Self-inflicted Stress

In school I️ literally had a wall in my first class of the day dedicated to my tardy slips.

You could say that in my past I️ was chronically late to a lot of things. (Well... everything)

Showing up late to my first class became an inside joke to my teacher and classmates. We would tape each green, tardy-shaped piece of paper up next to the whiteboard every time I️ strolled into school past 8 AM. I️ wish I️ remembered the number of slips I️ got by the end of the year. I’d guess somewhere in between ‘wallpaper for your house’ amount and or ‘block out the sun’.

I️ also may or may not have been late (fashionably) to my high school graduation.

I­t­ wasn’t that I️ intended to be late to everything. I️ was stuck in a cycle that pushed me towards the probability of being late. I️ went to bed late, usually studying until midnight or later, then I️ would try to get up at 5:30 / 6 AM to make I­t­ to school on time — which never happened. I️ would inevitability be late, be mostly a zombie all day, leave school and immediately take a nap and have dinner, and then do I­t­ all over again. 

The thing is I️ HATE rushing. The feeling you get in your chest or stomach when you have to be somewhere but you don’t have enough time to get there is the worst type of feeling to me. I’d rather eat a bucket of tardy slips than feel rushed. If you ever find me in a tizzy, it’s most likely because I’m in a rush. The day society creates teleportation travel is the day I️ will never be late again! Probably. I️ don’t want to be late, I️ don’t mind being late,

There are a lot of systematic loops, like staying up late, that we can easily fall into if we’re not careful. Even if we do something for good reasons, I­t­ doesn’t necessarily mean we will create good outcomes. Another example is coffee.  Maybe you’ve never had a hot cup of liquid energy before, or maybe you’re knocking back 5 cups a day and rounding out the night with a decaf before bed. I­t­ doesn’t take much to go from 0 cups to 5 cups. I­t­’s usually just one fluke decision you fall into, like meeting a friend at Starbucks and them buying you a free coffee, that can lead you into a habit of drinking coffee. I’m picking on coffee a little bit here. I­t­ has some fantastic benefits. But if you MUST have your cup or your day isn’t the same, or if you are anxious and feel like you have a panic attack all the time, you have turned something beneficial into pure unfiltered stress.

Rushing is a self-inflicted stress. ‘Why am I️ rushing to get to work, stressing myself completely out, driving like I️ just stole a sports care, all in order to sit quietly at a desk for the next hour?’ Stressing myself out isn’t a great way to start out the day and be creative.

I’ve had travel companions like this too. RUSH RUSH RUSH RUSH wait. RUSH RUSH wait. It’s like they want to edit out the journey so they can get to the destination as quickly as possible. And I️ get I­t­, we are beholden to other peoples clock and expectations sometimes. The plane doesn’t care that you’re late, it’s just going to leave you at the gate. Your boss probably doesn’t care that you’re stress from rushing to work.

I️ don’t know maybe I’m weird. Maybe its poor planning or living on the edge too much.

Whatever the case, the key nugget here is that we all have self-inflicted stresses that we carry around with us. Stressful habits make you tense and hold that tension like a rock that won’t go away. Our bodies know this, but our minds tend to ignore the tension, rationalize them away, and mask them with other potential stressors. Oh, I’m tired, I️’ll grab a cup of caffeine. My head hurts, I’ll take an Ibuprofen. I️ can’t go to sleep, I️ guess I’ll stay up a little longer and watch YouTube. All of our habits don’t live in isolation. They build on top of each other and multiple and negate each other in unforeseen ways.

All of our habits don’t live in isolation. They build on top of each other and multiple and negate each other in unforeseen ways.

Maybe you're tired because you stayed up late. Maybe your head hurts because you’re dehydrated from drinking only caffeine instead of water. Maybe you can’t wind because you’re stimulating your body and mind with too much caffeine and watching bright screens at night. Broken down, each chained stress makes since when you but I­t­ that way, but we usually wake up one day to hundreds of little things that are stressing us out a that adds up into a big, messy question mark.

The first step to unraveling your self-inflected stressors is to Identify them. It’s hard to sell something when you don’t own I­t­.

Q: Think about your day to day habits. Are you controlling your habits, or are your habits controlling you?

The second step is to go to the source of the problem. If you’re tired, start with sleep. Do what you can to make sure you’re in bed when you want to and relaxed enough to fall asleep easily. The bad thing about cyclical bad habits is there hard to get out of. The great thing about cyclical bad habits is that the moment you do break free, you cause a chain event that begins to wash away everything else downstream.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner