Wow, it sure is easy to sweat the small stuff isn’t it! I’m writing this one as it comes to me, no planning ahead, so we’ll see where this winds up by the end. Hopefully I can keep it mostly on track. Anyway, I’ve been thinking about stress lately.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in my life is how to recognize when I am stressing myself out to the point of it being unhealthy, and how to relax. Before I go any further, let me give you a little background about myself and my family, so that you understand where I’m coming from.
My dad was born and raised in Olavarría, Argentina. His family had very, very little, and they knew the true meaning of hunger. Once he had completed grade seven, which was all that was required at the time, he quit school and began working to help out his mother, brothers and sister. At sixteen years old, he began building the home that my grandmother still lives in to this day. By the time he was a young adult in his twenties, he owned his own model A, and had what to him, was quite a large amount of money in the bank. Hyperinflation in Argentina was cruel, and stole away nearly all of what he had in the bank. He was in his twenties when he met my mother, who had come to Argentina with her sister and several others on an extended missions trip, and after a couple of years got married, and eventually moved to the United States to be near my maternal grandparents.
Upon moving to the United States, he had to learn English as a second language, and got a job at a mushroom farm, getting paid just cents for an extraordinary amount of work. Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked, so let’s fast-forward to many, many years later. My father started his own business, was able to build our family our own beautiful home, see four of his sons through college as first generation college students,(one through med school) and the fifth to have his own business.
As neither one of my parents had completed college, and have had to work extremely hard to support us 5 boys, they instilled in us an incredible work ethic, and stressed the importance of doing well in school. There has been the expectation my whole life to achieve A’s in all of my courses, and to be disappointed with anything less. And as the youngest, I always felt the need to follow in brother’s footsteps, (one who graduated Summa Kum Laude from a private university and another who was granted a 4 summer Internship with Hewlett-Packard before beginning his freshman year of college) and I can tell you, trying to follow in those footsteps after nearly 16 years of school is exhausting and overwhelmingly stressful!
The beautiful thing about growing up, is discovering that you don’t have to be like anybody else. The beautiful thing about growing up is recognizing your own skills, abilities, and your own accomplishments. The beautiful thing about growing up is that you grow into your own person.
Now, I’ve managed to do well for myself school, and I’ve maintained a cumulative GPA upwards of 3.8 with just a couple quarters left to survive till graduation, but I did so mostly because there has always been the expectation, in my mind, to do so. And I wish I had realized much sooner than I did that I have been stressing far too much, about far too little, for far too long.
For a long time I thought that doing well in school was the key to doing well in life. I think in our society we are sort of indoctrinated to think this way (see my post on happiness), and although it can be a great motivator, it can also cripple you with anxiety if you are unable to manage stress well.
In fact, once you realize that there are people who are perfectly happy who DIDN’T EVEN GO TO COLLEGE, you will find yourself SO much more at ease. Now most of this post has related stress to school because it’s what I can relate to. Let’s talk about it more generally.
If I could give anyone advice on how to manage stress it would be this:
- Remember to see the big picture! Ask yourself what is worth stressing about, and what you will laugh at yourself for stressing about down the road.
- Managing your time is important. “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?” is probably not the best mantra to live by.
- Know when to stop doing what you’re doing, and just get to sleep. Be able to recognize when you are stressing yourself out to the point where you are doing more harm than good. You’re probably better off getting a good night’s sleep than worrying about whatever you’re worrying about.
- Stress is inevitable. If you relax too much now, you’re probably going to be freaking out later. Keeping all of the other pieces of advice in mind, sometimes you just have to keep your nose to the grindstone.
Number 1 has been the most eye-opening thing for me, granted I have a lot of road ahead of me, so we’ll see how that pans out… Regardless, today I am much more laidback and easygoing than I once was, and overall just much happier and content with myself. And I can honestly attribute this to being able to recognize what is worth stressing about and what is really just not worth it.
This guy has some more advice on dealing with stress. He also juggles, it’s pretty rad. Watch it below or check it out here on Ted Talks.
I hope this post wasn’t too all over the place. -JG