Photo by Christopher Sardegna via Unsplash
Stress is part of life, and even though we’re well aware of this fact, the trend is to ignore stress away. Well, ignore stress as far away as we can. Although self-care is gaining traction as a way of life for people, there is often a pushback against truly acknowledging the magnitude of stress people experience. Most people have a mentality that goes something like — I’m stressed now, but I won’t be forever. I just have to push through this and then I’ll be okay. About a week ago my college friend tagged me in an article on Facebook. I clicked on the notification thinking it’d be a fun article about a new coffee shop or beauty line (you know, the usual). When the article loaded, however, I got a very different vibe. The article was entitled, “The Lawyer, The Addict,” and was about a male attorney who was a partner at his firm. Sounds pretty normal right? Well, spoiler alert, the qualifier “the addict” didn’t mean he was addicted to work. It meant drugs. While I’ve heard of alcohol abuse being present in the profession, I’ve never really heard of drugs being present. To say the least, the article sort of freaked me out. Then I started thinking about why this happens to people in my profession as well as many others. The more I thought, the more I felt like it has to do with a lack of acknowledgment.
People expect stress. If you’re not stressed, you may be doing something wrong. When I was in college, I was always stressed about something. When I got to law school I was even more stressed. Stress is something we all deal with at varying degrees. While I don’t necessarily think we need to all figure out a system where stress does not exist, I do think we need to talk about ways to cope with stress through healthy methods. I titled this post “finding peace in stress” because I do believe it is possible to find calm in the middle of chaos. I’m not necessarily going to be offering tips because I would prefer to share my own experiences with stress and stress relief, which I hope will open a discussion about stress’s role in young adulthood.
As long as I can remember, I’ve been an anxious person. Are anxiety and stress the same thing? Not exactly, but people who have anxiety feel stressed out (sometimes overwhelmingly so) all the time. Therefore, when I started getting more stressed in life, I became really tense and could hardly see straight. I didn’t know how to cope with stress, so I would just internally panic. I dealt with school stress by pushing through my stress. I ignored it away. I pretended like if I just finished what I thought was stressing me, I wouldn’t be stressed anymore. This was wrong. In life, we often clear one hurdle only to find a new one in its place. Therefore, the mentality cannot be “I need to clear this hurdle and then I’ll be okay.” The mentality should really be “I need to improve my form so that no matter how many hurdles I have to clear, I will be intact at the end.” Life, like sports, takes some practice. It’s not like we walk out of the womb speaking in full sentences, acting with the grace and gumption of those we admire (Audrey Hepburn & Kate Middleton for example). Life takes practice at getting better at things we aren’t strong at, which is why in every facet of our lives, we practice (field hockey, yoga, reading, writing, playing the flute, studying for a test etc.). If you aren’t practicing, you aren’t being active enough in living your life.
Therefore, when it comes to handling stress, we must practice effective ways to cope with the state of being stressed. While I do find the determination associated with the “just push through” mentality, I do not believe this is sustainable for a happy, healthy life. Do you want to get to your last day on earth and say “glad I finally got through it?” As Jojo Moyes wrote in Me Before You, “you only have one life to live. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.” Stress can get in the way of your ability to live fully, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. In my own experience, I coped with stress by ignoring it, but soon found that wasn’t realistic. I wasn’t sleeping well, I felt so tired, and I felt this subtle bitterness in my life because I was inhibiting my success by not dealing with stress. So, I found ways to cope. Coping mechanisms can come in either a physical or mental variation. My physical coping mechanisms are yoga and the gym. I do yoga when I really need to relax and get some clarity. I hit the gym when i need to get nervous, stressed energy out.
I also journal or write a blog post (!) when I’m stressed. Having a moment to get my thoughts on paper helps me calm down. Journaling helps with private matters, and I’m able to relax. Blogging helps me sift through subject matter that is on my mind (changing dreams) or allows me a creative outlet (fashion & other topics I enjoy that I don’t find stressful). If I need to de-stress by having someone listen, I often call a family member. Though I don’t cope with stress perfectly, figuring out activities that made my stress level decrease makes a huge difference in my day to day life. If you take one thing away from this post make it this: I encourage you to find something, a hobby if you will, that allows you to feel peaceful. Whether your activity is hiking, swimming, journaling, reading The New York Times, whatever, figure out what brings you peace, and make time for the activity every day or at least a few times a week.
I promise that taking small steps to bring yourself peace can go a long way. You will also be more successful because you won’t be one of the people who is debilitated by stress or turned on to unhealthy substances to help cope, which will only take your down a far darker rabbit hole (see article discussed above).
This post is lengthier than I anticipated, but I do hope its helpful! If you already have ways of dealing with stress, what are they?