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  • Mint Suetrong

The Mess We Call “Self-Induced Stress”

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

By: Mint Suetrong, Contributing Writer

Let’s be honest, it is more or less a known fact that school is stressful. With all of the tests, assignments, and deadlines, you are bound to feel overwhelmed at one point or the other. On top of this, you may feel like there are expectations to be fulfilled whether it be from teachers, guardians, or even your peers. However, a crucial topic that often gets overlooked is self-induced stress.

Self-induced stress is defined as the stress response to our ‘internal stressors’- the thoughts and feelings that “pop into our head” during our day-to-day lives which cause us to feel distressed [1]. While external stressors, like the neverending deadlines and presentations, are easier to detect as they present themselves very clearly in our everyday lives, internal stressors, like the expectations we have on ourselves or our fear of failure, generally fly right under our radar.

Let’s take my personal experience as an example. It was Exam Season, with a touch of school closure due to Covid-19, and here we see Little Mint with her sore back, and is that a cup of coffee? That is definitely coffee. Just so you know, Mint would always avoid coffee as it worsened her hand tremors and yet here we are. This young lady would begin her day bright and early at six in the morning and glue herself in front of her laptop from seven until four in the afternoon without taking any breaks (except washroom breaks as the thought of wetting her pants did not appeal to her). A 15-minute breakfast and lunch was a gift- though she would also use this time to reply to emails. “Multi-tasking,” she said. Dinner with her family would be the only time she took more than 30 minutes away from her laptop screen. From 8 to no earlier than 11 pm, she would do past papers to prepare for her upcoming examinations.

I always felt like I had not achieved enough. Rather than focusing on my accomplishments, I would dwell on what was not completed instead. Alexa, play Satisfied by Renée Elise Goldsberry from Hamilton. I would constantly beat myself up for resting; there were several occasions where I would peel myself out of bed at ungodly hours of the night (or should I say very early in the morning) to do more work. Ultimately, was sacrificing my mental and physical health worth the grades?Absolutely not. Then why did I do it? It was because I could not control myself nor my thoughts. I could not stop myself from feeling guilty for taking care of myself. I felt like I was not doing enough- like I was not enough. I felt unsatisfied which made me even more self-conscious. I was easily irritated and just overall on-edge about everything- constantly feeling like I was about to do a presentation. (I abhor public speaking.) Those were not fun times.

While it may be unrealistic to say that we can overcome self-induced stress altogether, here are some ways that may help us manage it.

  1. Writing your worries down

Take some time in the afternoon and make yourself a warm cup of tea. Play some calming music and start writing down everything that is bothering you down on a piece of paper. For one, this serves as a good venting mechanism if you do not feel comfortable sharing your problems with others. Secondly, this can help you articulate your thoughts. We can get so caught up and overwhelmed to the point where we do not exactly know what is bothering us. When we list our problems down, we get to see them from a different perspective which may help give us some clarity on how to tackle each of our problems.

Getting through a stressful day is difficult, so make sure you do at least one thing that makes you genuinely happy. That, my friends, is self-care 101.

2. Talking to someone

Similarly, speaking to a trusted friend, family or even your teacher also allows you to unload your concerns. In addition, you can get a third-person perspective of your problems which may help you decide how to tackle them. However, be sure that you specify whether you just want to be heard or if you want genuine advice on how to tackle your problems so that the person knows exactly how they should help you. Whenever my friends come to me to talk about their concerns, I often get too caught up and overstep, butting in to try and help them when they already know how to deal with the situation. Therefore it would benefit both of us if I knew exactly how I should help them. If you just want someone to listen to you, tell the person that you are talking to so they can ask you specific questions to get you to keep talking and ventilate your problems out. If you want advice or their perspective of the situation, tell them so they can help think of some possible solutions for the problems. They are there for you so there is no need to feel guilty in doing so.

3. Exercising

Although exercising does not solve your problems, it can distract you from them. Now some may say this would be detrimental rather than helpful as you are stalling time instead of finding ways to overcome the problems when you exercise, your body releases a hormone called Endorphins which can make you feel happy and relaxed afterward. Viewing your problems after you have cleared your head for a while may help you find suitable solutions. Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress and help you sleep better. [2] Although it is kind of satisfying to feel your whole body ache when you wake up after a good work-out session, be sure to know your limits and to stop exercising immediately if you feel like something is wrong. Drink lots of water. If you ever feel light-headed, then it is definitely a good time to stop and tell someone.

4. Writing down a daily todo list

If you constantly feel overwhelmed, writing down your daily tasks on a piece of paper may be useful. Firstly, this breaks down your responsibilities into smaller steps which may help you to process your day easier. Secondly, this allows you to include ‘de-stressing activities’ into your day to ensure that you take some time away from work to focus on self-care as well. Lastly, if you are like me and feel like we have not accomplished anything at the end of the day when we clearly have, noting our tasks down and crossing them out as we finish them allows no room for us to fight with ourselves. In addition to a todo list, keeping a diary or a daily mood checker is also beneficial as it allows us to reflect on ourselves and prevents us from bottling up our emotions.

5. Crying

I feel like no one talks about crying as a form of stress reliever but it is great. Emotional tears contain a hormone called ACTH which is a chemical related to stress. [3] A study has shown that crying may help release stress hormones from your body and help you feel better long term. If you ever feel stressed but you are not really sure why you are stressed, cry. There may be a negative stigma against crying but let me tell you that crying does not make you weak. It is perfectly natural. There is no need for a reason to cry. If you feel like crying, just do it. Here are two of my favorite crying tunes to get you going: D.O.’s That’s Okay and Seventeen’s Hug.

All in all, dealing with self-induced stress is difficult because oftentimes we may not even realize that we are stressing ourselves out. We need to give some thoughts to our thoughts- hah, get it? I apologize. It is okay if we cannot fully stop the self-doubt and negative thoughts. Being able to manage our stress and be brave enough to ask for help when times get tough can be enough. Recognizing our stressor is a great start. If the stressor is in our ability to be managed or overcome, then that is great. Now, we can construct a plan to deal with it so it does not bother us anymore. If the stressor is beyond our control then so be it. You can either work around it, change your course, or stay along to see what life brings us. It is totally okay if we end up somewhere we did not intend to be. That should not stop you from enjoying the view anyways.

We do not need to be perfect. Not everything that we do needs to be exemplary. We do not need to do our best every time. Completing the task is enough. We are enough. Let’s love ourselves a little more each day. We can do this. Believe in yourself.

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