So, we left off with a decision to start selling t-shirts and write a blog. Saying I was in over my head and a little stressed out is an understatement (to clarify, I still am) and I may or may not have had a few panic attacks.
You know, just the classic situational anxiety with my heart rate beating like a freight train and the uncontrollable deep breathing usually associated with soon to be murder victims and those with near-drowning experiences. This wasn’t caused by any particular event, it was just from my typical dumb decisions of taking on way too much at once.
The Best Kind of Being Stressed Out, Self-Induced
Thinking about this logically, none of it makes sense. My stressed out nature was entirely self-induced. No boss was looking over my shoulder. No crowd of people heckling from the stands. Just my drive to succeed, slowly making me crazy.
It makes me think about one of my retired friends from a local running group I’m a part of. He always likes to talk about “that younger generation”. Usually accompanied by one of us younger guys retorting with “that older generation”. Despite the banter, some of it sticks, and I remember him telling us one day after a long run, that he thought he problem with younger generations, was that they were always trying to do everything at once. I remember thinking how great advice it was.
Not that I follow any of it. Some more great advice that I promptly ignored. Did I mention I was also studying for taking the Project Management Professional exam, building a 3-foot by a 60-foot-long retaining wall in the back yard, looking for a different job, managing multiple investments, training for running 100 miles, and for rowing down the Grand Canyon? Not to mention all of the side projects for friends I had volunteered for. As you can see, this was all going to turn out great…
I have this major issue with overcommitting and then forcing myself to play catch up. You know, the typical drink nine cups of coffee a day (preferably Black Rifle), sleep only…well, who needs sleep, and somehow get it all done, just to turn into a broken lump of human flesh. Despite knowing how this cycle always turned out and knowing how stressed out I was going to get. I never could seem to break this cycle.
There is Only One of You, You Probably Shouldn’t Kill Yourself For Others
Then after all this work and the loss of more hair, there would be this”positive success” to look forward to. I made three friends happy that are probably more like acquaintances, my boss was happy at the job I hated, my wife was unhappy, and I would have this certification that I didn’t even want or care about in the first place. Congrats to me!
It’s like being on a hamster wheel, except you know it’s a hamster wheel and yet you refuse to get off. Logically you think “Am I dumb?”, and logically you answer “Yes”, and then illogically you turn to your co-worker who was talking about a problem you know nothing about and say, “I can help with that”.
Did I say I was dumb yet?
All of this was unsustainable, I turned in awful work at my job, ticked off my family, ignored my friends, and in general just get extremely stressed out.
As you can see my stress was all being managed well and was the quintessential role model for mental health (if you couldn’t tell, this is extreme sarcasm).
Don’t Be Stressed Out, Just Let It Burn
Then one day I had this epiphany (really just a ray of intelligence). I realized; I didn’t have to do any of this if I didn’t want to. The decision was made right there to come up with a plan to deal with my stress and hopefully reduce my now typical heart palpitations.
I sat down and made a list of everything I had to get done.
The list, no joke, filled two sides of a piece of paper. I wrote down why I was doing each one. If it was for anyone but my closest friends, my wife, blog, one of my past Marines, or gaining myself more independence, I axed it off. I then forced myself to make some very uncomfortable phone calls.
If it was any kind of advice for resumes, the reading of people’s books, articles, or work, instead of re-writing them like I normally do, I red-penned them or told them what I recommended to be fixed or changed. Anything that could be talked about instead, I did that. Oh, and that Project Management Professional (PMP) exam, screw it. My friends, family, and co-workers balked at this one. But, that’s a them problem, I can and did choose to just to let it burn.
After a lot of time reflecting on why these items were stressing me out. I noticed that since I got out of the Marines, I was struggling to find purpose. And, I was finding that purpose by helping others, and I didn’t want to let them down. While I think this is something I will be working through the rest of my life, the important part is knowing what was driving me, and just knowing helped immensely.
Meditation Can Help and Is Only Somewhat Weird
To deal with this, I took some advice from Dan Harriss’s book “10% Happier” and started meditating more often. It helped, I started to relax and over time my stress hormones seemed to stop releasing like the Hoover Dam. Though it was extremely hard to get over fidgeting and my racing mind (still suck at this), it helped. Even On days when I didn’t have a lot of time or couldn’t relax, even spending a few minutes sipping coffee in the backyard before I headed to work helped immensely. It also helped put things in perspective. No one was dying, no one was starving, and no one was in the hospital. Those few moments of being able to step back and realize things were not that bad. It reminded me that it was time to stop whining.
Find What Works For You
Moral of the story, in the long run, it worked out. I learned a few things about how to reduce my stress levels and stop being so stressed out and finally managed to convince myself to be a little more realistic with my abilities. Some of my takeaways:
- It’s ok to help others, but make sure it’s the right people and make sure it doesn’t sabotage your life in the process.
- Find out what is important in your life and remove the rest.
- Realize why you keep putting yourself in these situations and then put what is stressing you in perspective. Chances are, it’s not that bad.
- Meditation helps. Or at least a few quiet moments in the backyard.
If you have any of your ideas or ways to keep your stress down and stop being so stressed out, don’t hesitate to share in the comments.
All the best,
This was the next article on the journey of the author to develop a more independent life for himself. To catch up, head to the last article “Schedules are for Losers, And Me”.