Learning How To Cope With Stress
Three words seem to have dominated the year 2021: pandemic, science, and productivity.
Despite an ongoing global pandemic, an obsession with productivity has remained at the forefront of American work culture. Now more than ever, this is evident through the CDC’s decision to shorten isolation periods so people can return to work faster. At the height of the pandemic in March of 2020, I bought into this ideology. As a paralegal for a business immigration law firm, every case seemed increasingly urgent and it became difficult to differentiate between what needed to be done the same day and what could be done the next day. Even during the holiday season, I experienced looming stress and anxiety over meeting deadlines; even more so at the thought of not being able to produce.
My initial reaction to coping with stress led to a lot of negative outcomes, such as spending long hours disconnected from reality by constantly staring at my phone or excessively watching T.V. During this time, I lost sight of things that brought me joy and received a lot of gratification from being successful at work. I worked early mornings and late nights to keep up with the pace of corporate culture, which oftentimes left me feeling empty and burnt out. After a little over a year, I decided it was time for a career change, which is one of the best decisions I could have made in improving my emotional and physical health.
Although I have since transitioned jobs, the stresses of working during the pandemic have remained. Even further, transitioning to a fully remote job has made it easier to work late evenings or during weekends since work is easily accessible at your fingertips. As someone who now works with high school-age students, I am flooded with emails at all hours of the day. This makes it difficult to create boundaries between working hours and personal time. However, rather than choosing to completely shut out work, I’ve learned to cope with stress by making time to prioritize my mental and physical health.
My transition to healthy coping mechanisms has looked like me making time to stretch and walk around rather than being seated at my desk all day. I have also set time aside for partaking in activities that grant me joy, including but not limited to reading, creatively writing, and listening to my favorite songs. When I am not engaging in these activities, I’ve intentionally carved out time to connect with family and friends as well as reflect on my personal and professional growth. Instead of seeing stress as something that needs to be contained at all costs, I have channeled it as a mechanism to fuel my work.
I’ve learned stress can have a negative impact but it is also an indicator that you’re passionate about something and willing to put in the work to achieve a favorable outcome. In most cases, stress is inevitable but learning to cope with it in healthy ways is critical to experiencing the desired outcome. In this new year, I am parting away from an emphasis on productivity and taking time to engage in meaningful reflection surrounding my desired impact and trajectory. Despite the pressure to constantly produce, holidays are the best time to celebrate small victories and be grounded in this reality.
As I begin to form my new year’s resolutions, I am beginning to think of how each resolution can contribute to my well-being rather than compete with it. Instead of buying into the ideology of productivity, I am challenging myself to create systems that will serve me and my community.
I hope this blog post serves as a reminder that rest and reflection are critical regardless of what professional or personal goal(s) you’re working towards in the new year. Thank you for reading!
I am an alumna from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and a proud Chicagoan, who is passionate about youth advocacy, purposeful mentorship, and educational equity.