Hi! Dr. Olsen has left the question, and I'll be taking over. I have read your question and replies very carefully and I believe I can be of help with this issue.
First, I want to say I can imagine how worrisome and scary your situation is for you until you graduate. At the end of my answer I'm going to add a technique I want you to use for helping yourself with the stress.
The key to what you MUST do to get through this is in the date you gave in your first question posting: you know that you have to maintain this schedule for about one and a half to two years. Okay, that's our starting point. It sounds as though your husband is supportive. Good. So, the first thing I want you to do is to make a big calendar of the time left till you're done with school with the milestones that will occur. There has to be a milestone at least every 2-3 months marked off on the calendar. I don't care if the milestone is that this quarter or semester is half over. It has to be a milestone that can be "X"ed off. And this X-ing off has to be a celebratory event for the whole family. I would like to see the extended family even involved, if possible. But certainly the inner family. If it means your husband takes you out for an evening out that night or pizza for the whole gang, whatever, it must be noted that you've just passed another milestone in this marathon!
This is number one: you have to have goals that are smaller than just your big overpowering goal because it's too big and too far away.
Okay, then I need you to reorient your view of what vacations are and what counts as relaxations:
You know how people come back from vacations and say "I need a vacation to recover from my vacation!" Why? Because they did a lot of activities but they never really connected with THEMSELVES during their vacation! What makes a vacation great is when you reconnect with yourself or with someone special in your life. So, you have to focus on two things:
1. You need to read my answer to your husband and discuss it together. You need to reconnect with each other. That means in two ways: he needs to take you out of your focus for a five minute connection break, not out to dinner for a whole evening, but for a 5 minute walk around the block, or a 5 minute dance to an old song you both like, or aXXXXXto Starbucks to get some coffee. He needs to listen without offering any solutions. NO SOLUTIONS. Just, how are you doing. He needs to read this so I can assure him, you will love him more than ever if he does this! Second, once a week he's got to do something with you that is longer than the 5 minutes. I don't care if it's sitting INSIDE the Starbucks and having a real conversation about what his dreams and life is like as well as your life, or if it's a romantic night, or renting a video and sitting in each others arms. Get the idea? I don't think time management is your problem, so I'm not even mentioning it. I think "self" management is the problem!
2. Your SELF! Remember: you can have a 2-week vacation and what will make it memorable might be a 2 hour event or new awareness you came up with. Well, you need to get back to your self every single day. I'm not talking about meditating for half an hour (yet...) because you will see that if you set your alarm on your phone for an hour into your studies or housework or whatever and take 5 minutes to just sit with no radio, TV, or computer and just breathe and think about your self, you will start looking forward to your "breaks"! Once every third day I need you to start learning how to meditate! That's right. You need to start taking what you said as a real, true insight into yourself: you knew in your first posting that you NEED to take better care of yourself. But it isn't your body you need to worry about here. It's your SELF that needs attention! So, don't laugh it off. Here is a great book to learn from. I'm a psychologist in private practice and this author is a psychologist who has done more to bring meditation into mainstream psychology than any other professional. So, start with this book: Wherever You Go There You Are
by Jon Kabat-Zinn. (Great title isn't it?) It's a classic book and you can get used copies cheaply. Here's the Amazon web page for it:
Okay. So again, let me stress that the problem is not time management, it's allowing your SELF not to be swallowed up by how well you're managing your time to get things ACCOMPLISHED but not to NURTURE your self.
We're now ready for the technique I want you to use when you are feeling stressed. At first you can even use this to get your 5 minute breaks started. You can teach it to your husband! It talks about anxiety and panic attacks, but don't let that throw you off: stress is what anxiety is made of at first. So, enjoy the benefits of this technique:
Here are instructions on a therapeutic protocol called Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). It's really quite easy to do almost anywhere. My patients suffering from depression or anxiety, when I teach them PMR at first are amazed how simple it is and that it is a psychological protocol. It was first used in the 1920s! Since then, of course, it has been refined and many studies have been done showing its effectiveness. You will practice PMR at first when you don't wake up with an attack so that you will be familiar with it. I want you to practice the PMR at least 5-6 times before an attack or feeling acute anxiety. Why? Because when you're in the throes of anxiety, you will only remember to do something you are very familiar with it. So practicing 5-6 times is really a minimum. And this is good also for just general anxiety without panic attacks and for feeling as though you are in a dark hole of depression as well.
I want to stress the importance of breathing as well. Part of the physiology of what is happening to you in a panic attack is that your breathing is getting shallower. This reduces the oxygen in your blood to your brain. That increases the anxiety reaction, which strengthens the attack and you are in a vicious cycle! Not good. So breathing is the primary tool. I have found in my practice that learning breathing techniques can be helpful. But some of my patients are not interested in learning more than one thing at the beginning, so I have found that just reminding you to BREATHE deeply at the same time you are doing PMR is almost as good. If you are willing to take a yoga class for seniors and learn breathing techniques, that's the best. But, breathing deeply with your PMR will help.
So, we're ready for learning PMR. I want you to print my instructions below my signature and have a copy in each of the rooms of your home where you may be when you have an attack. And again, you need to practice this easy technique at least 5-6 times as soon as you can. It needs to become as natural to you as breathing. Ah, remember breathing?
- After finding a quiet place and several free minutes to practice progressive muscle relaxation, sit or lie down and make yourself comfortable.
- Begin by tensing all the muscles in your face. Make a tight grimace, close your eyes as tightly as possible, clench your teeth, even move your ears up if you can. Hold this for the count of eight as you inhale.
- Now exhale and relax completely. Let your face go completely lax, as though you were sleeping. Feel the tension seep from your facial muscles, and enjoy the feeling.
- Next, completely tense your neck and shoulders, again inhaling and counting to eight. Then exhale and relax.
- Continue down your body, repeating the procedure with the following muscle groups:
- entire right arm
- right forearm and hand (making a fist)
- right hand
- entire left arm
- left forearm and hand (again, making a fist)
- left hand
- entire right leg
- lower right leg and foot
- right foot
- entire left leg
- lower left leg and foot
- left foot
- for the shortened version, which includes just four main muscle groups:
- neck, shoulders and arms
- abdomen and chest
- buttocks, legs and feet
Quickly focusing on each group one after the other, with practice you can relax your body like ‘liquid relaxation’ poured on your head and it flowed down and completely covered you. You can use progressive muscle relaxation to quickly de-stress any time.
What You Need:
- A comfortable place.
- Some privacy.
- A few minutes.