The Stress Struggle: Some Ideas.

Some of my favorite people, both readers and friends, are battling with stress. Daily, high doses of stress. Dysfunctional stress. Self-induced stress.

I think it’s one thing to freak out when you have to take care of your sick roommates, study, do groceries, clean the house and take your car to the garage while you just had a terrible fight with your parents and heard your boyfriend has been living it up with a cute bartender while you were working extra shifts. Anyone would panic.

But are you crying almost everyday because you’re afraid you’ll get a bad grade? Do you feel anxious all the time because of the responsibilities of your job overwhelm you? Are you constantly thinking about all your different priorities, obligations and is that getting in your way? Do you feel like you have to do things, instead of wanting to do things and is this wearing you down?

Oh, sweetie. That’s a whole lot of fear and worrying to contain in the pretty little container that is you. Not to mention it’s unnecessary worry and fear.

And darling, I can’t do anything about that from all the way over here. As much as I’d prefer it they would stick, my words are going to fade. So are all the other words of people who calm you down, who tell you you’re good enough and who tell you you’re doing wonderfully. Because our voices come from the outside from time to time, but you hear your own voice* on repeat, all the time. If anyone is going to fix your shit, it has to be you. But I have a few suggestions on how to fix your shit if you’re interested.

Of course I could tell you the things you already know about priorities and planning. Pick up any time management book. I could throw in the catch phrases too, like relax, You were born to shine. Keep calm and carry on. Wear sun screen. Hakuna Matata. But you already know all this too. So.

I believe it is very healthy to get down and dirty in general (click) but maybe it’s time to get down and deep with yourself. The relationship with yourself works through in every area in your life. If you don’t know yourself very well, of course you’re going to make the wrong choices for yourself. If you don’t think you’re worth it, of course you’re not taking good care of yourself. If you don’t trust yourself, of course you’re going to panic whenever you have to do something big. That’s where your stress comes from.

Go find out the things that are bothering you. Explore your issues. Search for answers, within. Not from other people, but from the inside out. If it comes from others it can help for a while, but if it comes from you it is so much more likely to have a lasting effect.

Whether you do it through writing, visualization exercises, meditation, walking, yoga, cleaning, hula hooping, taking baths, or all of the above: go do it. Sit down with yourself and figure you out. Because you may not be aware of this, but there is a part of you on the inside that actually has all the answers. The more you try to get in touch with that place, the easier it becomes to get in touch with yourself and build up faith and strength.  A quote by Brenda McMorrow says “I honor the place in you where the entire Universe dwells.” I think if you get a little more in touch with that place, stress-free living becomes a valid option.

If stress is making you completely miserable right now, THAT should be your most important thing on your list to fix. That doesn’t mean you can blow off studying, neglect your relationships or call in sick for work, but it means you have to work on your happiness first. Being Miserable is Public Enemy Number One, in all situations, under all circumstances. You should take care of your happiness. If you don’t, things are hard and they will get even harder. But when you try to keep doing nice things for yourself, you create a little tension-free space within yourself as a buffer, making you more resilient. So if you’re stressed, be as nice to yourself as you can. Do a lot of the things that make you happy.

Because you know just as well as I do that the five miles you’re going to run are never going to be the reason you fail an exam. Neither are those 30 minutes you spent making a delicious lunch. Sure, maybe you gotta plan it in. But isn’t your happiness and well-being worth that?

Nobody is holding a gun to your head. You may need a little reminder of this, but you choose the things you do. You chose them for a reason and even though things may be a little hectic or tough sometimes, those reasons probably still stand. You want the things you do.

For example, I don’t have to run. Neither do you. But if you feel you have to run, that’s because you want to run. You accidentally changed that into making yourself, forcing yourself. You’re just using the wrong terms.

You want a good grade. You want to do a good job at work. You want to exercise regularly. You’d like to have a fashion blog. You’d like to sing professionally. You’d like to get into that particular school. You can try to learn the guitar. You can try to read that difficult book about quantum mechanics. You can try to get in touch with one of your favorite writers.

You don’t have to. Nobody is making you. And you don’t know that you can’t until you try.

Some things in life are nerve wrecking, have a lot riding on them and there is no getting out of that. But if you do what you can and go through it, in 90% of all cases things turn out absolutely fine — even better than expected! And if that happens, this should give you a little faith in yourself and anything else that may come your way later in life.

With a little guts and trust, you can come a long way. Peace.

*Or voices. It’s okay to be crazy.

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  1. Pretty piece (‘That’s a whole lot of fear and worrying to contain in the pretty little container that is you’) thank you.

    Not exactly the same topic, but it’s related: what do you think about the frase ‘you can’t have it all’? I know it can be demotivational (if you let it), because, well, you can have & handle a lot more than you think. But on some level I always think (and truly believe) that I can’t have it all. I cannot do great at work with the crazy working shifts that add up to a fifty hour work week, ánd work out everyday ánd keep up my social life ánd still have time to work on research. In some ways we are limited (although luckily we humans tend to be rather flexible), because our possibilities are limited.
    So I tell myself that I can’t have it all, and shouldn’t be sad about that. And it calms me down at times, but it makes, well, yes, sad at times. So, what’s your opinion on this? 🙂

  2. First of all, thanks a lot for writing an article on this topic.

    I believe you are right about the stress being self-imposed. It seems pretty clear then that I could also be relaxed instead of stressed out… by trusting that I’ll do fine anyway, that it’ll be allright no matter what.

    On some level, I actually allready know the issue that is causing this stress. Something to do with self-value based on high grades and perfection instead of unconditional self-love. Let’s just say that I’m working on it. Usually I work hardest (on taking good care of myself that is, not on studying) after the exam week. By then I realise again that I should take good care of myself first, at all times, instead of only if I have some time left after studying.

    @mille pagine: on that topic I’m always reassured by something Leo Babauta wrote:
    “You will miss a ton, but that’s OK. We’re so caught up in trying to do everything, experience all the essential things, not miss out on anything important … that we forget the simple fact that we cannot experience everything. But the secret is: life is better when we don’t try to do everything. Learn to enjoy the slice of life you experience, and life turns out to be wonderful.”

    Realising this helps me relax when I experience fear of missing out because I can’t do everything at the same time. I choose to do some things, the ones that are most important to me, instead of trying to excell at all of them at the same time. However, I do believe that if you really want something, you can do it. Maybe just not 10 huge somethings at the same time.

  3. “You should take care of your happiness”
    true. Stom dat ik heel lang dacht: waarom doen anderen zo stom tegen mij! Waarom zorgen ANDEREN er niet voor dat IK gelukkig ben/word??!!

    Nu snap ik het pas.