Relaxing and stressing won’t get the job done
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 11, 2014
When you’re stressed, you relax. Although it’s good to wind down after a long day, relaxing when a job or assignment is unfinished may actually cause more long-term stress.
The thin line between rewarding yourself and procrastinating is a harmful illusion we create for ourselves that may be stalling our overall progress in our professions and academics.
If you have a project due next week, you’d probably wait until the last possible moment to finish it like a normal person. Because of this, the project will remain in the back of your head throughout the week, occupying a stressful part of your brain. Then, after a given day of procrastination and concerning yourself with other activities, you’d want to relax; however, to do that you’d have to consciously avoid the idea of that very project. In doing so, you’ll end up thinking of it, hence the paradox of stress.
By avoiding the work assigned to you, you create unnecessary stress virtually out of thin air. If you were to finish the work as soon as possible, you’d instantly feel a relief incomparable to the “relaxation” you would have while procrastinating. Although you’d have the instant gratification of doing something enjoyable, your mind will be restless, knowing that there is something left unaccomplished.
Anxiety and stress cannot be tamed; they must be conquered. You’ll never be more ready to face your challenge than this moment right now, no matter how daunting it seems. If you have a big project, start it now—little steps will act as encouragement and motivation going forward. If you applied for a job, don’t simply sit back and play the waiting game: apply for another. By having more eggs in more baskets, your anxiety and stress will dampen should disappointment arise. If you have someone you want to ask out on a date, don’t strategize and stress over “what if” questions; just go, ask, and see what happens.
Stress is the natural response to the dangers of the world. It’s our animal instinct warning us that there are elements out there that will kill us. But that is not true in this day and age, where the things that stress us out are trivial rather than life threatening. Yet, we still feel that if we fail to do something we’ll be ripped apart, eaten alive. Once we are able to recognize that the threats are all in our head, we can sit down, work, or relax without the intrusion of stress.
People with frequent anxiety attacks hate the fact that people like me belittle their impairment, but I’m disappointed in the way they magnify the task at hand. They believe that by relaxing, avoiding the work, and sitting back, they will be better off in the end. That’s not true. Stress must be eliminated like rotting food. You clean the kitchen if it stinks wouldn’t you? The same goes with stress.