I never thought I'd be writing about this, but I'm suffering from the XXI century illness, stress. It's been some months with my feelings being a roller coaster. Things that used to motivate me, like going running, or meeting friends, became not enjoyable anymore. Some days I even felt a sharp pain in the chest when I was in an overwhelming situation. What's happening? I had a chat with my girlfriend and explained her all my feelings and what I thought had led me to this situation. I'll seek for professional help, but I'd like to share here some of my thoughts on the topic and maybe help some of you prevent it.
Directly and honestly, I think the root of my stress has been the every-day marathon that I've been running where my brain has been demanding more of what I'm capable of doing. I've been a curious and competitive person since I was a child. I always wanted to read, learn, and do more. Read more books, blog posts, watch talks, work on open source projects. That's unhealthy. Try to run 42 Km every day, and your legs muscles won't respond after two or three days. Our brain is another muscle, and it also complains. It was throwing me signals for a while, but I didn't recognize them as signals. If I felt tired, I gave my body more coffee. If I felt irritated when I had many people around me, I tried to be alone. None of those things happened to me before, it was just my brain saying stop.
And I never stopped, never. When I was feeling very stressed, I gave up social networks like Facebook, or Twitter, that made me feel worse. That relaxed me a bit, but I wasn't improving things, just putting a curtain between me and the outside world. When I managed to disconnect, there was a part of me that wasn't disconnected. There was a part of me that felt that it was missing out things, and that strange feeling didn't let me enjoy what I was doing. There's so much stuff going on, and so many things I want to follow that I feel bad if I cannot follow the technology pace. We are humans, I'm a human, and my brain is not ready to process information at the pace computers can do it, or people from all over the world generate.
I thought I'd be able to have more self-control but the relationship between me and the technology has been unhealthy. I talked about this topic in some of my blog posts in the past, I guess because I was already feeling a bit stressed. I saw technology as something so great that could help me with every single aspect of my life, that could be with me 24 hours a day. The reality has proven to me that the things I enjoy the most have no technology at all. I've surrounded myself with a lot of kind of apps, for meditation, for personal productivity, sports, also hardware, like Apple Watch, tablets, computers. I read about people using them, and I thought I also needed them. My brain made up problems that I didn't have, to solve them with technology in some way:
- Pedro, you need an Apple Watch because it'll help you track your workouts and you'll train more because of it.
- Pedro, you need an iPad because you know the Kindle is not enough when you read blog posts.
- Pedro, you need this productivity app, because your colleagues are using it and it'll make you more productive for sure.
The more I used technology, the more time I wanted to spend with it. Professionally, the same thing happened. I went from doing software because I enjoyed what I was doing, to do more and more of what everyone else was doing. For instance, I always had an active open source project that I was investing energy in, and some in the backlog (just in case). I had a lack of self-control and criticism, so my personality and competitiveness made decisions in my name. I was not doing what I liked doing, I was doing what people around me were doing, because I felt some social and professional pressure. What if I don't keep up with all that stuff?
Not having anything to think about made me feel uncomfortable. There was always a backlog in my brain and my to-do list. I never had time for myself, to just sit down, relax and don't think about anything. Meditation is how some people like to call it, I prefer to just call it not thinking, or thinking about myself because, for me, that's what it is. Those moments were so uncomfortable that I avoided them. It was a matter of picking up my phone and start reading stuff or checking your social apps. On the metro, in the park, at home, trying to fill the free gaps that my brain had along the day.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I'm seeking for professional help, a person that can listen to me and give me some advice on things that I can change in my life to overcome that stress. Moreover, I'm getting a distance on technology, taking more breaks, and educating myself on how to have a healthy relationship. It's going to take time, but I'm happy that I thought about it, talked about it with my acquaintances and recognized it as a problem that I need to find a solution for. If you have been in a similar situation, I'd love to hear how you faced the problem and how you overcame it.