Stress: Can’t Live With or Without It
Have you ever sat on your bed and actually had nothing to do or nothing to think about? Most people would answer no. But, as I remove myself from sitting on my bed and staring into space, I can’t actually believe that I’m the only one who feels as if I literally have nothing to do.
Well, I know I’m not the only one. *cue Sam Smith song*
Like many 20-something year-olds, I’m a college student (like many young adults), I was on winter break (which means no school work), and I was at home being taken care of like I was in high school. And yes, this is my idea of paradise after surviving yet another grueling semester of word count-based papers and mind-numbing tests.
But Only for a Limited Amount of Time
After a few weeks of having all your prior responsibilities and stresses removed from your thought process, it starts to feel kind of weird. You initially thought you’d be elated to have all this time to be careless and lazy, and you also told yourself “NOW is the time to get all this stuff done that I couldn’t do when I was ‘busy.’”
But no. You don’t do any of those things. You sit around your house, eat all the food you can’t afford to buy yourself, and you mold yourself into the couch while you watch endless marathons of old TV-series on Netflix.
And right here, boredom starts to set in. You reach that uncomfortable state of mind that I previously described, and you can’t wait until you have all that stress and chaos back into your life.
The desire for stress is normal because you NEED stress. And no, not crazy amounts of stress that sends your cortisol levels off the charts and causes a chronic case of insomnia. I’m talking about enough activity and work that keeps your mind stimulated.
What I’m talking about is a term called “eustress,” also known as “good stress.” This is what keeps you motivated to stay on track with various aspects of your life. Whether it be graduation, starting a business, or getting onstage to perform your favorite part of a show, eustress is what makes you excited and driven to succeed.
Believe it or not, being bored is bad. Having absolutely no stress in your life is just as bad as having too much of it. This concept was actually developed by Robert Yerkes and John Dodson in the Yerks-Dodson law and can be easily understood by looking at a graph paired with the law.
The Y-axis represents performance while the X-axis represents arousal. Now, the line on the graph looks like an upside down parabola. On the high-arousal end, the performance is predicted to be low, as expected. But, on the low-arousal end, performance is also predicted to be low. It is not until there is a medial amount of stress (eustress) where performance level peaks to maximum potential.
Strange, right? It kind of explains why you tend to get nothing done when you’re on break, or when you feel so overwhelmed with endless-obligations. No wonder some people claim to “get more done when their busy.” With little to no stress, you have no motivation to do anything.
This is where your willpower and self-motivation need to come into play. You have the power to TELL yourself to get things done if you mentally prioritize them. By putting an appropriate amount of pressure/stress on yourself to do something, you’ll be more inclined to actually get it done. But, easier said than done, right?
Basically, I’m saying that allowing yourself to feel bored and lazy on a break is both a personal choice and a natural reaction to the shift from work-overload to vacation. It’s perfectly normal to feel uncomfortable when you have all your responsibilities stripped from your to-do list, but you have the ability to write a new one. Even if it’s silly tasks or the ones you put off to the side in the midst of your previous insanity, treat yourself to some tender-loving eustress. (myself included)
More on: Yerkes-Dodson Law