Dear Stress, It’s Not Me, It’s You

By Alex Hoeflicker

Stress is my middle name. Stress is my best friend. Stress and I go way back and meet up regularly for cocktails.

Widely understood to be a negative emotion, stress is synonymous with anxiety and unhappiness. Despite this, most of us have humble-bragged a time or two about how “stressed” or “busy” we are. I fully admit to being guilty of this. I work full-time, create art, and love my life here in the beautiful busy city of Austin. Humble-brag.

And now it’s time to break up.

Everywhere I look, people around me are substituting coffee for entire food groups and adding to their to-do lists. They’re putting in extra hours at the office and signing up for more than they should. They do this because they believe, as I did, that surviving the grueling schedule they’ve built for themselves will make them more successful and, by extension, happier.

There is value in hard work, but there is also value in taking time to shift our focus and care for ourselves to give our bodies what they need, like…

Reminding yourself that happiness is not an achievement. It’s easy to fall into the mindset that you’ll have time to be happy and enjoy yourself after you accomplish x, y, and z. However true that may be, inserting activities you enjoy, self-love, self-care and relaxation into your daily pursuit of success can be just as rewarding.

Just go to sleep already. It’s easy to disregard what we already know to be true: we are healthier, happier, and more productive if we regularly get a full night’s rest. Make sleep a priority and take the necessary steps to make it happen, even if that means setting a regular bedtime or turning off electronics by a certain time.

Work smarter, not harder. Shift your focus to output, rather than your input. Remembering that the quality of the end-product is what matters most. Install a website blocker to keep yourself off distracting sites, roll up your sleeves, and get your work done quickly and more productively.

Finally, don’t romanticize stress. Don’t confuse being busy with being successful. Your body and mind will thank you. I promise.

We have fallen victim to the culturally constructed concept that our input (our effort) is more vital to our success than our output (what we produce). This is why the employee who works late every night or shows up early every morning is probably more likely to get a promotion, even though a coworker who clocks out at 5 p.m. every day might be getting just as much work done.

We may not have the answer for changing the social norm on this, but you cannot run on nothing but fumes and caffeine.

Originally published at