I used to think that stress made me more productive because it forced me to do work instead of being idle and bored. In high school, when I followed the trend of taking AP classes to get ahead in curriculum, the stress almost consumed me. Three, almost four years later, I am noticing how a similar stress pattern has manifested itself in my daily routine. I've noticed five particular ways that stress has convinced me that trying something different is not worth my time.
1. Stress from academics has convinced me that I don't have time to shake up my routine.
A lot of times when I have tons of reading to do, meetings to go to, and other projects/papers to work on, I force myself to stay locked into a routine. There's no time to stop my day because the stress of starting up again is too menacing.
2. Since I always feel like I'm running behind, I don't think I can succeed in more demanding roles, whether they are co-curricular or job-related.
Granted, I know that taking on too much in the first place can cause more stress, but a lot of times being stressed over the little things is what sinks one's self-confidence. When we feel like we can't handle the small stuff, like reading 50 pages for a class the next day, we stop believing that we can take on bigger things.
3. Stress makes me obnoxious and often insensitive.
This past semester, I had a night class twice a week, and by the end of the day, I couldn't sit still in my seat. I was constantly joking around with my friends during class, getting irritated over something insignificant that my professor said, and I would go to the bathroom once every class just to have an excuse to sit on the bathroom floor and rest my head in my hands. I was exhausted and constantly running on empty. When I did get to let loose, I always went too far. I stayed out too late and burned myself out by "having fun." I got into countless squabbles with a lot of my friends, and tended to make fun of them mercilessly, always calling it a joke.
4. Stress can actually make me shut down.
High school and college students can often take things so seriously grade-wise that we easily succumb to illnesses and often have to experience several physical problems before we realize that they are caused by stress. The more stressed I am, the less human I feel. I always want to sleep, never want to disrupt my day for something that isn't work related. It's a dangerous and desensitizing cycle.
5. Stress makes me beat myself up about the most trivial things.
When I'm completely overwhelmed, I start looking for someone to blame for my situation. I almost always end up blaming myself. Why didn't I stay up later to study? Why did I watch Netflix over the weekend instead of working in the library? Why did I sleep so long? Why did I let this situation get so far? Why didn't I take better care of my money? Why can't I be more organized? There's a million ways I can second guess myself.
The point of this all is that we battle with stress everyday, and we need to come up with a healthier way of dealing with it. Instead of letting the water cover our heads, we have to learn how to steer the boat. Stress can be used to our advantage in terms of productivity, but it's worth recognizing when stress is toxic to us and will not help us succeed.