When I submitted my last assignment and sat my last exam a few weeks ago, I naively assumed that my life would suddenly be free from stress. This is sometimes what we to tell ourselves just to get through: that if we study just a little bit longer, if we write just one more paragraph or read one more chapter, then we’ll be one step closer to that mythical stress-free place.
Of course, this place isn’t real. Stress doesn’t exist in a vacuum, so whether we’re dealing with exams or not, it will always exist in our lives in some form. It might be stress at work, stress in relationships, or maybe most complicated of all, self-induced stress: the kind born from anxieties about the future, what we’ll do, where we’ll go, and who we’ll be.
Perhaps in some slightly perverse way, we need stress. We’re so used to it that we make room for it, and we don’t know how to live without it. This isn’t to say we necessarily enjoy feeling stressed; I think most of us know how uncomfortable a feeling it can be, but it’s there, whether we like it or not. I suppose instead of ignoring it or relying on a future that is stress-free (impossible), what we should really do is accept it, face it, and learn how to live in harmony with stress.
Managing stress will always be fundamental to our mental health and wellbeing. This is true for periods of extreme stress (e.g. exam season) and periods of more minimal stress (e.g. running late for an appointment). Part of managing that stress is reminding yourself that everything passes, and that it’s important to stay focused and present. If we can learn to live with stress in this way—that is, with balance and perspective—then we won’t need to lie to ourselves or imagine living in that mythical stress-free place. Life as it is, stress and all, could be enough.