All This De-stressing Advice Is Stressing Me Out

by Kim on January 16, 2013

Here’s a familiar scene: You open a fitness magazine. Inside is an article about stress. Stress is TOXIC!!! It tells you. Stress is slowly decomposing your brain and chipping away at your lifespan. Your arteries are clogging, your food isn’t getting digested properly, and your blood is turning into jelly. (Or something.)

The article comes with a dramatic picture like this:

stress (source)

It hurts my teeth to look at it. (If you think about it, someone had to go to town on that pencil to get it to look like that, right?…Also, are those baby teeth?)

Once the article’s gotten your attention (you probably don’t know this, but if you combine the fourth letter of every word in the first two sentences, it always spells JUSTIN BIEBER), it goes on to give you a list of things you can do about it.

Stretch for 5 minutes every morning. Take a walk on your lunch break. Pop in a yoga DVD before bed. Call a friend. Practice breathing exercises.

Did you get that? MORE things to DO.

And you’re all: that’s the whole problem!! I’m stressed out because I have TOO MUCH on my plate! I don’t have time to sit around breathing and stretching and meditating, when I’m already late for work/my kid is whining for breakfast/my inbox is flooding with emails/what have you.

Plus, half of our stress comes from just trying to remember the 86 things we’re supposed to get done today. Adding “stop and take 10 deep breaths every few hours” to that list is only going to jumpstart the blood-to-jelly process, not slow it down.

bloodonstress You know it’s really bad when it gets the seeds in there…

Maybe your schedule isn’t technically that bad. But stress isn’t always just about the things we’re doing. It’s also about the things we’re not doing. We should really get to the gym more… We should really spend less… We should really cook healthier…

So while the destressing articles are trying to get you to DO MORE THINGS, they’re also piling on even more stress in the form of guilt. “Ugh. This thing’s right—I really should stretch more.” “I know yoga would make me feel better…I have to make time for that.” “WHY am I so BAD about drinking WATER??”

And if our stress isn’t coming from things we’re doing or not doing, it’s coming from things we’re thinking. We’re worried about our parents’ health. About losing a job. About whether we’re doing right by our kids. About things we can’t even identify without really digging into our subconscious (subconsciouses?).

And now, about the fact that we’re not doing enough to battle the stress in our lives, and therefore, we’re going to get heart disease and die. And it’ll be all our fault, because we’re overworked, overambitious, unbalanced Americans.

Man, reading about destressing is distressing. (Wow…)

Maybe it’s motivating for a day or two (hmm, reminds me of something else…stress!), but is it doing anything to help us address the real problems that turned us into these stresspots in the first place?

My dream anti-stress article would go something like this…


It’s ok to not work out today.

It’s ok to pop something frozen into the oven for dinner.

You can’t do everything, so don’t bother trying.

Half of the things you’re worried about won’t matter in a year. (And half of those won’t matter next week.)

That girl on Facebook who has everything together? She has problems, too. Trust me.

It’s ok to watch TV.

It’s ok to skip the work party because you just plain don’t want to go.

The kids are ok.

You’re ok.

In fact, you’re doing great.

Here, have a popsicle.*


See? If you frame that and hang it across from your toilet, I bet you’ll be fresh-from-the-spa calm in two days, tops.

Oh, and the image I’d attach to the article? It would be this:


Or maybe this:


So I know this is radical, but maybe the path to lower stress starts with not doing some things, rather than doing more things. Am I crazy here?

When was the last time you responded to stress by NOT doing something?


*The popsicle part is optional. I realize we’re adults here.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Tiffany January 16, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Good timing on this posting as I’ve had a lot of work stress recently and am about to start school this weekend again (aka even LESS free time and way more to do). I think doing less and giving yourself permission sounds fantastic!


Kim January 16, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Hang in there Tiff!!


Jamie @ Rise.Run.Mom.Repeat. January 16, 2013 at 3:38 pm

I. Love. This.
I don’t stress very easily. (I used to teach kindergarten. I’ve been conditioned for stress.) I actually work better under pressure. It does get to me every once in a while and I turn into a raving lunatic…I really could use a popsicle. ;-)

Also, that girl on Facebook who has everything together? She’s just not posting her stress.


Kim January 16, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Hahaha, I imagine kindergarten teachers know a LOT about stress! I agree that a little is motivating, but a lot just sucks. Thanks for stopping by, Jamie!


Amy @ Writing While Running January 16, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Yes! This is exactly what I needed to hear today. This week I am not going to stress about how many miles I get in to train for my marathon. Sometimes, it is OK not to run 40 miles a week.


Kim January 16, 2013 at 1:59 pm

It is definitely ok. :) You’re going to crush that marathon either way! Good luck!


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