Your jaw is clenched. Your teeth are firmly together, not really hurting but there’s pressure there. Your shoulders are coming up towards your ears, rather than staying at home. After a while you get quite hot, and everything becomes quite irritating, as you become increasingly irritable. There are just a few of the physiological and mental reactions to stress, and they’re rarely pleasant .
I used to claim that I don’t get stressed. I used to shove it, metaphorically of course, into the faces of both friend and foe. “Look at me I don’t get stressed you pathetic mortals.” It was a simpler time, up there on my high horse. However, this is no longer the case. These days I experience stress fairly often. My first real experience with stress was earlier this year, when my hard drive corrupted, deleting all my assignments that were due that week and the weeks coming. I was as far up the walls as humanly possible. I didn’t really understand how people put up with that type of thing on the daily, but I knew they did.
I do get stressed though, and have done for years, but didn’t really see its effect. I get stressed if I’m not productive. I f I’m not writing, or exercising, or doing something that has purpose, I get stressed and then I get guilty. I always feel like I HAVE to be doing something, so when I’m not it stresses me out. I can’t settle down and watch a movie or TV without having accomplished something that progresses me beforehand. This may sound a little humblebrag-y, but it’s not intended. The point of this is to communicate the fact that consciously experiencing stress is very new to me, and I think it happens because of the hunt for self-actualization, or the ideal self.
Abraham Maslow describes self-actualization as a human’s utmost need. It’s the accomplishment of unleashing one’s full potential. Psychologist Carl Rogers poses this as the ‘ideal self’, but it more or less means the same thing. It’s you functioning at full wallop. It’s you at your peak, in all factions of life, setting goals and achieving them.
Now I think I get stressed when I’m not actively pursuing this state of actualization. If I’m not being productive, then I’m not moving forward, which means I’m going backwards. At least that’s what my brain thinks, and it’s quite irrational and unnecessary to think like that. I’ve started realizing that overburdening myself with internal pressure is the exact reason I stagnate sometimes. Pressure makes diamonds, but it also kills people who find themselves in water that’s too deep. That’s a weird analogy in fairness, but what I’m saying is, putting pressure on yourself is only beneficial in certain contexts, and so pressuring yourself in EVERY circumstance is, by default, a bad thing.
Long story short, if you ever find yourself stressing out, and that stress is caused by the notion that you should be further along the path than you should be, that’s when you need to hit the brakes and have a good laugh at yourself. After all, you’re just a hairless chimpanzee with an overactive imagination.