Soup for Stress

Last Friday, my doctor signed me off work for three weeks with stress – again.  It was a bit of a shock.  It always is a bit of shock when it happens.  You go into the doctor’s surgery with a mind full of work, wondering how soon you can get back into the staffroom and start marking, and whether you’ll find a place in the car park… then you drive home, to an empty house and the cat.  That morning seemed to go on for ever.  I didn’t know what to do with myself.  Thinking I might like some soup for lunch, I delved into the vegetable drawer to see what I had to make it with and ended up making three different sorts:  mixed vegetable, cauliflower and borsch.

Borsch.  Russian beetroot soup.

My husband doesn’t like borsch.

My one and only husband seriously doesn’t like borsch, having seen it steaming from square stainless steel vats in the Hotel Cosmos in Moscow.  And, unlike the Hotel Cosmos, I didn’t have sour cream to serve it with.  However, I was gratified when, at Saturday lunchtime, he ate and enjoyed some of the cauliflower soup – which was as well as I’d made about one litre of the stuff.

Back to Friday afternoon, though.  I ordered online a hand-mixer with rotary blades, so that I didn’t have to go to the trouble of pouring hot soup from the pan into my (existing) food processor in order to liquidise it, then I cleaned my house.  On Saturday morning, I sorted out which bits of my food processor were broken (since about twelve months ago) and ordered replacement parts online, including a whisk attachment which looked more or less like the rotary blades on the hand-mixer.

You may wonder where all this is going, Dear Reader.  I think what I’m trying to say is I’m struggling to get off the hamster wheel.   I spent a large part of Saturday and Sunday preparing lessons for cover tutors and emailed it to my boss on Sunday night.  Monday, Tuesday and today (Wednesday), I have used to catch up with marking.   There are lots of other work-related things I could do now, which would relieve my burden when I do return to work.  You can take the lecturer out of college but you can’t take the college out of the lecturer.  I wish you could.

I’m aware that, during term-time, I don’t have a life, because I’m working all the time, including weekends and

Two signs, pointingto stress and relax, in opposite directions.

several evenings per week.  Don’t get me started on ‘teachers’ long holidays’, even though we college lecturers don’t get the same deal as school teachers.  Stress and overwork – not pay – are the real reasons why schools and colleges cannot recruit and why young graduates who do enter the profession don’t stay.  They’re burnt out by thirty.  Same with doctors and nurses;  my GP admitted as much when I saw him last Friday.

However, in spite of all the lesson-preparation and marking, my day-to-day existence has become more managable, the fridge cleared out, the newspaper read, a bit of reading done, two blog posts written.  Now, I’m sitting here this evening thinking about reading some more womag stories with a view to understanding that market well enough to write an ‘acceptable’ womag story.  This has always been the biggie in my writing career.

You may wonder what a post like this is doing on a blog about writing, especially on a blog called ‘Write On’.  I confess that I’m not doing much writing at the moment, because of being overwhelmed by the above.  A few days ago, I read Cate Russell-Cole’s post on CommuniCATE, Write to Combat Depression, which I recommend, although I find depression dries up my creativity.   Over the last few months, I’ve only had the energy to read in the small amount of spare time I have and you may think that I’ve posted so many book reviews recently that I should rename this blog ‘Read On’.  What I’d  like to do is to write some more general diary-type posts from time to time, because I  find other people’s lives interesting.  Hope that’s all right with you, Dear Reader.


9 thoughts on “Soup for Stress

  1. Hi Charlie. Oh how I sympathise. I’ve been there myself and can so relate to your coming home to an empty (bar the cat) house and floundering a bit.Working from home now I do it quite a lot except it’s there when I wake up! And unfortunately I’m more likely to make cakes than soup 😦
    So much to say to you, but don’t want to overdo it. My husband’s a university prof as you probably have seen from my blog – which means that he not only has to do the teaching, researching and basic admin but, partly hoping to secure his livelihood, has had to take on ever more demanding roles beyond his own department. Which is fine – except that, as I realised last night, every night now I hear about the latest meeting, the people who are angry about the fact they have to apply for their personal allowances, check their grant applications and research proposals for ethical considerations, etc etc etc. He used to tell me about classes, tutorials, individuals he was worried about or inspired by or maddened by. He’s a good teacher, a caring person – and he’s stressed to bits and worn out. Yes, those long holidays – which ones are those? His research takes him away for weeks on end and he has to then write it all up. It’s not a library subject.
    Anyway, I’m preaching to the converted (wrong expression but you know what I mean).
    I know it’s hard to write when you feel it’s futile or you feel empty – or any such thing. But maybe you could have a go at some of the WordPress daily challenges. Then you’re not coming up with the idea yourself – I find them quite useful though I don’t often do them – usually when I’m stuck. And write what you feel like – you never know what’s going to tickle your readers’ fancies! Look forward to more, keep warm and keep well, Mx

  2. Thank you for your long reply. You’re not overdoing it at all. I can see that your husband is stretched as well. It’s the admin tasks that drive you crazy and waste so much time.

    Thank you for pointing me to the Daily Post Challenges. I will look at those.

  3. Sorry to hear that you’re struggling at the moment, Charlie, and hope you’ll begin to feel better soon. Time off work is always a double-edged sword – it’s good to get some time away, but hard to switch off from the things you feel you ought to be getting on with. Take care, and write what you like when you like – easier to say than to do, I know, but try not to put pressure on yourself. 🙂

  4. I can understand stress would make it difficult to get on with writing, or concentrate on reading even if you do have the time. Same goes for depression. Hope things pick up for you soon.

    btw, I’ve never tried borsch. I should probably give it a go.

  5. I think it demonstrated how driven you are when, despite being signed off with stress, you didn’t just head home and slob in front of the telly for the next few hours but started on another round of domestic tasks. Think you may need to factor in some down time, when you completely switch off and do nothing. Have you ever tried meditation? It’s very therapeutic, after you have come to terms with the guilt of not completing anything for an hour, or so.

  6. Thanks, Julie, Patsy and FictionFan for your support and sympathy. Yes, it is difficult to concentrate on anything much and I’m getting frustrated at not getting anything done, also not seeing anyone outside the home. I went to church this morning and made an effort to chat with people. I generally find practical tasks, especially cooking, soothing. I understand the need to do nothing for a while but find that very hard, because normally my life is so rammed and I never have enough time for anything.

  7. To satisfy your compulsion to do things, make a list of all the hours you plan to do nothing and then tick it off as you go along…just kidding! It takes a little while to slow down so cut yourself some slack but I do find cooking very relaxing: the menial tasks of chopping vegetables, stirring and waiting for something to be ready. As a compulsive that fills her day with lists of things that will never get done, I relate and sympathize. Enjoy the holidays though!

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