5 Questions I Ask Myself When I am Overwhelmed and Stressed

The Unstressed was my chosen domain when I started blogging in 2011. It is more of an aspiration than my state of mind. When I started this blog, I just wanted to keep track of my thoughts and activities. Sometimes I find myself pondering how my month went and I felt I wasted some of my time not accomplishing anything. Through writing, I was able to compose my thoughts, relive memories and express my ideas. Writing helped me become a little introspective and perceptive of what is going on in my life. At times, it relaxes me. When I write, I can clearly see what is important in my life.

In many challenging situations, I try to look unfazed but deep inside, I am panicking. In a conversation with a cousin on how we were supposed to do our tasks in one project we were doing, I told her that we should not look like we are out of control. Yes, we can fake it until we make it. Eventually (oftentimes it is the case), the universe will conspire to make it happen. For us who believe in God, it is about faith. God got us through it and will continue to do so in the future. But along the way, butterflies fluttered in my stomach, food became my comfort and midnight oils were burned. When the situation is over, I would thank high heavens and breathe a sigh of relief.

I have been into many stressful situations before. I have worked as an Information Technology specialist and I always raged against machines, deadlines, people and situations within and beyond my control. Servers stopped working. Data was inaccessible. Drive corrupted. I waited reports handling millions of transactions on a Pentium II machine. (Yes, I am that old, children.)

I was in stressful family situations. My mother got into an accident. My mother had a heart attack. My father had cancer. He was bedridden for 5 months. I am an only child, single and childless. In a span of five years, I lost both my parents and I also quit my job. It could have been a miserable life but it was not. I get to appreciate life better. The experience was a reminder how finite our time on earth is.

Losing both parents may be the worst thing that happened to me. I could say that I have been through the worst so nothing could ever frighten me anymore but I could not. I still get overwhelmed with deadlines to meet, cry over a friend’s death, lament over situations under and/or beyond my control and I still panic over projects I get myself into. I worry over the simple things but, in many cases, I do not let the worries show. For some reason, that works for me.

It is difficult to mask my worries but I do this by processing them in my head. I know when I am overwhelmed with tasks when I no longer have the motivation to act on the tasks. When I become a pessimist and no longer think that my effort would accomplish anything, I am overwhelmed. I often sleep on it. I would not let worry allow me to lose sleep. If there is one thing that I must gain from the experience, it is rest. They say that during quiet times, you can hear yourself. In these moments, I ask a few questions.

1. What is the worst thing that can happen if I will not do this?
As a freelancer, I manage my own time. I am supposed to be in control of my schedule and activities. As much as I would like to just do the things that make me happy, I have bills to pay. Most of the things that make me happy do not pay the bills. I am still working towards earning from the things I like doing. For the moment, I earn from things I know how to do but not exactly what I want to do. I accept projects because I see them as opportunities that might lead to what I want in life. Who knows? What I will learn, who I will meet and what I can contribute if I accept a project will lead to something I might actually like doing. However, there are just times that these projects come in succession and I can see the work I need the put in to accomplish them. Then I get overwhelmed.

When I am overwhelmed, I ask myself: What is the worst thing that can happen if I will not do this? What happens when I do this tomorrow instead of today? Can I negotiate to extend the deadline?

I get overwhelmed because I want things done the soonest. I get overwhelmed when I accept tasks that challenge my own personality. I am an introvert. When I accept tasks that require me to meet people for the first time, I get nervous. But I accept the task anyway. I believe in showing up and trying something I am afraid to do. When I see that the worst thing that can happen does not involve death or going in to prison, I should not worry. I can sleep on it and take things one step at a time.

2. What do I really want in life?
I have realized early on in life that money and social status do not make me happy. Spending time with people I love makes me happy. So I make time to be with family, travel with friends and family, plan activities that enable me to be with family or just simply being there when they need me even when all I can offer is my presence. Pursuing some creative activities make me happy. I make time to do some art, shoot photos, travel, write and organize my home. Of course, there are times that work gets in the way. I compromise. I make up for lost time. I know what it is like to lose loved ones. I realized how short our life on earth is. I may take steps in prolonging my life by looking after my health but nothing is certain. The only thing I am certain is the present moment so I make the most out of short time I have on earth.

It may sound selfish and narcissistic to focus on my own happiness. But that is me. Other people may have different goals. Others want to lead a life of service. Some want fame and fortune. I want happiness and if my task at hand would lead me to happiness, I would go for it. I easily dropped tasks in the past that did not make me happy. I will not do things when my heart is not committed to the task. I seldom cross that gray line. I do my best in many things that I do. I always invest my best work into the process. If I lack the motivation to do my best, there must be something wrong with that task.

3. Will this task lead me to where I want to be in the future?
Right now, happiness for me is spending time with people I love and pursuing activities that I enjoy. If the thing that worries me does not lead to happiness, then I let it go. Sometimes in pursuit of these activities, I need budget for them. I do not have a fat bank account. I need to work in order to be able to have the resources to do the things I want to do. When I feel that work has become stressful, I pause. Maybe I can pursue the activity some other time. I make adjustments. I weigh things. If the pursuit of what I wanted takes a toll at my health, I need to stop somewhere. When health is affected, everything else takes a back seat.

4. How bad do I want it?
A friend often said, “People change.” I change. Otherwise, we do not grow. The things that bring me happiness before may not bring me the same happiness in the future. One day, when my body can no longer sustain long travels (which I hope will not happen. ha!), I may change my definition of happiness. It always helps me if I reflect on my motivation to do the task. Why do I need to do this task? Sometimes, I ask myself if I need money that bad. Can I live with less? Can I live with fewer worries and with fewer amounts in my pocket? If I can, then I know that I should not say yes to the same project next time. As much as possible I avoid money as a motivator because it does not give me what I need. I try to accept projects that give value to what I do. I like doing projects that enhance my skills and utilize my talent. If I feel I will learn something from it, I accept the project. When the process and outcome of the project do not meet my expectations or if I do not feel right doing it again, I make a mental note not to accept such a project next time. No amount of money can push me to do things I know I am not comfortable doing. I try things once and if I do not like doing them again, I don’t. I love the idea of working hard to reach my dreams but I know can also work smart. If I can skip the things that I think would be a waste of time, I skip them. This brings me to the last question.

5. Are there any other ways in getting what I want in life?
Around five years ago, I enrolled in an alternative learning class on bakery. Every week for 6 months, the class would learn how to bake different cake recipes. For 4 hours each Satuday, I went to school. I would bring all the materials and ingredients and follow the recipe which we copied the week before. The fee was only Php 500 but we buy our own ingredients and materials. We baked in school. I finished the course but I did not enroll in another course. I realized I can learn the same thing online. I can watch online videos and read instructions on how to bake cakes. I do not have to carry those materials every week only to clean them up and carry back to my house. I could save time and effort in doing that by learning how to bake in comforts of my own kitchen, YouTube videos and online instructions. There are infinitely many ways in going from point A to point B. Similarly, there are many ways in achieving my dreams. I just hope I can find a way to take the smartest route.

I have simple dreams and simple responsibilities. I know that there people with greater responsibilities. The amount of stress they carry can be enormous and my way of coping may not be applicable to them. I am only sharing how I cope. It may only be applicable to me. If you have reached this far, I thank you for reading this.

Art has become my creative outlet in coping with stress. With the popularity of adult coloring books, I am happy three pages of Johanna Basford’s Enchanted Garden are made available in her website. The copies have been sold out and to cater to those who cannot wait for the new stocks to be printed, she shared three pages which you can print on your own. I printed mine on a 300 GSM paper so I can use my watercolor pencils.


The Memories I Treasure (July 2015)

July has brought me joy and pains. Life is a journey and it is not always a smooth ride. I am thankful for friends who were there to ease the pain and made life a little brighter and for my  family who always had my back.

I welcomed July full of hope. My nephew celebrated his 4th birthday. We brought him to a pool. It was a simple celebration but seeing the smile on his face brought joy in our hearts.


On the second Saturday of July, I received a devastating news. My college roommate, Odessa, lost her battle against ovarian cancer. She was 40 and full of life. I was able to visit her during her second session of chemotherapy last March and she was doing great. Her positive spirit radiated.  My other roommates, common friends and I were all heartbroken with the news. We consoled each other virtually because we lived far apart.  We were comforted with all the Facebook messages on Odessa’s wall- it is amazing how she touched a lot of people in her short time in this world.  This experience brought me to a realization that life is unpredictable. Even if we look after our health, there are several factors that affects its longevity.  There are just things beyond our control. The best thing we can do is live life to fullest and let our loved one know how much we love them.

So as much as possible, I make time for family and friends.

I met Grace and her family.


I had a meetup with my cousin.


I had dinner with friends after watching a movie with them.


My aunt also celebrated her 60th birthday. We had a simple celebration. Her colorful cake only cost us Php200 (around USD 5).


We also went to meet relatives. They were staying in a hotel in the city.   I took these photos in the hotel grounds.


I also watched a movie with my cousin, Ghia.

In July, I had the chance to explore remote places in the region.

This is in my father’s hometown in Santiago, Agusan del Norte.  I have to been to Santiago several times but not in Barangay Pangaylan. It was only in the past year that  four-wheeled vehicles can pass this area.  I  am thankful that we still have thick forest cover in this area.


I also went to Brgy Casiklan in Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte. I remember that our vehicle was moving uphill then we reached this clearing. I did not see any mountain. Does this meaning we are already on top?

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Oh, I now have a mini- herb garden. I was able to buy the plants when I went to Dahilayan with Grace.


I cannot survive the month without doing some art.  I tried drawing with ink, sent some mails and painted a realistic leaf based on an actual leaf.


 I also made some art at the request of friends.  I am thankful for their trust in my skills.


This is how I lived my life the fullest.  I embrace the ups and downs. Say my prayers and just live like I mean it.

Meet my friend, Grace.

They say that there is a slim chance in finding real friends on Facebook. I took a chance and found one in Grace.

Grace and I have been Facebook friends since 2011. It started when a common friend, Ginee, suggested that we add each other as friends since we often found each other commenting in Ginee’s posts. It turned out that Grace was my college roommate’s best friend in grade school, too.  Our world became smaller. As I kept updated with her life through Facebook (and she got updates with mine , too), I got to know Grace better.

Fast forward to 2014, I found her workout clip on Instagram (Gracegetfit). She was into a fitness regimen for several weeks already and I found her exercise routine to be something I can manage. It was Les Mills Combat. I tried it and I loved it. She was my one-man support team who encouraged me to get up and move. She gave me tips on what to eat and what to avoid, although I hardly follow them.  Thanks to Grace, I get compliments that I am now trimmer. I am still not in my ideal size (flat abs is the goal!). But I am happy to have a cheerleader in Grace. She has a cheerleader in me.  We’ll get there, you elusive flat abs!

Grace embraced (more like, endured, haha!) my quirks, inner weirdo and eccentricities. I do not have to edit or put careful thoughts on what I tell her. I do not get judged for what I did or said. She listens to my woes and triumphs and shares her thoughts on what I have shared.

In many of our conversations, we had planned to meet when she comes home to the Philippines.  You see, Grace was born and raised in the Philippines, studied in Japan and works in Dubai. She had not been home for years and her Philippine vacation was long overdue. We had often quipped that we would meet in some coffee shop and chat on our mobile devices.  We are both introverted.

Since last year, she had been planning to spend her vacation here in the Philippines in July. It finally pushed through. I agreed to meet her. She planned to visit Butuan but with two kids in tow and one is not accustomed to long drive. Butuan is five hours away by bus so I went to meet her in Cagayan de Oro.  I stayed overnight in her parents’ home (which she and her siblings helped build). How cool is that? I have not met her before and here she was opening her home to me. She was more awesome in person than I imagined her to be and we did not have to pull out our devices to have a conversation. It felt like we have been friends for a long time.


Grace and me with Grace’s son, Benja, goofing around.

I went with her on a trip to Dahilayan in Bukidnon. Grace has a wonderful family who is easily to get along with.


And she has an equally awesome daughter, Pristine, who easily became my buddy. We crossed the hanging bridge together shouting at the top of our lungs, every time the bridge wobbled.  Ha!


Me and the lovely, Pristine.

I compiled all my photos with Grace. Thank you for being such a wonderful person, Grace! I had a wonderful time. Cheers to friendship!

Photos are all taken by Grace (stolen by me!)

Photos are all taken by Grace (stolen by me!)

Grace is also a blogger. She is one of Dubai’s Influential Bloggers. She writes about her experiences in SandierPastures.com.  Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Like her page on Facebook.

I end this post with this thought.


My Awesome June 2015

The end of July is fast approaching and I am behind with my posts.  I should have written down the thoughts in my head. I try not to dwell on the should’ve, would’ve , could’ve so here I am trying to write a decent post.

The highlight of my June was the Coron trip.  I am grateful for friends who made the trip more memorable. We all had fun. Some of them met for the first time in this trip but left the place as friends.


While in Manila, I met other friends, too. These are my high school classmates.


And these are my elementary friends. Technically, only two of them are. Mitzi became my friend way after college but she was already friends with Shirly and Wilbert. Gail is a friend from high school. I like introducing my friends to my other friends.


Lunch at Mom and Tina’s with Mitzi, Gail, Shirly and Wilbert.

In June, I fulfilled my longtime wish… to visit the Rizal Monument in Luneta! I had to have my picture taken at this angle to avoid showing the Torre de Manila in the background.


 I got gifts from friends. How awesome are my friends?  Grace sent me workout clothes and some cute stuff.


I got layers of leche flan from Erns and egg pies from Teram. Yes, I love anything custard.


I made homemade halo-halo and healthy ice cream.  The other colorful candies in the glass are just for the photoshoot.


I did some fun art stuff. This is a random  art stuff which I did not use pencil. I started with watercolor and just added colors upon colors.


I sent mail exchanges for the Flourish Forum friends.



Because of all the fun things I did last June, I cannot remember working. I think it is a good thing when work does not feel like work at all.

May 2015 Roundup

It is almost July and I have a blogging backlog. I cannot start writing about the past month without this gratitude post to everything that happened. May was a busy month. (What month isn’t?)  My month was filled of activities- some creative, some fun, some experiments and some fun, creative experiments.

May was pretty hot and humid. I had to move my workarea to one closer to the window so I could feel some breeze.


Our dog  who used to hang out  near me went to find a cooler place to rest. She was in my aunt’s house under the table.  It was that hot.


Even with the hot weather, we had to move and prepare because May is fiesta month! Buntings in the park were up as early as the last week of April. My cousin who would not be able to attend the celebration posed for photo near the church.


She was around for the alumni homecoming of her high school  and she also helped my other cousin prepare for the different activities since our cousin’s batch is the silver jubilarian. They had a fairy theme in one of the parties.


Of course,  I had to try the headdress, too.  I hang around while they were preparing.


Because fiesta was coming up, we experimented on some recipes.

We tried kutsinta.


We had mango-sago dessert.

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I tried to cook leche flan.


Since I only used egg yolks in the leche flan, I had to look for desserts that use egg whites in the ingredients. I tried Pavlova. I cooked this in the microwave.

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Not all the food we made were meant for the fiesta celebration. I tried to make homemade ice cream for the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight which turned out to be a comfort food rather than a celebratory dessert. We all know what happened.


Some good food are not experiments but gifts from generous friends. In one Saturday, we had laing and dried squid for lunch.


Some lunch food are made by  my aunt’s former cook.


My May was also spent bonding with friends.

My high school classmate from General Santos City visited me.


My friends and I had a breakfast get-together with a visiting friend.


We went to our grade school alumni homecoming.


We also attended my friend’s parent’s wedding anniversary.


I was the designated photographer at the wedding. A 50th wedding anniversary deserved to be celebrated!


May was also mother’s day and this year is also mama’s 10th death anniversary. I said a prayer and offered mass for my mama.


Of course, I practiced some calligraphy. I joined the Flourish Forum and there is a birthday exchange where we mail birthday cards to celebrants for the month who enlisted in the exchange.  My calligraphy is still shaky but I made the cards anyway.


I learned how to do zentangles. It’s fun.


All in all, May was a great month and I am thankful for the memories, experiences  and blessings.


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