So much I would like to write about–where should I start? Perhaps most appropriate is to start with the culprit that is the root of all the pain I went through — STRESS. I’ve always thought that I was not stressed. It’s just pressure to do better, and I have always thrived under pressure! So what happened? Where is the line drawn between pressure and stress?
Honestly, I don’t know. And I’m sure it’s different for everyone. I’d like to think that pressure is healthy – it makes you more competitive perhaps, usually to better ourselves and “stretch our limits”, as our schooling and upbringing would tell us. It makes us stronger, helps us grow and develop.
Stress, on the other hand has adverse effects. It creeps up slowly, under the guise of pressure… and when the pressure is over demanding or excessive, stress has won. Yet, how easy it is for us to think that it is still just pressure, and ignore the symptoms of stress when they are here – change in behaviour, appetite, fatigue, constant small illnesses like a cold, insomnia…
I made the same mistake.
Plus I was too proud to admit that I had a problem. This is because in my mind, I equated “being stressed” to “being weak” — a sign that I couldn’t cope with the demands of work and of life. And no one likes to feel like they have failed. Least of all me. I don’t like to be a disappointment to the people around me (this, I’ve now realized, is me trying to shake off the label of “disappointment” given to me by my parents and teachers in days of childhood, but more about this later). I’d like to think I was capable and could perform, and that a challenge brought me to the next level. I had an image and reputation to upkeep after all.
And I comforted myself and convinced myself I was not stressed, that I was leading a healthy balanced life with work, play, exercise, rest, social life, me-time etc. It’s a just a particularly high pressured time, and I was learning and growing.
Indeed I was learning – and now the lesson is learnt the hard way.
Rather than being a sign of weakness, recognizing — and acknowledge — that one is stressed is actually a sign of strength. It shows self-awareness of the body and mind. And it takes courage to admit that the demands on us, whether from work or other aspects of life, is over and above what we can cope with. Then we need to be brave, and say “no”. And quit from the actions or environments that is causing us this stress.
Easier said than done. It’s taken me some 9 months to actually realize and admit I am stressed, after ignoring signals for so many years. And only now am I in the process of changing my life so I am stress-free.
It is not enough to just “cope with stress”. It is not enough to simply treat the effects of stress and take the medication for the latest bouts of a cold. Life should not be stressful. Stress needs to completely eliminated from our lives.