Stress acts as an accelerator: It will push you either forwards or backwards, but you choose which direction.
It’s difficult to really sum up the past 2 weeks I’ve had. Stress truly ruled my life from the 22nd of November till today.
As is usual, I like to perform an autopsy on a particularly difficult moment in time for me, so that I can find anything of use in the moment and apply those lessons for future stressful times.
To quickly to sum it all up, I had 3 pressing issues that were all conflicting with each other.
- My TAFE course in event management had 4 assignments all due on Friday the 10th of December. None of them were short, sweet nor sharp. Instead, they were all monstrously big and required huge amounts of effort. A task, I normally reserved 6 months, and had a team of 8 experienced volunteers work on, I now had to cram into 2 weeks.
- Formula 1. For an entire year, I’ve been gripped by the championship battle between Red Bull and Mercedes. Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton. I am an avid hater of Hamilton and his continual dominance. So to see this title fight get this close, is unsettling and anxiety-inducing.
- Christmas has now officially come to ruin all the lives of retail workers. I’ve been slammed at work, with unrelenting amounts of deliveries and transactions. I average more than 10,000 steps in store and often come home, unwilling to do anything but put my feet up.
The timing for the Formula 1 races interfered with my sleeping patterns, my body unable to sleep, because it needs to get up at 0430 in the morning to watch the event unfold live. Before the Saudi Arabia GP in Jeddah, I slept in 1 hour intervals, from 2300 to 0400, in what was the worst sleep I’ve ever had in my entire life. I was so inextricably tied to Formula 1, that my body could not and would not let me sleep.
This then wrecked me for the next day of work, which was a delivery day, causing me to be sluggish and play catch-up with my sleep debt for the rest of the week, thus inhibiting and limited my time to work on my assignments.
It did not help that my mind was unable to relax, my sacrifice of tennis for time, ensuring that the internal pressure mounted quicker and harder as the days passed by.
This is where though, my innate belief in seconds as valuable and useful units of time kicked in. I’ve realised a long time ago, that this mindset enables me two things: focus and relaxation. Knowing that I can type and dictate sentences in 30 seconds, is a huge boost in morale and drive. It means that the stress, and the ticking clock will never get to me.
Unlocking speed, focus and drive as a combination under stress is probably my greatest mental strength. It ensures that I always remain calm and that nothing can overwhelm me. In this case, it meant that I could work in my retail role, whilst also utilising the quieter times to work on my assignment, maximising both opportunities to fulfill 2 jobs.
This would then allow me to go home after work, grab a bite of dinner, before working on the assignment at a slower pace.
For 2 weeks, this routine would continue unabated until I took a day off on the Monday to relax with my classmates and celebrate the end of our course. I of course, had not finished my assignment and despite the due date looming on the Friday, I decided that enough was enough, I had to take my mind off things and actually let loose.
So I planned it out, I had the worst sleep of my life, to watch the race at 0430HRS in the morning, in which the adrenaline and action-packed nature forbade me from sleeping for the rest of the day.
I worked fitfully on my assignment throughout the Monday, before climbing into my car and instantly feeling the effects of poor sleep. It got so bad, that I low-key regretted going, but decided that I’d rather live than go home and be unproductive.
So I pulled over for a 15 minute power-nap which stretched into 20 mins before I kept going. As it turned out, it was a good night, with myself being the only male, and learning a lot more about my classmates had I not gone.
I left, with a place to go URBEX later, connections that I know I will use in the future and a vague sense of pride that I could still function well enough, despite my tiredness.
That feeling of tiredness, of persevering beyond my normal daily limits, was repeated again, when this week, I completed a long 8 hour shift at 2100 only to then head to the city and do casual event work, that lasted from 2300 to 0230 in the morning.
I even made the foolish decision to park my car a decent 1.5 kilometre away from the venue, simply because I wanted to walk around the city some more … and avoid the horrific traffic that normally ensues in the heart of the city.
Redefining the lines.
Nowadays, I seem fascinated with my health and how my body can keep going, despite my mind telling me otherwise. There is now a clear communicative line between my mind and body. I can tell when my feet have had enough, likewise when I know I can keep going and still get up for work the next day, feeling OK.
That feeling of tautness in the muscles and mind can be relaxed. I know that I have it in me to keep changing things up, to push when needed and how to relax properly. It doesn’t matter how busy or full my week is, I can always find time to do more.
Whether it is getting some “wine & dine” treatment with friends after a full week of work, exploring abandoned buildings or working casually on top of my full time manager role, I think I can always do more and still be healthy.
There’s a sense of weariness that I like about myself nowadays. The type of tiredness that only comes from doing everything at once and pushing the envelope on what I used to think was too much.
What I’ve also come to recognise is that I am slowly becoming more extroverted. My music taste, once brooding and moody jazz, has now been replaced by house that gets me dancing and moving faster and harder.
My innate shyness has now been replaced by a more confident quiet, a guy who isn’t afraid to smile at people, put them at ease whilst shuffling a pack of cards.
I’m less afraid of conversations with strangers, more eager to find out more about people. My signature, slight awkwardness is still there, but I can tell with every interaction, it’s getting better.
Like so many things in life, I need to continue to practice at it, working out the optimum way of balancing mystery, wit and humour with every gesture, word and expression.
All the while, maintaining something true to myself and keeping an honesty that will be valued by any stranger.
Hell, it’s even gotten to the point where sometimes during my longer shifts and near the end, where I am most tired and bored, I get strangely flirtatious with various customers. I got no idea why, but it just happens.
But, this is why I love difficult periods of time like this, because there are always something new you can discover about yourself. I never shy away from a challenge, even though in reality, 90% of this “challenge” was construed by my anxiety.
That’s why it’s fun. That’s why I embrace it. Only through adversity do we grow and I’ve noticed that since the COVID lockdowns, I’ve only been more determined to get out into the world and experience life more fully.
I won’t lie though, realising how much more extroverted I’ve become has come as a bit of a shock. Perhaps there is a strange correlation between growing up and the nature of introversion and extroversion. At some point in our lives, the extroverted ones end up becoming quieter, settling down and happy to leave a more active lifestyle behind, whilst the introvert perhaps longing for something more, ends up being more proactive in seeking different things.
I wonder how many other people have experienced something similar as they approach their 30s.
It’s not so much a mid-life crisis, as it is more of a re-evaluation of what you value and how you want to live your life moving forwards. It’s a conscious choice … a reaffirmation of the type of person you are.
These troublesome couple of weeks have solidified something in me …
That no matter how tired my mind thinks I am, my body can push on with a more deadly combination of Red Bulls, music and some guts.
If you ever want to know the secret behind my enthusiasm and drive for life … it’s always going to be those 3 elements that keep the fire in me burning bright.