Stress sucks. I know.
By Shane Martin
Pursuing a philosophy and history major with a minor in creative writing at the Macaulay Honors College. Passionate gamer, writer, and musician. Geek for ancient cultures and mythologies and can talk about World of Warcraft for hours.
Increased heart rate. Shortness of breath. Headaches. Fatigue.
All of us who’ve been stressed know the doctor’s list of symptoms. They ‒ no, we ‒ drill it into our heads. We learn to hunt down those symptoms when they show up like a pack of angry villagers with pitchforks in pursuit of a witch. We nurture the stress within us like a penguin keeping its egg warm underneath its coat.
Alright, I know the second simile might be a little light hearted for the subject at hand, but hear me out.
“You are your own worst enemy.”
We know the quote well, and it’s true. Anxiety is our response to something. It’s not the video game’s fault that our heart is pounding. It’s not the college class’ fault that we feel pressed to hand in an assignment. It’s not our parent’s fault that we sometimes want to hide from them and bash the wall in.
The people that excel at public speaking or leadership always advise:
“Just stop getting so stressed out about life and calm down.”
Easier said than done.
So how can we conquer anxiety induced by an overload of responsibilities?
Many aspects of my life generate stress quite easily: Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), college classes, work, various deadlines, gaming, TV and movies, and family. Some of these might be relatable to you, some may not, but regardless, we all have things in our life that can cause us to react with stress. Now I’m no doctor, but I’d like to share my insight.
Take a day off weekly.
Yes, you didn't misread. I definitely said weekly.
This is difficult, but worth it. As my responsibilities piled up in high school, I became overwhelmed. I had a daily feeling that something else needed to be done. A friend noticed this and simply asked:
“Bro, why don’t you just take a day off?”
Good question, I thought.
So I gave it a try. Every Saturday I forbid myself from doing any stress-inducing activities. I didn’t do homework. I didn’t try to get a head start on any deadlines. I didn’t work. I didn’t game competitively. My day became relaxing. Chill. Fun.
As I continued I found myself getting better at time management as well because I had one less day to take care of my responsibilities.
“But that’s bad! Why would you cram the same amount of work into less time? Wouldn’t that increase your stress levels?”
Yes ‒ but only at first.
Doing anything for the first time is stressful, even for people who don’t suffer from anxiety. It’s intimidating, but that’s what makes it all the more satisfying once accomplished. Ground and pound your fears into the dirt. There’s no way around this mountain ‒ you must beat a path through it.
You now have a day a week to look forward to where you can kick back with some friends or remain in solitude, cook up some popcorn and a tea, and watch some Friends on Netflix. Now you’re motivated to organize your responsibilities around your day off so you have that chance to take that well-deserved breather.
Ok, not all of you would watch Friends, but you get my point.
The trick here is to make this “rest day” (biblical, I know) mandatory. Don’t try and fish up an excuse to sneak in a short 250 word assignment during your day off. You need this rest. You’ve earned it.
“How can I accomplish my goals if I’m taking a day off every week?” You may ask.
Take what I say next in stride.
Reaching your goals should be secondary to your health.
If you find yourself overstuffed with work and responsibilities, endeavor to eliminate some from your schedule. Having too much on your plate is not a bad thing per say. But, if you’re an anxious person, it certainly is. Before you start adding project on side-project on project to your list of things to do, ask yourself:
“Can I complete all of this without worrying if I can finish it all in time?”
If you think not, then don’t try to do it all.
When you feel overwhelmed, don’t choke and scramble to achieve all your responsibilities; take a day off every week and think of it as your weekly “cleansing.” Look forward to it, embrace it, and revel in it. If you do this truthfully and successfully, the pressure you feel to complete your goals will diminish and you will find yourself freer.
This is not a cure-all for anxiety, but I promise, it’s a step in the right direction.