Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Whence Stress?

Okay, so having concluded that stress is at the root of a lot of my current problems, it's worth trying to figure out where that stress is coming from. There seem to be two particularly immediate sources.

Cause number one is simply my schedule, which is too busy. On a typical month, I'm specifically committed two Mondays, three Tuesdays, every Wednesday and every Friday; that's half the month right there. Add into that occasional meetings of other things, plus events/cons/etc on many Saturdays and some Sundays, and I think I'm down to maybe 25% pure home-time. And *that* mostly gets taken up dealing with all the stuff that needs to happen at home, ranging from web maintenance to paying bills to folding my laundry. Subtract out a few too many TV shows, and it's probably not surprising that my pure downtime amounts to about five comic books a week. For even a somewhat borderline I personality like me, that's not enough.

In and of itself, that might be surviveable if I was in good shape. Unfortunately, I started out this academic year essentially pre-burned-out, due to overdoing demo season. The result is that I'm simply not recovering. And it's preventing me from participating in most of the "optional" activities that I'd like to do from time to time, because I'm simply too tired.

Cause number two is Responsibility, which seems to be sort of the potential kinetic energy of Stress: not so much something slamming into me as simply a sense of *weight*. The odd thing is, I'm not actually *doing* all that much with my various responsibilities. My Masonic office takes up one evening a month plus a little occasional homework. Borough Liaison is relatively reactive at this time of year. (Probably shouldn't be, but currently is.) My responsibility for Accademia is mostly just prodding it along. Low Company takes one evening a month and a bit of prep.

Yet all of these are weighing on me disproportionally: the stress seems to arise from the existence of the responsibility, more than from the task itself. Worse, I seem to have a tendency to adopt responsibilities even when they aren't formally my problem. There are lots of examples of this, but probably the best is dance practice, where I've been feeling a very strong necessity to play head cheerleader, simply because somebody's got to do it. (The "somebody's got to do it" meme is intensely powerful in my psyche, and probably deeply connected to the stress problem.)

A particularly nasty result of the responsibility thing is that it tends to cut into my enjoyment of the activities in some especially stupid ways. For instance, consider Low Company. I consistently enjoy running Low Company meetings -- so long as we have at least four people (and we've consistently had more) I can teach and run games, and have a lot of fun doing so. But I spend a totally silly amount of time *worrying* about those meetings in advance, with the result that I wind up dreading the approach of the meeting, despite knowing intellectually that I'm going to have fun. This seems to be applying to most of the aforementioned responsibilities -- I don't even look forward to Dance Practice as much as I would like to, simply because the sense that I *have* to be "on" for it every week gets tiring after a while.

Hmm. Another way of looking at this is that it isn't the activities that are a problem, it's the sense of *commitment* to those activities that is wearing me down. That's probably a key observation -- I enjoy doing all of these things, and I even enjoy leading them. I far less enjoy feeling committed to do so on a regular basis.

Okay, so assuming that those are at least some of the major elements feeding into the stress (I don't kid myself that they're all of it, but they're probably the largest component), the next question is what I can do about it.

A few bits of this are easy, and I've started dealing -- for example, trimming the television list. Life is too short to watch bad TV, and some shows have failed their saving throw. That sounds trivial, but it gains me a couple of hours a week, which is something, and it helps break the feeling that I'm somehow committed to the TV shows. (Which sounds dippy, but seems to be a real mental quirk -- I have a bad habit of letting my entertainment habits become too important to me.)

That said, most of this is *not* easy. There seems to be a core underlying problem, which is that I feel too much sense of responsibility to too many different activities. I need to think about the different activities, and how best to approach each. In some cases the correct answer may be to give up the activity, at least on a regular basis, but that may mean letting the activity collapse in some cases, which is a painful pill to swallow. In other cases, especially the ones where cheerleading is needed, I need to figure out how to delegate that cheerleading, so that I don't feel that I need to do it all myself. (Unfortunately, experience indicates that delegation is the single skill that I am worst at.)

In all cases, I at least need to realign my thinking, to rip the weight of the responsibility out of the otherwise-enjoyable activity. Unfortunately, when I'm this tired it is especially difficult to reconstruct my brain...

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