This candid observation doesn’t come off as anything new, as I can witness that it is clearly affecting everyone around me at various levels, especially at this time of the year (exams! essays!). Lately, my stress levels took on a different toll. To be honest, they were pretty high for most of the semester, university years, and life since high school come to think of it. It’s the end of the semester, which means that all time is intended towards stressing about the last assignments to hand back, and it also seems the only thing that people in school talk about. I am now in the underworld of graduate school and it comes with a renewed stress load and a truckload of work. There are red-eyed zombies galore: just check in to any university library at this time of year.
Stress is a major cause of all the world’s sickness. Just looking at the hordes of CEOs that get cancer diagnoses from overwork is a terrible wake-up call. I’m no exception, as I always become sick when I’m beyond stressed-out. I never take breaks: I need to be sick or have an injury to get a mandatory break and a doctor’s note. I’m not going to lie, the two breaks I got this year (besides, granted, my fabulous trip to the USA) happened because I sprained my ankle and I got a severe sinus infection. Oh! The luxury of reading magazines and drinking tea in bed, writing or watching movies! It made me realize how necessary it is to give my mind and body a break, otherwise, it’s spinning and stressing in various directions.
When typing ”stress” in Google, I found a plethora of images of stressed-out people holding their heads, hurt from too much work. I totally get it, and I’m happy to know that I’m not alone, although I’m less content with the fact that stress is inherent to the workings of our society.
It’s the end of the semester, which means no time for absolutely nothing besides work. And I don’t mean to say that as in ‘’it sucks, I have no time, it’s all about me’’ but as a general observation of the modern work world. I have read instructive academic and non-academic books on the issue and it always comes down to chilling yourself out, but unfortunately, it’s not 100% realistic (although it is a fact that breathing evenly and having a positive attitude goes a long way).
At times, I feel a stress rush running through my spine and behind my head, like a whirlwind of expectations. I also often feel stuck at the throat because a coffee overload is ruining my nervous system, even when exercising regularly and drinking herbal tea such as camomile, linden or red clover, religiously.
Of course, there are positive kinds of stress: the kind that makes me want to go beyond my initial thoughts, that propels me further (harder better faster stronger). Positive stress goes hand in hand with my ambition, as step by step, I’m getting further ahead. Unfortunately, positive stress is still related to competition, sickness and unhappiness (as in ”it’s never enough”).
My favourite kind of stress has to be stage fright, which is I found that studying and writing was harder to do this semester, as I’m forever a theatre kid and I prefer to do most classes in studio spaces and to stretch while I work . Yesterday though, I experienced a modest form of stage fright in my 15-minutes oral presentation (you know what they say: ”fifteen minutes of glory”!) as part of an 8-hour seminar. 8 hours seated is about the worst kind of torture for me, especially after working all weekend chained to a computer. As my presentation was about performativity in protests, I ordered everyone to close their computers and stand up (”I’m serious!”, I told them). I was glad to witness everyone in my class, people that are strangers to theatre and stretching for the most part, stand up and relax their bodies. For the rest of my presentation, I had sixteen attentive students listening to me carefully as computers were out of sight and bodies reawakened: I think I made my point understood in reassessing human contact and shutting electronics down. Fundamentally, the body and mind are more vital than stress. Unfortunately, the Western society always tends to privilege productivity. It’s important, of course, but health is a priority, which might be the most important lesson I’ve learned this year.
I only have two days of school and work left: it is an absurdly short time. Ironically, it’s exactly the point when my USB key self-deleted all its files and that I forgot my cell phone and books at the library.
At least, I’m realizing that my nightmare is coming to an end and that there are infinite wonderful events to come very soon, such as more writing for fun, hangouts with friends and family, walks outside, creative projects, little trips, but most importantly, sleep and yoga. On that note, I’ll go back to my last essay due in about 24 hours with some steam off and afterwards, I’ll take a much-needed break.
I’m very excited to relax, people.
Lili Monette is a born-and-raised Montrealer, artist, actress, writer and entertainer. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre and Development from Concordia University and is currently undertaking a short graduate program in Political Communication at Université de Montréal.
Photo: Amber Valletta by Peter Lindbergh for Vogue Italia
Here’s some Québécois hip-hop about the topic under a different point-of-view: Trop de Stress by Sans Pression.