Stress Maintenance


I recently quit a job I’ve had for 7 ½ years. I had been unhappy there for a long time, and there were many things about working there that were making me crazy. The stresses got to the point where it was no longer healthy (or any fun) to stay. After MUCH agonizing (did I mention I really have a hard time with big decisions?), I weighed the pros and cons, and decided to put my future in the hands of the Universe. As it turns out, I must have deposited enough good karma into my Universe account, because three days after turning in my resignation, I got offered a job. Things like that don’t usually happen to me. But my timing was apparently perfect, the stars aligned, and BANG, I did not have to start eating the dog’s kibble after all.


After turning in that resignation, I experienced immediate relief. A huge load had been lifted from my shoulders, and I was ecstatic (even though, at that point, I was worried about my future income source.) I knew I had made the right decision, and have never regretted it. And when I started my new job, I knew right away that I would be happy there, and it felt wonderful to work with a great team, doing meaningful work that made me happy. I was stress-free! YAY, me!


Right away, though, I discovered that the new job is fast-paced. I had to learn a lot on the fly, and I found myself surrounded by a team of really smart, really driven people. I went into high gear, asking lots of questions, taking lots of notes, and diving into all sorts of new tasks. My brain was engaged, my memory was challenged, and my skill set was expanding by leaps and bounds.


An interesting phenomenon was emerging. I thought I had quit my old job to reduce stress, but I wasn’t so sure that my stress level was any lower than it had been at the old job. It was a different kind of stress…challenging, energizing, and exciting, but it WAS stressful. Then I started thinking…even after having gone from a very negative, stressful situation to a much more positive one, I still felt stressed. So, I wondered, do we all have a “minimum stress level” that we strive to maintain, no matter what the situation? Do we push ourselves in whatever spot we land until we feel that surge of stress? Does it drive us? Do we NEED that stress to survive?


Thinking about my friends and co-workers, I quickly realized that there are some of us who operate at a high energy level, and others who are much more laid back, and seem to have a very low energy level. I’m probably one bubble off from OCD, so I tend towards the high energy level when it comes to thinking, overthinking, and obsessing over detail. But I have had co-workers who are the exact opposite…they seem to have no worries, no deadlines, and no standards of quality. I make lists, I organize my lists, I re-organize my lists, and I even write things I just finished on my list just so I can cross them off. And while I’m obsessing over my lists, those other types are cruising Facebook, talking on the phone, and even painting their toenails!


I realized that stress is not always a negative thing. In my case, stress gives me a certain sense of satisfaction. I think we each settle into the level of stress that is comfortable for us…I need to obsess, and they need to relax. Excuse me, but I need to go make a list of possible nail polish colors to use to paint my toenails, followed by a chart of pros and cons of painting them.  


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