Let’s Talk About Stress, Baby

In my little world, I categorize my stress into two categories: To Do List Stress and Life Stress. Sometimes they overlap, but they tend to affect me differently.

I prefer no stress, but if I had to pick one of these, I’ll pick the To Do List Stress.

To Do List Stress is the consequence of me overestimating my ability to be productive and scheduling myself to do a whole lot of things in a certain period of time. To Do List Stress is most prevalent in December, but I can honestly do this to myself at any time. I tend to cope with this stress better. Not because I can choose to reschedule the things on my To Do List to be more accommodating (because even if I say I’m going to do that, I never do), but for whatever reason, it’s just something I can handle. Maybe it’s because I’m a Capricorn. Who knows.

One contributing factor to my ability to deal with To Do List Stress is that it triggers my “DO IT ALL NOW” anxiety and out of all of my anxiety manifestations, I can actually deal with that one pretty easily. It mostly involves me reminding myself that I don’t have to do it all now and I have it all scheduled out. Do I have to remind myself of this multiple times a day, if not an hour, and does it sometimes disrupt my sleep? Yes. But it’s mild compared to what Life Stress does to me.

Life Stress is everything else in my world.

It’s working short-handed most days of the week. It’s working a customer service job during a pandemic. It’s the constant barrage of bad news. It’s going grocery shopping at any point in time. It’s the ever present strain that never seems to abate.

I’m not great at dealing with that kind of stress, at least not anymore. I think I was better at dealing with it when I was younger and more resilient. Or I was too dumb to stop and realize what I was dealing with. Whatever the reason, after the Massively Stressful Summer of ’18, my ability to cope with Life Stress is basically non-existent. It totally drains me.

Which is not good.

It’s not ideal to go through life feeling like you’re unable to catch your breath.

I think -and this is just speculation- that I might be able to cope with Life Stress better if it didn’t absolutely wreck me anxiety-wise. While To Do List Stress triggers one particular anxiety manifestation, Life Stress triggers several and they’re all the worst.

The general dread that comes with social situations, like going to work for example, goes from barely registering/normal to now dialed up to 11 because every shift guarantees an unpleasant interaction with someone.

And every unpleasant interaction leads to rumination that I can’t stop, whether I acknowledge it or not. Because most days, I just chalk it up to the normal of now and don’t consciously think about it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not pinballing through my brain, off in the background, coming to the fore when I finally sleep and the guard goes down.

Stress dreams are not fun. And I’m having them a lot more often than I ever did.

This sort of thing has made my baseline anxiety worse. I question every single human interaction I have outside of the people in my house, and still question those interactions on occasion. I cannot wish someone happy birthday without questioning my word choice. You think I’m joking, but I’m not. I can have a chat with someone I’ve known most of my life, who knows me and my quirks and my dumbassery, and still walk away from that conversation ruminating over every single thing I said and did during that interaction.

This is the toll that Life Stress takes on me. Is taking on me. Because in addition to just sucking in general, it’s also feeding a beast I’m quickly losing control of.

Now I know that I’m not unique in this. A lot of people have Life Stress issues along with mental illness. Some might argue that I’m lucky because I don’t have the added stresses of a spouse and kids and a real job. But think about it. If I can’t handle what I’ve already got, it’s probably for the best that I’m not dealing with more. I’m hardly coping (not really) as it is.

Do I feel like a complete failure and a total baby? Absolutely.

Will I find a way to cope and/or live with it?

I hope so.