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OPINION: Let's chat about changeable stress

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OPINION: Let's chat about changeable stress

This has been a lesson hard-learned. Or really, hardly learned, as I’m certain I’m still in the thick of doing so.

This week has brought about new stressors in addition to the normal homework, exams, and Covid we’re normally worried about (sheesh, when did Covid find its way onto the “normal” list?). We’ll just go ahead and leave the proverbial cat in the bag in this one; who could possibly need more mention of it?

There are many issues to nitpick on this topic, and it’s very possible a good many of us disagree with one another. What’s also possible is that some people have no idea what to think. Regardless of where you fall, there are some serious issues I have noticed with how people are coping.

People are seriously stressing.

A lot.

And the stress is doing more harm than good.

My friends wake up in the mornings and believe that they can’t complete their assignments or attend their classes because they’re worried about what may happen in the future and how that may derail the plans they have for themselves now. They go to bed not knowing what news alert on their phones they may wake up to. The go about their days uncertain of who and what to believe and why others believe differently.

And right now, they wonder what numbers will be attributed to which locations and how that will affect the rest of their lives.

I can understand and be empathetic toward why people are stressed. Once a big decision is made, it’s hard to be patient until the results are determined. And it’s very hard to operate when you’re not the only one in charge of making a decision – we’ve all been here; we’ve all had group projects.

I’m seldom on the outside of stress. Far too often I internalize things and bug out about them until I can cross them off my to do list or see a perfect grade for them. I know what it’s like to have thoughts criss-crossing one another, jumping to the next task before your body can get to it, causing you to both over-function and underperform at the same time. It’s jumbled and exciting and nauseating all at once.

And exhausting.

In this situation, however, I don’t feel eaten up by the ball of stress I see consuming many of the people I care about. In some ways, I wish I were just as bothered as the people around me. I want to feel the same confusion and frustration they feel, to be part of the turmoil they are going through. But because I’m not, I’ve realized a great thing that – if I had to guess – the same people I’m worried about now have been trying to get me to understand for years: some things aren’t worth stressing over.

Sure, it’s easy to say this. Not so easy to enact. But, guys, listen: if you are truly passionate about a thing – anything – the time to be frustrated and take action is before the thing happens. If a giant paper is due in two weeks, the time to be worried about it is now, not after you’ve already turned it in.

Perhaps that worry will transform into productivity and proactiveness. That would be ideal, at least. Take action before something becomes a problem. This ultimately alleviates stress.

The same goes for larger-scale duties. The time to panic, stress, worry, speak out is before you act.

That’s over now. There are some big questions up in the air. As college students, we are acutely aware of how the results of this particular decision may impact a significant time and portion of our lives. As we move away from school and into establishing careers and adult lives for ourselves, we want to transition as seamlessly as possible. To not know – and continue not knowing for a few months, presumably – what shape that transition is going to take is scary.

It is indeed something that lends itself to worrying. Regardless of the fear that may be welling in our tummies, though, we need to find a moment and expel those criss-crossing, jumbling thoughts. Because you know what? You did it. You acted. And now the decision is out of your hands, unchangeable.

The same friends who are caught up in worrying over this are finding it difficult to do things they are normally quite good at: conversing, getting work done, focusing. It’s bad. This worrying has hold of people and is hurting them from the inside.

But it’s not worth it. The worrying does not create a positive impact on the things you want to happen. It only makes a negative impact on your own wellbeing.

When you feel passionately about something, it’s hard to let it go. (Believe me, I’m still riled up about tons of much littler things [printing budget ring a bell?].) You want to keep fighting until you’ve gotten your way or feel heard. I think it’s truly wonderful that so many people have found ways to express themselves. If posting opinions on Facebook is your jam, excellent, I’m glad you found something that works for you.

What I ask now is for you to continue that passion and apply it toward something you can change. Find the next big decision or action and determine how you can become involved with it to make the impact you desire. This decision – you know the one – is over now. Be happy that you are surrounded by so many expressive, thought-provoking people. Please don’t let stress for something that is no longer in your control cause you to lose sight of the things you can control.

We all had a responsibility and I trust you exercised it as you saw fit. Let that stand.


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