Dealing with Stress in my Forever Life

On this day, two years ago, we arrived back in Australia after living in other countries for the prior ten years. It has been exciting, wonderful, and fun to be back, but much to my amazement, it has taken me the best part of these two years for me to settle into life here.

I now see my expatriate life as a Temporary Life. Even though I made friends and a life for myself in each country we lived in, everything was done with the subconscious knowledge that I wouldn’t be staying in that life forever. My Forever Life would happen when I moved back to Australia.

So I fought against the notion that my dreamed of Forever Life was making me stressed. I touched on this in a previous post, Repatriation can be Hard.

That stress peaked a few months ago, forcing me to examine why it was happening. My life has been blessed and it shamed me to complain when I’m very aware of  how lucky I am, but shame just added to my discontent, so I asked myself three questions:

  1. How can I share my time among all the things I want to do without getting stressed?
  2. How can I replace the close friends that died while I was away.
  3. What is my purpose?

The answer to question one came to me when I took a step back from all the high expectations I placed on myself. My tendency towards obsessive compulsiveness means that I spend far longer on tasks than most other people. Recognising this, I gave myself permission to ignore my To Do List for a week. That helped me discover that when I didn’t stress about what I wasn’t achieving, I had more time and energy. My stress was the problem, making me too tired to manage everything. Since then, I’ve learnt to let myself off the hook when I’m feeling overwhelmed, and I’m now achieving more. 

Which brings me to question two. I was seeking replacements for the friendships I had before I left. Friends that lived close to me, people I could drop in on at any time and know I’d be welcomed. I was looking for a particular kind of friend to fill the hole that wasn’t as obvious in my Temporary Life, but was a gaping wound in my Forever Life. It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends, my problem was that I didn’t have THOSE friends.

Then, I read something that resonated with me when I altered the words a little to this:

Instead of trying to find the perfect friend, find the perfect in the friends you have.

The close friends that died while I was away are irreplaceable, so I grieve for them when I miss them, but it’s okay because I have other wonderful friends who now fill me up and make me happy.

And it was one of those friends that guided me to question three when she told me she was reluctant to retire because she feared feeling purposeless. She’s a nurse, as I was, and thinking about what she’d said, I realised that we had both felt our lives held real purpose as mothers and nurses. We were carers and we still are, but I now care for my family, friends, and grandchildren. It’s not a purpose that engenders the same level of appreciation that caring for strangers did, but acknowledging that the role is important to me has stopped me from resenting the time it was taking from the many other things I wanted to do. Caring is my purpose.

These questions helped me to be a little more forgiving of myself, and to pay more attention to what I have rather than what is missing from my life. My stress was caused by imagined problems.

My Forever Life isn’t perfect, and it’s bound to present me with further worries from time to time, but I hope to keep these lessons in mind. 

What do you do to relieve your stress?

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15 thoughts on “Dealing with Stress in my Forever Life

  1. Happy anniversary of going’home’.You’ve done a lot of rationalisation recently and seem to have come to all the right conclusions. I hope you’ll be much happier now knowing what you do. In fact knowing what you do will make you so much happier by default. Go out and start enjoying your life and don’t worry too much if you get to feel you miss the places you lived while away. It’s good to feel that as long as you remember that YOU, being who you are made those places special while you were there, but now you’re home again and making that special too.Enjoy your life.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • Thank you, David. I went through this process a few weeks ago, and it has made a difference – I just have to keep reminding myself that some things aren’t as important as I make them out to be, to not take myself too seriously. 🙂

  2. TWO YEARS???????? (Gulp!) Lovely blog, Juli, and thank you for caring about your faraway friends too – I feel your support and friendship as much now as ever. I’ve taken to heart what you said about not being a one-trick author, although I can’t do an awful lot about it right now. But it’s in my head, and has taken root. Later to take route, hopefully!

  3. Hi Juli, I find talking about it helps me to relieve any stress I encounter. Trouble is I’m like a bottle of cola and keep in all in until I’m shaken and then somebody takes the top off. I also find a good long walk helps especially if I am leaving the source of the stress behind. Sometimes, other people have the perfect answers and sometimes we seem to be able to find those answers ourselves. Maybe a balance between the two is the solution?

    • I think you’re cola analogy is my problem as well,, because I let it build until I can’t cope anymore and then fall in a heap. A walk is always a good idea, but only a temporary solution for the type of stress I suffer from. You see, I don’t really have any reason to be stressed, it’s self-inflicted stress, and that’s what I’m working on – acknowledging that what stresses me isn’t really a problem and I should let it go. (I can’t say those words without thinking of the movie Frozen! Blame the grandchild.) 🙂

  4. I feel like all my stress relieving tactics are out the window these days. But, I used to run… Maybe I should get back into that again.
    I hope you start feeling like things are getting back into places sooner than later.

  5. AA – you have far more reason to be stressed than I do, if only because you’re balancing a family with a time-consuming and demanding job. But if a run helps, you know it can only do you good.

    I think part of my inability to cope with my Australian life relates to the fact I spent ten years as an expat, with only small groups of friends, no children, and no extended family. My life was very peaceful and here’s it’s wonderfully busy, but I’m doing well. I just keep reminding myself to release my obsessive need to get everything done and to be everything for everyone.

  6. I think if I was to move back to the US now, I would go through many of the same emotions you have been going through. I have been building my forever life here in Finland with the knowledge that anything can happy in life…it is forever at this moment, but ten years down the road we might be elsewhere and I know I would miss my current home and friends I have here. One thing I do to destress when there is just too much going on is look at my calendar for the week or month and cancel everything that is not either a) completely necessary or b) not enjoyable. Of course there are plenty of things that just need to be done, but this way I have felt much freer, as I have a tendency to do things just to please others or because it is something a “good mother” should do in our society for example.

    • Laila, I can’t believe I didn’t respond to this message!

      I’m sorry, because my intention was to reply and tell you how well this worked for me when things began piling up again. It’s the first piece of advice I think of when that overwhelming feeling hits.

      Thank you!

  7. Pingback: A Simple Cure for Moderate Depression? | Juli Townsend's Transition to Home

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