1. Talking about how busy you are stresses you out.
Talking about your stress only makes it worse. So why do we do it? Because it is instant gratification.
When you pour your heart out to whoever you can find about how busy you are, you can trade time (you pouring your heart out about how buried in work you are) for instant gratification (the person you are talking to feels obligated to tell you how awesome you are). All things considered, it is pretty awesome instant gratification.
But it is also a waste of time.
Maybe I’m the only one – but telling people about what I have to do only adds to the stress.
This whole post spawned from a conversation I heard last week. I came back from work and was relaxing on the couches downstairs (playing Candy Crush Saga – because I have a problem); there was a group of five sophomores across the lounge, complaining about their work.
“Oh my gosh, I have to write a four page paper for Mizenko by next week!”
“Four pages? That’s horrible! Me too – I have so much Japanese homework tonight. It’s like three worksheets.”
“I can’t believe how much work we have. I have to study all day for a quiz!”
They went on and on, and I had to stifle a laugh because you’re sophomores. I remember what being a sophomore was like – you think you are so busy with work, but nothing compared to senior year (like me).
And this is the problem.
- Sophomores think freshmen are over-reacting when it comes to work, because reading two books for class isn’t a big deal.
- Juniors think sophomores are over-reacting, because at least they aren’t taking any 300 level classes.
- Seniors think juniors are over-reacting because we have to do a graduation thesis, apply to grad school, and deal with people asking (and judging) our life plans every day.
- And “real word” people think college students are over-reacting because, hello, you sit around taking pictures of your coffee and text books, post drunk twitter updates, and complain all day long.
An hour later, as I passed the common room on the way to dinner, I heard them. They were still complaining. No joke. Same people, same problems. That same sophomore was complaining about the same worksheets, and I just wanted to call back through the door “you could have already finished them by now if you had done it, rather than just complaining.”
But I didn’t, because that would be bad form. I’m trying to be a nicer person.
Anyways, at dinner, my friends started talking about work and, I’m not even joking, we had the exact same complaints as those sophomores. Too much to study, too many worksheets, too many books to read, too many papers to write – we sounded exactly like them. I hope no one over-heard us because, looking from an outside perspective, we sounded rather pathetic.
So why is our first reaction under stress to tell everyone about it?
2. It is kind of like bragging
I get this feeling that when people get together and talk about their business, they expect (and hope) the next person will say “Wow, you really are so busy! You totally beat me! I don’t know how you do it!”
But no one actually says that.
Life is not a competition of who can do the most things in the least amount of time. It doesn’t matter if I am working on a five page paper due next week while you are drowning in six essays and two book reports due Friday. We’re both stressed.
Furthermore, the fact that you have to do “more” things than me doesn’t discount my ability to feel stressed. I am allowed to be stressed whenever I want; my stress is not conditional to the stress of those around me.
If you want to brag about how amazing you are because you work three jobs, are a full-time student, and coach a children’s soccer team, talk to your therapist, parents, or significant other. They kind of exist to inflate your ego.
But don’t talk to your friends about it.
We don’t exist just to make you feel better about yourself. Believe it or not, the people you are talking to have their own feelings, frustrations, and panic attacks that span from stress. They’ve just, you know, learned how to keep it to themselves.
3. Life is not a competition of who can do the most
A while back, before I reached that state of Nirvana and stopped talking to people about my work schedule, I was complaining with a friend about classwork. We were doing the usual:
“Oh my gosh, I have a paper due on Friday and I haven’t even started it yet.”
“Wow, that sucks. I know how you feel. I need to read 200 hundred pages of this before class tomorrow.”
“Ouch. Oh, did I mention I also have to work the late-night shift at campus safety? I don’t know how I’m going to get this paper done.”
“Oh well, at least you don’t have a hard major like mine!”
I nearly choked on my pumpkin spice coffee. Did she discount my entire college experience?
She continued, “I mean with your IR major, you can just kind of bullshit your way through a paper. But I have to legitimately study for my Bio quiz.”
I just kind of replied with a “Oh, sucks to be you” and a mental note to ignore her for the next month as I stressed about graduation.
See, that’s the problem with these conversations. It didn’t matter what I said. In her eyes, my stress level perpetually lived below hers, because I had one of those joke majors in humanities. I wasn’t doing hard science. Everyone knows hard science is, well, the hardest.
Each of us wanted to win. Each of us wanted to be the “busiest” and earn the respect of the other. But when both people are talking and neither one is listening… how can you expect change?
4. Everyone handles stress differently
As we grow, so does our capacity to handle stress, assignments, and projects. That is why (most) high school students don’t have the drive or ability to found their own magazine or crank out papers on long-lasting effects of the secular religious nature of France. But that doesn’t mean they are not working their hardest. They probably are.
Do you know what I do when I’m stress? I lock myself in the library (figuratively) or my office (literally) until I finish. During high school, I actually spent the night once or twice in the library before a Bio exam (before you think that my parents were horrible, irresponsible people – this was a boarding school).
Other people go running. Or binge eating. Or do Netflix marathons in between study sessions. Or talk to literally every single person in sight about how busy they are – so they can get instant gratification.
I’m not judging you for your stress-coping strategy (unless you are the fourth option, then I am totally judging you).
So don’t judge other’s stress by what they say. Some people (enlightened people) don’t feel comfortable bragging and comparing their achievements to others. That doesn’t mean they don’t have problems. And, you know, they might get tired of you always talking about how hard your life is.
5. You’re not actually THAT busy
Face it, you’re not. I know you think you are busy beyond belief. And you probably are. But you’re never THAT busy. There is always time to sleep, always time to sleep, and always time to take a short break. If you tell me that you haven’t slept in two days because you’ve been so busy, I automatically assume you have poor time management skills.
Because if you’re cornering me after class to tell me how busy you are, how you haven’t slept in days, and how you have been working non-stop all week to finish this application, I automatically assume you are either a liar or have awful time management skills. Because, you know, you’re wasting time talking to me.
There are 24 hours in a day. A surprising amount can be done in a couple caffeine laced hours.
The easiest way to tell if I am busy or not is to check my room. If I’m in it, I’m not busy. If you haven’t seen me in weeks and are beginning to wonder if I finally gave in and just ran back to Japan, I’m probably dealing with a lot of stress right now and am buried somewhere on the fourth floor of the library.
And if I am, do me a favor, and don’t come find me. Let me work through it on my own. When I’m better, less busy, and less judgmental/generally angry at everyone and everything, I will catch up with you over dinner.
6. Talking about how busy you are wastes time
Complaining about your stress is trading time for instant gratification in the form of compliments from your friends (or random strangers you cornered in line at Starbucks). And it wastes time.
As Nike says: “Just do it.”
Don’t talk about it. Don’t brag about it. Don’t complain about it. Just do it.
If you were actually THAT busy, you wouldn’t be wasting time talking to me.
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