Stress-free? Yes, please.

It’s been a little while between drinks here at Midday Musings but life has been pretty busy. Even so, these days being busy doesn’t involve the frenetic pace that it did before I moved to Vancouver. Rather than working crazy hours to meet to looming deadlines, my calendar has been full with weekends away, new activities, and generally enjoying life.

Add some colour to your world.
Add some colour to your world.

Part of this has been an eagerness to explore and try new things. If you’d asked me 18 months ago whether I spent my spare time at vegetarian restaurants, doing yoga, or completing art projects, I probably would have laughed. And to be honest, I still think it sounds kind of wanky. But I’ve also never felt less stressed in my life.

Sometimes, you just need a little distance (or in my case, a lot of distance) to gain a new perspective and re-adjust your priorities. For me, one of my biggest goals when we moved was to achieve a work-life balance and reduce the stress levels that had so often plagued me back home.

It wasn’t an overnight transition. Moving away was a little scary and I found the first few months pretty awful — I was unemployed, lonely, and it rained basically every day. This was not a good start to the stress-free experiment.

But a funny thing happened. Even during the long and boring job hunt, and the more difficult (and ongoing!) friendship hunt, my stress about everything — choosing a new career, meeting more people, contributing to the household finances, keeping up with the various events happening back home — slowly started to ebb away.

The breaking point was, ironically enough, finally finding a job and realising that it didn’t matter whether I was a journalist, a marketer, a writer, or an administrator. In the end, work is work, and there will always be days that you hate and days that you enjoy. But you can choose whether or not to let your job define you, and whether or not to bring work (and stress) home.

I now work 9-5 for the first time in my life. I may not have the same level of commitment to my current role — and in some ways, the same level of satisfaction from a job well done — but I’m much happier. I no longer spend Sunday worrying about the start of the new week.

This journey is ongoing and I haven’t completely removed stress from my life. But I’m getting there, particularly when it comes to work-related stress. Here’s a few things I’ve learnt along the way so far :

  • Most stress is self-induced but that doesn’t make it any less real. I try to identify why a problem is bothering me. What am I really worried about? Is this a reasonable fear?
  • I shouldn’t feel guilty about feeling stressed. Sometimes, stupid things will stress me out, and that’s ok. Acknowledge it, find someone who can help, and move on.
  • Unless you’re saving lives for a living, the world probably won’t end if you sleep on a problem.
  • Most people are too busy worrying about what others think to be worrying about you.
  • Riding a bike or walking to work is about 100 billion times more enjoyable than catching a bus or driving. In fact, exercise in general helps, but it can be tricky to find a regular routine.
  • Sometime it doesn’t matter if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing with your life.

Reducing stress has benefited every aspect of my life. I exercise more. I (generally) eat better. I read more. I’ve discovered new interests. I don’t spend (as much) time worrying about the future or past decisions. It’s a good feeling.

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