When there's pressure to succeed, stress follows
Growing up I remember constantly hearing adults around me complaining that they felt ‘stressed’ but never knew what that really meant, or what it was to feel like that. It was only when I started working after leaving University that I really found out. It was quickly apparent to me that stress was coming a pressure to succeed.
Two weeks ago, I felt at the height of my ‘stressed’ state and was finding it hard to sleep at night thanks to a constant stream of thoughts and worries about work, relationships, life. Why does it feel like everybody else is doing better? Was I not doing enough? Am I not enough? This cycle of thoughts is totally inhibiting the ability to have gratitude and satisfaction in the moment. How can I enjoy where I am right now, if I’m constantly thinking I should be to be somewhere further along my path?
I took a step back. What I saw was a 26 year old woman who enjoys what she does, has great friends and is happy with where she is. I realized that what is causing me to worry and feel stressed is this ridiculous pressure to constantly be over achieving, to be at the next stage of life before I’ve even got a chance to get there.
We live in a culture where we are constantly pushed to be more driven, more determined, work harder, fulfill our dreams. While this is meant to be inspiring and motivating us, too much of it, too often, can be overwhelming and debilitating. There seems to be a sense that if you aren’t always striving for more, you’re failing. We become constantly impatient with ourselves for not getting “there” fast enough. We never stop to take a breath. We’re getting so run-down and emotionally exhausted that we can’t truly enjoy the things we’ve worked so hard to achieve.
To me, being driven is about getting excited to achieve things in my day and enjoying the small achievements, not waking up feeling a heavy weight on my chest. Pursuing dreams and goals is a wonderful and necessary thing, but we need to do it without putting such crippling amounts of pressure on ourselves.
It’s difficult to turn off that pressure, however, if we are constantly comparing ourselves to others. There’s billions of people on earth, so it’s useless and totally counterproductive to use their lives as a barometer for your own. There’s a quote circulating on social media that says, “You have as many hours in the day as Beyonce.” Wait, so does that mean we should all be selling out arena tours by now? The message is that we all have an ability to make the most of our day but it’s so easy to misread it and feel totally inadequate.
In today’s age of social media, it’s increasingly harder to avoid seeing what everybody else is doing and what stage they are at. It’s almost impossible not to feel a pang of envy towards something when we’re scrolling down our Instagram feed.
I recently spent the day with my nieces and was watching them play together. I saw that even at 18 months old there existed jealousy between them. If one child had a toy, then the other would want it, and then it became a whole struggle. Seeing this calmed me. It served as a reminder that we are born with this emotion. We don’t need to be ashamed of it or beat ourselves up for feeling it. We simply need to find a better way of dealing with it so that we can take off some of the stress and pressure we put on ourselves.
There are a few ways I’ve found that really help me deal with these things, one my favorite of which is exercise. It is an incredible stress reliever. It’s an hour or so when I am not thinking about anything except where I am. It’s something where I am improving at my own rate – exactly what I want to do in other areas of my life. There’s no pressure for me to be an Olympic athlete after a week in the gym! There’s no rush to get anywhere with it, I just enjoy it. It releases endorphins, I sleep better and I’m in a better mood because of it and more able to handle the bumps in the road.
Yoga, specifically, has helped me in some of my darkest times. It gives me a place where I can I slow down and tune into my body and mind. Meditation is also a great way to quiet your mind and cut down on stress. It has proven to be an antidote to the immense pressure to accomplish for me.
When I myself am able to do these things and step away from the anxiety, I recognize that I am completely happy where I am right now. All those other things I worry and stress over, I’ll get to them eventually if I can. I don’t have to be at some imagined destination all the time. It’s okay to enjoy the journey. In fact, we must! Success comes in many different ways. Your success is going to look like your success so forget about everyone else, take a deep breath, remember how much you have to be proud and grateful for and smile to yourself with that knowledge.
Lots of love, Roxie xx