Our case management office (bullpen, as I like to call it in homage to The West Wing [watch the whole clip]) is one big room on the second floor. It makes for a humor and congenial, if occasionally loud workplace, what with seven not entirely sedate or normal people working there. So long as we can steal coffee from the family based office down the hall, no one tries to make popcorn while someone else is on the phone, and anything bawdy is erased from the whiteboard before visitors arrive life is free and easy. I frown upon the tendency to call anyone who is also in the building. It’s more civilized to talk face to face, and better exercise. On one of my numerous trips back up the stairs I found that my usual two-at-a-time pace was only sustainable with the invisible yet distinct sensation of steam coming off my thighs. Which is a reliable sign that I did a good job training/playing this weekend.
A while ago skimo racer and nerd Brian Harder wrote about non-training stress and its role in endurance training, eloquently summarizing a few things I’ve thought for quite some time. Stress in the physical sense of exercise and stress in the sense of work and family are peculiar bedfellows; both alike and different in fluid ways, the relationship staying emphatically not consistent over the course of a year. I could say all I want about my particular findings, like the growing taut lightness in my core muscle which finally signals the onset of decent fitness, but they may not generalize at all well to anyone else. The important lessons are first, that the give and take of turning the navigation of daily living into concrete achievement must be viewed holistically, and second, that for all the vagaries inherent in this process certain subtle markers seem to endure from year to year.
I also agree with Mr. Harder that a lot of folks under-rest. One reason I try to avoid using alarm clocks unless there is no recourse.
The other side of the stress/rest equation, when discussing how the two are transported between work and leisure, is the crucial role of recreational stress in being able to survive a serious job in a sustainable and coherent fashion. I’ve long since lost track of the times I’ve been asked, in social situations, how I manage to do what I do for work and stay sane. There is no simple answer, and I’ve seen plenty of folks go off the rez with ugly results, but it is not so different than what most of you are obliged to do. It seems to me that having a meaningful job means it will be stressful, which in turn means that on regular occasions you’ll wonder why the fuck you aren’t making pizzas/shelving books/something else very different for a/the living. The same, perhaps identical thing goes for recreation: most of the things which people regularly report as fun in a non-shallow, life-involving way are stressful. At least occasionally.
For my own part, the only way I can get the professional side of my stress out of head is to be immersed in something else. Thankfully, I’ve never found that hard to do. Which is the number one way to stay sane as a social worker: have a life. If your life is worth living only because of what you do for other people, you will likely sooner than later run out of compelling reasons to get out of bed.