On any given day, when someone asks how I am doing, my subconscious usually blurts out “I’m stressed!!!” before realizing the socially acceptable response is actually just “I’m good, and you?” But I am not one to hide how I am feeling, and I am constantly stressed. With two jobs, an internship, an executive board position on Off The Cuff, a full course load, and now and then even a social life, I am often asked how I still manage to function, let alone sleep or eat. My answer? I have embarked on my own “hero’s journey” where finding the time to complete my responsibilities while staying healthy (mentally and physically) is my ultimate bounty. In my final semester of college, I have finally found how to manage my stress and morph it into a healthy balance of drive, productivity, and overall happiness.
Stress can be all-consuming, and it may seem like there is no time in the day to accomplish everything life throws at you and take a moment for yourself. However, I believe that failure will catch up to you if you don’t learn how to co-manage responsibilities and self care. People cope with stress in so many different ways, and to do it right you really need to be in touch with what ultimately makes you the happiest and most satisfied version of yourself. For some, this is taking a long walk in silence to clear your head and center your mind and body. For others, it is motivating yourself with an XL chocolate chip cookie that you’re not allowed to dive into until after cranking out your 10 page paper. Sometimes, taking care of yourself means simply laying on the floor of your apartment next to a pint of low calorie, dairy free ice cream while listening to calming yoga music (this one comes from experience).
Deciding what I value and the tiny things that make me happy was the first step I took in managing my own stress. I racked my brain for examples of when I was the most unfulfilled —back to the days when I was so stressed that my eyelashes were falling out and I didn’t have time to cook anything besides oatmeal—and realized what was missing from these moments. I was overlooking everything I enjoyed in order to get everything else done. In retrospect, I don’t even remember the outcome of all the things I had on my plate during those darker days, but I do remember how heavy the weight of the stress felt upon me. This could’ve been prevented if I prioritized myself as highly as I set the tasks that, now looking back, weren’t even that important.
I discovered that I am happiest when I am healthiest and when I am able to talk through my ups and downs with others. Trips to Trader Joe’s excite me, and a nice, sweaty workout makes me feel whole again. Skimming cooking videos on Instagram brings a smile to my face, and sitting at a coffee table with my friend discussing our futures (scary) helps keep me on my feet. I was letting these things go in order to finish my homework and my readings and get to work on time and be a good intern and edit articles for the magazine and keep myself from eating fast food and maintaining old friendships and so on and so forth. I wasn’t taking care of myself, nor was I conquering the small victories that keep me feeling fulfilled.
Long story short, there is no worth in letting your stress consume you to the point where you put aside your health and happiness. Make lists, multitask —I’m writing this very blog post on a bike on the second floor of Fitrec—eat your veggies, call your mom, and make time for your friends. In the end, you probably won’t even remember the tasks caused eyelashes to fall out (again, from personal experience), but you will remember the happiness, or lack there of, that dictated some of the most important years of your life.
I hope everyone can find their own XL cookie kind of coping mechanism.