My world is changing.

My 16 year old son landed his first job. My husband is working from home a couple days a week, and I just interviewed for a part-time gig repairing woodwind instruments for a music shop in a town an hour away from home. My 13 year old daughter and I are working to start landing instrument repair jobs in the small town in which we live. Our ultimate goal is to own a music repair business that donates instruments to school, and individual kids who can’t afford their own. We live in a rural area and there are several kids each school year who can’t participate in band, or learn an instrument because their parents can’t or won’t rent/buy an instrument, and the local school doesn’t have loaners. My daughter started bring home instruments belonging to friends for quick, easy fixes. She and I learned how to repad, recork, troubleshoot and repair clarinets, saxophones, flutes, and oboes in order to help out one of the bands she plays for. For the past year we’ve been buying clarinets, flutes and saxophones from thrift shops, and on-line auctions. I fix them, and either sell or donate them. So far it’s pretty much paid for itself and we’re looking to expand our skills and our business model.

But, it’s a lot of change, both in my practical every day life, and in my head. It’s the changes going on in my head that are the most stressful and difficult to deal with, I think.

As any parent of teenagers will probably tell you, there’s a mental shift that happens when a child lands a part-time job. They’ve taken on adult responsibilities, and that first job changes not only them, but you as well. That mental shift is happening now with my son. It’s good. It’s time for him to get involved with “the real world,” time for him to take on some responsibility for himself. He’s adjusting well to working part-time, and I think the change is also improving his college work. But, as Mom, my little boy is growing up.

My husband is no longer allowed to drive. His doctor wrote and order several months ago, telling him not to drive. So, I am doing all the driving (16 year old son has his permit, but not his license). My husband works about an hour away from home. I was driving him to and from work each day — that’s 2 hours there, and 2 hours back, 5 days a week. I was driving 20+hours each week, just to get him back and forth for work. So we talked to his company, and he now works from home twice a week. To be honest, it’s a good change. Driving him to and from work every day was seriously wearing on me, and getting two days a week where I don’t have to spend 4+ hours driving is a relief. The adjustment to having him home more often has been an easy one for all of us. The 8 hours or so of commuting time we save gives both of us time for other things.

As part of the instrument repair thing, I decided that it would be good training to work with a small music shop in a neighboring town. I called the shop a few months ago and explained what I’m doing, and why. They offered me some training time, access to their tech for things I can’t do, and use of some of their tools. After a few weeks, I stopped hearing back from the tech. One day when I went in for clarinet reeds, I ran into the owner. I told him that their tech was no longer answering my texts, and asked if something had changed. That’s when he told me that the tech left. He landed a job in his degree field and moved out of state. We talked for a few minutes, and next thing I knew, I was interviewing for a part-time job repairing instruments for the shop. The bench test was yesterday. When I left the owner told me he’d call me today to discuss hours, salary, and the like.

Another good change. Landing this job means I’m eligible to join the instrument repair professional organization.They offer live training classes, conferences, access to their large library of training videos and books, and “back door” access to people and companies to make replacement parts for horns. It gives me credibility with the schools in my local area, making it possible for me to land repair contracts with those schools. Because I’m local, I can provide basic troubleshooting and repair services to the schools for a lower price than their current contracts. Plus, I’m in town, while the techs at the big shops are all about 2 hours away. Using me is less hassle for everyone. I don’t have an offer yet, but the owner and I were talking about partnering to offer some other music services in my local area — things that aren’t currently available here.

All of these are good changes. But, even good change is stressful. I’m sticking my toes into several things that I’ve never done before. Instrument repair is just the start. I’m actively working to build our music instrument repair/sales/donation business model. While I’ve been a freelance writer for 20+ years, I haven’t done a whole lot of “business building,” so it’s all pretty new to me. I’m also trying to apply what I’m learning about business building to my natural health work. I’m not giving up on it, I’m looking for ways to expand what I’m doing without breaking any laws in my state.

That brings us back to managing the stress that comes with change. Did you know that heart attacks, strokes, increased blood sugar, high blood pressure and other stress related illnesses increase significantly during times of change? Researchers have shown that they can actually predict who will develop new stress related illnesses based on evaluating the changes going on in people’s lives. And good change is no less a risk factor than “bad” change. People who get married, start new businesses, have or adopt a baby, start new jobs, buy a house, etc are just as much at risk for stress related illnesses as the people who get divorced, lose a job or a business, struggle financially, experience a death of a loved one, etc.

So, how do you manage that stress so it doesn’t adversely effect your health?

  • Eat healthy — avoid sugar and alcohol. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. Mange your protein intake, making sure you get enough, without eating too much. Eat enough healthy fat.
  • Get enough sleep. Most Americans are at least mildly sleep deprived. We simply don’t get enough. But getting enough sleep is critical to stress management. Without proper sleep the body can’t effectively cope with the damaging hormones that stress releases. Make it a point to shut off screens several hours before bedtime. The blue light emitted by electronics impairs sleep. Set regular times to go to bed, and to get up in the morning. Stick that schedule, even on weekends. Schedule *at least* 8 full hours of sleep time each and every night. Eat your last meal at least 2 hours before your scheduled sleep time – 3-5 hours are better. Avoid prescription or over the counter sleeping pills. They tend to create dependence. Instead, if you need a sleep aid, try an Epsom salt soak, or magnesium supplement. Magnesium promotes good sleep. You can use the herb Kava Kava, or even use aromatherapy to aid in sleep. Lavender is a popular scent that helps with sleep.
  • Get enough of the right kind of exercise. I have found that the most stress reducing exercise routine is the one suggested by the Primal crowd. Lots of daily, low impact, low heart rate exercise, (like walking) combined with high intensity cardio training (HIIT) no more than once every 7 – 10 days along with 1 or 2 weight training sessions. Weigh training should focus on lifting high weights with low reps. If you can lift it more that 5 times, it’s too light! Yes, even the ladies. If you’re under an overwhelming amount of stress, you should opt for walking a lot, once a week weight training, and skipping the HIIT entirely until your life stress reduces.
  • Spend time doing things you love. This is counter intuitive for most people. I know it is for me. If I’m under stress especially if things aren’t going well, or I’m working on a new project, I don’t want to take time out to have fun. My mind is preoccupied with the stressor and I have a tendency to hyper focus on the stress. I think most people do this and it’s seriously damaging to health. Force yourself to take time out every single day to do something that makes you happy. Whether that’s taking a walk alone, or hanging out with friends. Your body and your mind need that break.
  • Don’t cut yourself off from your support system. Many people withdraw when they are under stress, but just like hyper focusing, it’s detrimental to your mental and physical health.
  • Learn something new. Acquiring new information stimulates brain function.
  • Carve out space every single day for quiet and stillness. It doesn’t matter if you use that time for prayer and meditation or if you simply sit quietly and let your mind wander. Getting away from the “busy” if only for a few minutes reduces stress, and the negative effects of stress. Although studies show that prayer and meditation do have a bigger effect than simply doing nothing.

While it can feel like doing all these things in times of high stress is more work than it’s worth, you can’t fix a problem, or take care of others if you don’t first care for yourself.

* Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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