The Stress Factor

The Almost Working Girl’s Guide to Managing and Ignoring Everyday Stress

stressed-outStress is tricky. There’s negative stress and positive stress. It’s bad to have too much stress, but good to have a little. It has the potential to induce heart attacks or strokes, but the ability to motivate and spark creativity as well.

Stress is inevitable. It exists in everyone’s life at varying degrees, at all times. It will go up, go down, change and evolve depending on your age, weight, sex, gender and lifestyle.

I am a relatively healthy 22-year-old female, living in New York City, struggling to make it as a professional writer. I’m also marginally stressed out about the fact that I graduated from college six months ago and cannot find anyone who will hire me to do anything. So I stress.

In theory, I shouldn’t really have stress given that I live in one of the most exciting cities in the world and am unencumbered by the responsibilities of a career. Except it’s the summer of 2009, which preceded the recession of the winter of 2008, and the possibility of just waltzing into my dream job once I feel like taking a stab at, it is relatively minute.

So instead of experiencing stress by working a demanding, yet fabulously fulfilling job, meeting my friends after work, having late bar nights, trying to date, grocery shopping, keeping up appearances in my apartment and doing all that is involved in basic living; I do all of that, minus the job. I spend my days instead, glued to my laptop, endlessly scouring the job boards and compulsively applying to positions I could even remotely be considered qualified for. In between those two frustrating activities I go on occasional, but ultimately fruitless interviews with various HR representatives.

Compounding this situation, I tend to operate at a rather exhaustive pace. Yesterday, I caught myself setting the alarm on my phone with one hand and doing triceps exercises with a five-pound free weight with the other. While completing that rep, I mapped out a plan to finish the rest of my exercises: put the phone down and do the other arm, get some water, do another set working my shoulders, wash my makeup off, come back do another set, finish the arm exercises, then start working with my body ball. And this was at 10 p.m.

Though I like working at this speed (I’d rather be slightly frazzled than bored), it does have a tendency to catch up with me. It is not uncommon, that after a week of maintaining this pace I usually reach a point when I don’t want see or talk to anyone and my only desire is to watch a six hours of “The O.C.,” accompanied by a bag of white chocolate-covered pretzels.

Admittedly, this is probably pretty unhealthy and is not doing much to help my stress situation, but it’s hard to visualize an alternative. I get what I want to get done. I see my friends, work my job hunt and try not to drive myself insane in the process. As for the lounging and eating; as long as my metabolism is still moving fast enough to process those pretzels, I don’t really care as long as my skin doesn’t break out and my pants still fit.

And I’m hardly an anomaly. I think a good majority of women in their twenties, thirties, forties and beyond, feel and operate the same way, trying to pack as much as they can into their lives and ignoring the stress they feel or the stress their lifestyle has created. And as a member of this population, I’m flummoxed when it comes to finding a solution to the stress question. Working out, taking a walk or meditating when I feel overwhelmed; these all seem like logical stress relievers, but when I went to bed at 3 a.m. and woke up at 7 a.m to get ready for another job interview, crawling back into bed just seems more appealing.

But I’m working on it, because stress doesn’t have to have a negative impact on your life. I want the stress, but I want the positive, creative-ideas-inducing stress. The kind that will increase the blood flow to my muscles and elevate my heart rate to a healthy level. I want cortisol, the “stress hormone,” but I want the perfect amount. I want to have the increased memory and bursts of immunity it promises. But I don’t want too much cortisol, because that means that I’ll be in chronic state of stress, which also means I have the possibility of developing brittle bones, flabby muscles and the dreaded spare tire of fat sitting around my waist. No, I want the kind of stress that will inspire me, allow me to perform well and most importantly, allow me to have the energy to accomplish all that I do now but in a relaxed and less hectic manner.

So I’ve decided to acquire that kind of happy-positive stress. I’m going to rise about the factors that has been weighing heavy on my mind and body. I am going to become negative stress-free by the end of the summer.

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© Copyright 2011  Allison Stuart Kaplan LLC

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