We’ve all been there before: The relatable stages of stress

Illustration of a stressed student reading a textbook, a pile of books nearby
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There’s no denying it — we’ve all been stressed before. I constantly hear people telling me that being stressed is a mindset and that I have to change the way I approach tasks and deadlines in order to avoid it, but I’m not so convinced. For me, stress is sometimes inevitable because life is full of surprises, twists and turns. Sure, when it comes to finals, I can set up a study schedule so I can best prepare myself for the weeks leading up to the test. But what happens when my teacher announces one day before the final that they’ve changed their mind and are now including a concept that wasn’t originally supposed to be on the test. What now? The only answer: stress.

I have a feeling that the following stages of stress that I go through are ones to which many people are able to relate. Because no matter how many times you tell yourself that it’s going to be okay, sometimes you can’t help but let stress get the best of you.

Stage 1: Denial

This is when I tell myself that I’m absolutely not going to procrastinate. I’ve made myself a promise and am determined not to break it. At this stage, I’ve managed to fully convince myself that I’m going to be just fine. Is my glass half empty or half full? Definitely half full because I can do this. So what if I haven’t started an eight-page paper due tomorrow at 8 a.m.? I technically have all night … that’s almost 10 hours of writing. If I do one page an hour and then edit it for two hours, I’ll be golden. Oh, did I forget about sleeping? Huh.

Stage 2: And I oop

Well, things haven’t turned out as planned. It’s now 2 a.m. and I’m still finishing up the book I needed to have finished reading before starting the paper. Am I in trouble or am I just fine? I’ll go with just fine (for now). *Chugs caffeine.*

Stage 3: In the zone

At this point, I’m two coffees in, my headphones are charged, classical music is on queue and I’m jamming away. I’m so productive I can’t believe it. But I have to be careful here because if my conscious mind realizes that my subconscious mind is being productive, I may snap out of it.

Stage 4: Wait, what?

Well, my productivity ended when I thought I had written 15 pages full of the legendary ideas I spewed onto my screen over the past few hours, but the page count only says three? Very confused and honestly a bit delirious, I realize that I only have five more hours before it’s due, and I continue.

Stage 5: Break time

Well, let’s just stop for a moment and focus on something else. Just one episode of “Friends” to cheer me up and I’ll be good to go. Oh, and while we’re at it, I’ll need some snacks from the kitchen too.

Stage 6: STRESS

Stress is the final stage of the stages of stress, however ironic that may sound. Let’s just say that if the famous saying that stress burns calories is true, I’m on track to be the fittest person I know. This entire night, stress has been taking over me slowly, forcing me to procrastinate, get back on track, take a break then jam away again. But now, the deadline is getting closer and stress has enveloped me completely. My fight-or-flight mode kicks in, and because I want to do well in the class, I choose to fight. I whip out the rest of my essay in no time. Done.

Stage 7: The aftermath

When my friends ask how my essay went, I reply automatically that it went great! Technically this isn’t a lie because, at the end of the day, I was able to get it done. I convince myself I wasn’t stressed at all and continue to repeat this process for every assignment. Am I upset with myself that I work this way? I’ll choose not to answer that question.

Let me remind you that we live in an ever-changing and evolving world. Stress is inevitable. Maybe it’s not always to the level described above (how I used to write my papers in freshman year), but stress comes at different times for everyone, and sometimes, it’s unavoidable. Let’s be nice to ourselves and remember that no matter what happens, it’s not the end of the world. So what if you turned in your essay a couple of hours late? If that’s what you need to do, do it. And while you’re at it, grab yourself a cookie and a bowl of ice cream. After all, stressed spelled backward is desserts!

Contact Natalia Brusco at [email protected].