Post-Uni Lifestyle

How I Handle Stress

Sharing is caring:

The secret is… I don’t.

Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

Life is full of stress, that’s just a fact. But actively trying to change your situation is inherently stressful. Taking risks, trying new techniques and travelling to new places, physically and emotionally, takes its toll on a person. I would say I am a prime example of this. I have spoken about my seemingly low-functioning brain in a previous post, indicating the burnout that I am clearly experiencing, but I’m afraid there is more.

Applying for jobs is scary. Why on earth is it scary, you may ask? Well, I’m trying my best to convince a complete stranger that I am a good fit for the job that they have advertised, and I only have one shot to do so. This means every application I write has to be my magnum opus and win the hearts of the recruiters over! If you couldn’t guess already, I put a lot of pressure on myself. I just want to show everyone that I am good at what I do, whatever that may be. That pressure has seeped into what I like to do in my spare time, i.e. this site.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love making posts on here and being able to create uncurated content, but I feel this intense pressure to impress people. I need to remember that at the end of the day, this is MY site and the stuff I write should be good enough for me. If other people like it, that’s a bonus. It’s hard to think that way in the moment though.

I also have trouble appreciating my work. I have developed this habit of producing something, maybe an assignment, then after I have submitted it I block out the memory of creating it. This is a coping mechanism. It doesn’t kick in right away, but I eventually forget about the “trauma” from creating a piece. The trauma in question is linked to the pressure I put on myself. I get so worked up over something that probably isn’t as bad in the end as it seemed in the beginning. I will name this phenomenon “self-induced panic” or “SIP”.

My SIP is most likely linked to my upbringing. My parents are and always have been ambitious about my education, making sure to tell me to study hard in order to secure my future. I appreciate what they did for me in essence, but the execution wasn’t perfect. They made it seem like if I didn’t study and got bad grades in primary school, that my life would be a disaster.

It got worse when I reached secondary school because students were placed in classes based on their grades. I barely managed to stay in top-set, despite the fact that I studied a lot, and even enjoyed it. Made it through GCSEs with good grades by studying the night before each exam. Then I got it into my head that I was so smart, that doing the bare minimum was going to fly during A-Levels. I have never been so mistaken in my life.

Holy Mackerel, A-Levels were hard!

They kicked my butt, then dragged me down by my hair and punched me in the gut till I gave in. I got horrendous grades for the first year of Sixth Form. This destroyed my second year due to the high amount of retakes I had to do, and I left college with abysmal A-Level grades. I’m talking 190 UCAS points for 4 qualifications, one of which wasn’t an A-Level but rather an EPQ. This was probably the first time in my life that I had felt like a failure, that everything I had done up to that point was for nothing. My parents grilled me and berated me for not studying hard enough.

“Why can’t you be more like your sisters?!” – My mother (2014)

With my spirits low and my confidence crushed, I had a miserable birthday, my summer was ruined and all of my university choices were out of the picture. I thought I had truly ruined my life, just like my parents had told me I would if I didn’t study hard enough. I would have to go through clearing and see if anyone was willing to take me in my disheveled state. Then the solution revealed itself to me – a Foundation year!

My second chance!

I applied for it quicker than you could say “mistakes were made ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.” I was accepted with the UCAS points I had and welcomed with open arms into the institution that would become my home for the next four and a half years. For those who don’t know, a Foundation course is a gateway for people to get into Higher Education if they do not have Level 3 qualifications in the subject they want to study or to replace their pre-existing Level 3 qualifications if they do not meet the requirements.

Let me tell you, when I got on that course, I studied harder than I had in my entire life. I wasn’t going to let the disappointment that happened with my A-Levels happen again. With my determination, dedication and perseverance, I was able to pass the course with pretty high grades. I was granted entry onto my degree course, Physical Geography, and finally made it to university.

As the years went on, I studied hard and held lofty expectations for myself, adding the pressure that my parents put on me, plus my own. I got through first year just fine, but halfway through my second year was where the problem started. All the pressure had built up to a point where I didn’t know what I was doing anymore. I was trying to complete an assignment about river mapping and just lost it. I had a week left to submit it, after being confused about the process of completing the project for a couple of weeks prior. The lack of time left, the difficulty of understanding the project, along with the pressure I had accumulated, led me to have my first breakdown since my A-Level fiasco.

I asked for an extension and managed to get through it okay, but I ended up screwing myself over for all my assignments after this. I was so afraid of breaking down from doing another assignment, that I put it off to the last minute every time, which – you guessed it – led to breakdown after breakdown after breakdown. And each time I would submit my work, I would bury the memory of the event and move on. It even led to me spending a few extra months completing my degree, so I graduated a bit later than most of my class. It was a temporary fix to a perpetual problem.

By continuing to create things throughout my life, I will continue to be exposed to SIP, because I hardly make any changes to the way I approach coping with completing a project. I have partially fixed this by trying my best to remember what I have done, how I was feeling at the time and the achievement that I have gained from completing that project. This has been an attempt to negate the negative feelings I would have towards writing a piece or taking on a new challenge.

I want to write great things, and I don’t want to hold myself back from improvement, so that’s why I try to reflect on things. I have also forced myself to release a new post each week. I think of it as an accountability partner, a way to keep myself on track for my goal of personal development. It also counts as an immersion therapy course of sorts, because I am exposing myself to my fears each week and I feel like it’s working. I still feel stressed about my site, but it’s a stress of wanting to do right by myself.

Granted, I am still risking my health with this exposure to SIP. My joints have been acting up for the past few weeks. My right hip was causing me pain, then my right knee, and now my left wrist, which has made it hard to type this. It’s a bit stiff and it’s difficult to do much, since my left hand is my dominant hand for most activities, including writing. But I shall overcome this setback and come out the other side a stronger person. Now, if only I could get a good night’s sleep, that would be great.

If you liked what you just read or you want to find out where to roast me, follow me on social media using these links.

Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

I also have a mailing list for you to join if you want news of my antics straight to your inbox.

Sharing is caring:

By Ade

An aspiring creator in way too many areas, Ade loves to try something new, as long as it doesn't interfere with the balance of the universe too much. Trying to take each day as it comes, Ade edits videos for YouTube, occasionally records podcasts, and writes with strange mannerisms to entertain the world.