Stressed Out

CATE O’BRIEN | OPINION COLUMNIST

It seems that every time I ask how someone is right now the answer is “stressed,” “exhausted,” or a sort of mumbled grunt. It’s a stressful time: students often have three tests a week, large papers and projects are nearing their deadlines and clubs and activities have picked up their pace. I know I am not the only one feeling the stress. With all that’s going on it’s often difficult to take care of my physical health, let alone try to care for my mental, emotional, and spiritual health. I’ve recently felt myself getting lost in anxious, spiraling thoughts: If I don’t do well on this test, I won’t do well in the class. If I don’t do well in the class, I won’t get a good GPA. If I don’t get a good GPA, I won’t get into graduate school. If I don’t get into graduate school, how will I ever get a career I’m proud of? How will I ever be happy and fulfilled?

All of these are important things to keep in mind, of course, but I think focusing so much on the future has made me forget about the present. Getting good test grades, maintaining my GPA, and having a “good” career are all important to me, but I’ve been letting these things take precedence over my current well-being and happiness. And I don’t want that. I don’t want my career to be my primary goal and everything else to be secondary. When I really stop to think about it, I don’t want the end to justify the means.

What’s more, I don’t want to focus on future happiness and fulfillment when I could be focusing on my happiness and fulfillment right here, right now. Spending time with my family and friends brings me joy. Running and taking care of my body brings me joy. Finding time to be creative outside of class brings me joy. These things really matter to me. But so often I find myself forgetting about them simply because I am too busy trying to prove myself. Sometimes, what’s most important is not the test grades. Sometimes, what’s most important is that I find the time to take care of myself; find the time to take a deep breath and let some things go. Life is about the process, not the results.

Because in the end, no one really knows why we’re here. All we know is that we are. I’m lucky enough to have a life that is full of friends and family and opportunities, and yes, sometimes managing that life is a lot of work. But I would feel silly wasting it because I was too busy chasing something I already have.

Stress won’t magically let up the moment I get a career I love. In fact, it’ll probably only increase. That’s why finding a way to pay attention to joy through this stress is so important. Life is defined by the day-to-day. If I let stress and worry rule over my day-to-day habits, I let it rule over my life, and I refuse to do that anymore. I want to live my life focusing on the blessings I have been given, not simply the tasks I have yet to do.

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