There are many words that describe busy, expectant and demanding seasons of life, but one that is probably forefront in our minds is “stress.”
Stress has earned a negative connotation. We are always trying to minimize it; it always seems to make our human experience less enjoyable.
But isn’t stress inevitable?
Demands and responsibilities are a part of life. Each commitment — each decision, outing or task — takes up space in one’s mind and schedule. Some seasons are more busy than others, yes, but we will always experience this pressure: to perform our best, to be present and to fulfill expectations.
Most people classify this pressure as stress because it is draining and can be overwhelming. Sometimes the pressure seems insurmountable.
When our choices and responsibilities aren’t too demanding, though, we hardly feel the pressure. We only become “stressed” when we feel insufficient to satisfy the pressure.
Periods of transition almost always bring “stress” because we feel caught between two worlds.
The demands of each weigh upon us. We are expected to put our best effort into preparing for the new one while still managing the unmitigated demands of the old one.
These days, spring semester is coming to a close. Interview season is in full swing. Summer plans and commitments are coming into focus. We are getting ready for a sizable transition from spring to summer.
Most would agree that this time of year is stressful.
Most would also agree that time goes on despite our present emotions and struggles. No matter how overwhelmed we get today, tomorrow will always come.
So if both stress and the future are imminent, how do we approach them in a way that doesn't overwhelm us?
Stress is “bad” because it negatively affects us. If we cannot eliminate stress itself (because it is the byproduct of the pressure in our lives), we only have two options in approaching it.
We can either be passengers on stress’s turbulent journey, or we can learn how to work our lives around its presence. Personally, I would choose the latter.
Perhaps stress shouldn’t automatically be cast off as “bad.” Instead of immediately trying to eliminate the stress in our lives, we could analyze it and extract good things from it.
We can’t speed up time, and worrying is unproductive. Instead of the “I just want it to be over” mentality, try to channel those emotions.
For example, it is natural to be nervous for a speech or interview.
Instead of freezing up or dreading every moment of it, try to use the adrenaline to perform better. Use the nerves as an opportunity to heighten your performance instead of weakening it.
It is natural to want to do well on exams, interviews and other circumstances that depend on our abilities.
Instead of caving to personal or external expectations, use those expectations as motivation to give your best.
Humans have a tendency to think their worth is equal to their performance.
The truth is, once you try your best, that’s all you can do.
So let expectations motivate you to give your best. After that, there is nothing more you can do. Stressing about things outside of your control is pointless.
It almost all comes down to having a realistic perspective and goal.
When your to-do list seems overwhelming, take time to think it through. Planning eliminates ambiguity and allows you to focus on what is necessary.
Once you have a clear path, it is easier to do your best without worrying about the factors along the way or outcome. Even if it will be a tedious or difficult journey, having a clear path is invaluable.
The solution is neither to ignore nor eliminate stress.
There is a precarious line we must walk: embracing stress for the good things it can offer us.
This is a lot easier said than done, but it starts with understanding what you are truly capable of.
Your stress is valid because it is a natural byproduct of living your life. Instead of letting it debilitate you, stand up to it and let it enhance the things you care about.
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