty flippin' good. Think about some things you're thankful for, message people who love and you're glad are in your life, think about things from other people's perspectives, practice the theory that everything is an opportunity if you just choose to see it that way.
- HARASS TRAVIS... If you made it this far, I deserve it. Be gentle. I'm gonna go watch Die Hard.