Ashley Uy pushing her sister into the ocean

Baby Steps to Stress Management

Becoming aware of my workaholic tendencies really took some time. I’ve always considered myself to be someone industrious and that it was a trait to be proud of; but one day two years ago when I came home from work, I immediately took a bath and headed to bed exhausted and just before I dozed of to sleep I heard my sister say “yeesh” as if she was scared of what she was seeing, did I realize that I needed to slow down. This blogpost was requested by one of my ko-fi donors and is something I’m excited to finally start writing about.

Note, I have not read nor written any scientific or peer-reviewed paper regarding the study of stress but I’ve made a few observations. There are two types of stress: necessary and destructive. Necessary stress is what drives you; it’s the work that you have to do and pressure that you feel when you and the world around you is pushing you to do something that matters. It is often times related to something you either deeply care about or something that can benefit you in the long run. Destructive stress is often times self-induced stress or a situation that you put yourself in where pressure is accompanied by a negative emotion such as feeling hateful towards yourself or the situation you are in.

You do not manage the stress itself but you manage the factors that cause it.

I found that stress management ties closely with expectations management – expectations of the self and expectations of others towards you. Learning how to manage that is the hard part but the practice of accepting that stress is simply a byproduct of the situations that you have put yourself in will magnify your awareness of the decisions you make every day.

Stress management, in my experience, has been a lifestyle and mindset change that, honestly, felt daunting when I first started. I’ve already listed a few task-management techniques I use in past blogposts such as limiting your daily tasks and I’ll echo that principle here: know your limit.

Other than being aware, one thing you can do to kickstart your self-discovery is by being honest. First start with the people you’re comfortable with. Be honest and tell them that you’re working on managing the things already on your plate. You’ll be surprised (or not) of how supportive they’ll be. Tell them that you are feeling overwhelmed and need the weekend off to rest, or that you’ll go home early in the workday so that you’ll feel refreshed for what you have to deal with the next day.

Again, first tell them that you’re working on something. Next, practice (on them) your muscle of saying “no”. After a few months of doing this, you can then graduate to talking to either your workmates or your local community (if you’re a community builder). Repeat the same cycle, tell them that you’re feeling overwhelmed and that you’re working on it. Then, start telling them what to expect of you. Over time you’ll feel more comfortable doing it and it’ll just be as easy as eating rice (if you’re Asian, you know what I mean).

If this second step is something you’re not comfortable doing so soon, then that’s okay. Stick with the first step for your first month: Being aware that stress is simply an aftereffect of your own decisions.

The whole process won’t be easy and this is just the first part. Trust me, it took me about, well, five years to figure it all out and I’m still at it until now. But over time you and I will figure it out one habit at a time. Baby steps.

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