Academic Success, Focus, Productivity, Student Engagement, Writing, Zen

My Perspective on Dealing With Stress

I have two mantras.

1) “It doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you never stop.” The internet attributes this quote to Confucius, but there does not seem to be any proof of this, which has literally never stopped the internet before. Anyway, the second is:

2) “Tomorrow is another day.” If you prefer, you could use “Tomorrow never dies.”

When I’m stressed out I repeat these to myself until the sheer act of repetitive mumbling gives me a second wind.

As a depression sufferer, I was my own favourite punching bag. I tended to defeat myself. In therapy, I learned to recognize automatic thoughts, that is to say, a tendency to jump to a negative conclusion which furthered my sense of despair and hopelessness, and consciously work towards changing this misrepresentation. Eventually I got pretty good at it, and now when I am faced with a roadblock I can approach it with the resourcefulness and tenacity that I assume productive people must have.

Likewise, now that I am dealing with more and more stress as a result of slowly merging back into society, I find that, like in cliché Sci-Fi, I am my own worst enemy after all. My depressive tendencies returned unfettered to blow my stresses as far out of proportion as possible. I had to use the strategies I picked up in therapy to put a realistic spin on my automatic thoughts.

Stress is not just caused by events and occurrences: stress is caused also by attitude. In many ways, I would stress myself out independently of what I thought was really stressing me out. This is an ongoing battle for me. I still find myself reacting disproportionately to my various misfortunes, which only serves to discourage me from doing anything about it.

So I find myself repeating these mantras to myself. They help me accept my mistakes. Mistakes are the main thing that stresses me out these days, especially academic mistakes, considering how much of my life I spent as a student. But mistakes are a part of life, and if I can’t deal with my mistakes I’ll simply get nowhere. So I use my mantras to reinforce my attitude of trying again and working at my own pace.

It has been working reasonably well for me. The caveat is that, if I indulge too much in relieving my stress, some things don’t get done. It’s all well and good to take time off for myself to relax and relieve my stress, but at some point I need to deal with the things that stress me out. After all, if I go sufficiently slow I’ll never get to where I want to be. So I have a third mantra:

3) If you want to work here, close.

The line comes from Alec Baldwin’s speech in Glengarry Glen Ross. I use this mantra to remind me that a certain amount of stress is good, that a certain amount of stress is motivating. I don’t want to shut down from too much stress, but I do my best when some stress keeps me motivated to stay on top of things.

Feel free to share your strategies dealing with stress in the comments below.

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