Leave Stress and Your Big Ego at the Door

    While I’m willing to pay the price of dark circles and the occasional eye-twitch in return for success in my endeavors, I’ve actively decided that relationships with friends should not be what’s keeping me up at night. Our voluntary inter-personal relationships should enhance our lives instead of adding to our worries. Harboring silent resentment, constantly comparing yourself to your peers and dwelling in justified (but prolonged) anger is just as damaging as your coffee addiction and all-nighters. And since our relationships usually take the biggest toll when we’re under pressure, they can be the most damaging and silently corrosive stress of them all.

    While dropping all your classes and filling up your bank account aren’t accessible solutions, it is possible to learn to approach relationships differently. A healthier approach to relationships can aptly put things in perspective and lead to a more relaxed approach to life in general.

    Nothing pits friends and colleagues against each other more than an obsession with your own ego (and the kind that Beyoncé sings about). Stop comparing yourself to your friends, and stop letting it bother you when they seem to do better than you — if you can become mindful of when you’re doing it, gently urge yourself to let those thoughts go each time they come up. That means realizing that there’s more to a person than their grades and the number of internships on their resumé. Instead, admire and learn from the people around you. You might not be able to see it, but while certain people excel in what you lack, it works the opposite way as well. Chances are, you’ve got at least one thing someone else envies. Years down the road, you’ll realize how little some of the stuff you used to quantify yourself actually mattered.

    There are some situations with your friends that you can change, and some you can’t. Categorize your problems with people into these two categories and be proactive about solving the ones you can. You can, for example, ask your roommate to stop leaving her shoes around where you can trip on them. You can’t, however, ask her to leave her sorority because you’ve been feeling lonely. For the situations you can’t change, take another look at the problem to make absolutely sure that there’s nothing you can do to solve it. And if there truly isn’t a solution, accept the situation and move on; harping on about it in your mind will not get things to change.

    Most importantly, don’t let problems in one part of your life seep into your relationships. When I’m feeling stressed out, I try what I call the “doorway” trick. Before entering any doorway, whether it is to my apartment or to my workplace, I stop and list the things that are bothering me. Too much reading to do? That’s school related. Tired because I was up all night writing an article? That’s work related. If none of that has anything to do with my roommate, I leave those troubles at the door before I walk in. Even if I don’t exactly have a spring in my step as I walk in, at least I know not to take my problems out on the wrong people. If it’s one thing that compounds a stressful situation and turns it into a life crisis, it’s waking up one day to realize you’ve burnt all your bridges for the wrong reasons.

    I’ve often heard that it’s not important what you do with your life, but whom you spend it with. Of course, most of us overachievers are prone to ignoring the first part of that advice, but it is certainly true that spending time with the right people will make your life more fulfilling. A good afternoon of stress-free, quality time with the right people is enough to put things in perspective and realize that maybe a “B” on your next midterm really isn’t the end of the world.

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