Stress

"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another." William James


Stress is meant to be temporary; not a permanent state of being. Once more with feeling, and I'll say it again for those in the back. Stress is caused by our reaction to the things going in on our lives, not the things themselves. Think about that. That means that as we are able, we can manage our reactions. We have the choice to downplay or highlight the impact of what we face. We get to determine what something or someone means to us. In a world that glorifies the disease of being busy, demands contribution to an incessant news cycle, and a sacrifice of the entirety of who you for are for "productivity" - stress has become normalized. If you're not stressed out, to the point where its toll is visible on your body, then you're not working hard enough. Stress is not a measure of success nor is it a quantifier of hardship endured. Stress should not be rewarded, praised, or worn as a badge of pride. That ideology is toxic, exploitative, and taxing - physically, mentally, and emotionally. People are more than their productivity and outputs. That's heinous. People who manage their time, do intentional work-life negotiation, and most of all, actively manage their stress will always be happier, healthier, and more productive. That's the kind of society we should strive for - one that values its people inherently, helps give space for stress management, and removes excessive stressors. 





I think most people are bad at dealing with stress in general, and even more so their own stress. It's as if people move about like a loaded mouse trap, waiting to snap at any moment. The work to deescalate situations, keep perspective, and use positive outlets to de-stress is crucial to unloading that mouse trap. When people come to me with their stress, I'm quick to ask them what I can do for them. Is it to pass their stress on to me, to complain with no intention of letting of their stress, or is it to get help. Stress can be passed along like spreading the flu. Stressed people stress out other people. It's when we are not dealing with our own stress that we become a stress inducing burden to others. If we all handled our own stress - and asked for/received the help we needed, then we would not go around dumping our stress on others as often. And that's not to say we cannot and should not do it, but what's the purpose? To wallow or to grow?


Stop saying you're stressed out unless you're willing to do something to remedy your situation. It's your truth, but also one that provides some relative oversight. What's the point of espousing your disarray? If that's where you live, if that's how you function, if that's your perpetual mindset - if that's your normal, then what are you looking for? If you want to de-stress then you have to take onus to commit to doing so. It's that viewpoint shift to rationalize your stressors just as much as it is doing whatever rejuvenating self-care you need to keep persisting. When everything that happens to you seems or is treated as a big deal, that's a red flag. That says that you're not processing, and compartmentalizing effectively. If a paper cut and a gash are the same to you, then you might be exacerbating the severity of your stressors. Somethings have to be small or else it undermines the validity of the big things. Each person experiences stress differently, but to manage it, we first have to prioritize and rationalize it. What is the why behind the stress? You missed an exit, failed a quiz, forgot a lunch meeting - those can be as major or minor as you make them. Process and let go of the little things so you can focus on resolving the big things. 




How do we actual deal with stress in productive ways? Take things one at a time. The times when I get stressed out I take a few minutes to figure out what's going on for me. I stop what I'm doing and start asking questions. Why do I feel stressed? Is my reaction to stress appropriate? How am I keeping perspective with my stressors? What is the root cause of my stress; and what can I do to deal with it? For me that looks like a few things - primarily writing. I find when I write down all the things I need to do (or better yet reframe that as "get to do") that it gives me clarity. Maybe it's taking 5 minutes to listen to my favorite song twice, do a word search, blow some bubbles - anything that gets me to focus on one thing solely, meditate, and gain some momentary peace. Feeling overwhelmed makes me feel like I am incapable, and that threatens to lead to inaction. I make lists down to the most specific tasks: answer email, schedule meeting, mop apartment, buy food, fold laundry, etc. Then I do each item - from start to finish - one at a time. No multitasking; no switching back and forth. Completing a task makes me feel like I'm back in control. It's why I Swiffer at 2AM or reorganize my closet - when things feel out of control, cleaning brings me peace. I also remember and verbalize to myself that I can do this, I can do anything, and I am capable. That self-affirmation energizes me. Keeping my viewpoint in mind allows me to give gravity to the things that deserve it, and minimize the impact of things that don't. Stress much like the situations I find myself in is temporary - remembering that makes all the difference for me. 




If you're constantly stressed out, it's worth evaluating both who you are, and where you are in life. Look at your passion, preparedness, and perception. Do you care enough? Are you ready for the challenge? Are you in the right mindset to overcome? Change your mindset, and if that does not work then change your situation or environment. People, places, and things that always stress you out, are not healthy places to be. As much as we have control over our life circumstances we should exert that control to our advantage. If that means letting go of relationships with people who elicit a stress response, or finding a place with less external stressors - then so be it. We choose to be in our work places, at our schools, in our relationships, etc. if we/when we have the choice to choose our peace, we should. Maybe it's having a frank discussion about the work environment, doing less and focusing on school, and evaluating the benevolence of a connection. If we can change the things around us for the better, so be it - if not, we can also choose to leave. Sometimes you can get a different job, or need to take a break from school, or should break up. 


Life can be challenging, but it's our response to those challenges that make all the difference. Scope is everything. How are we minimizing, re-framing, and re-purposing stress to our benefit? Stress does not have to be a depressive reaction, it can also be one that pushes us to be strong both mentally and physically. It's a nudge to go hard for a bit so we can come out of other side with a new appreciation for ourselves, our abilities, and our resilience. It's after going through (key phrase - as in it's a transient experience) trials and tribulations that we recognize our capability. Stress can occasionally be motivating factor, if we treat it as such. 

Here's some resources for finding tangible ways to deal with you stress; and noting that each of us does it differently. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa.
How to Be Better at Stress
7 Ways Mentally Strong People Deal with Stress
Best and Worst Ways to Cope with Stress

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