Too much stress!


Too much stress!


your avatar   Helen (30-year-old woman)

I went through a lot of changes last summer. First, I left a job I loved because I wanted to further my career. I had lots of friends there, and had risen to a senior position with a lot of autonomy and responsibility, which I enjoyed. My new job is similar, but in a different environment, and to get where I want to career-wise, I have to start from the bottom of the ladder again. I now got the hang of my new job, but I have found making friends very difficult, and I don't feel as though I am appreciated for my skills. In fact, I feel undermined and ignored. I dread going to work, and spend my day "clock-watching" and feeling like a fish out of water. To make matters worse, I started a demanding college course which I am now starting to struggle with.

I am finding it hard to make friends, even though I'm often approached by people for a chat. I should not feel this isolated! I feel as though I have lost my confidence completely, whereas before I was a very assured and confident person. On top of this, my relationship with my husband has become strained since we started trying to get pregnant five years ago. I'm losing hope and tend to take it out on him.

All this started after a holiday we had two months ago. We went to the area where I'm originally from and hadn't visited for 10 years. I was tearful and homesick for a month after we came back. I had to accept the fact that moving back would be financially impossible at the moment. This is partly why there is so much riding on this college course and the new job, because it will increase my earnings, but now I feel as though I can't cope with either one! I thought that making these changes together would be helpful; a "life-change" and a new start. Today however, I ran out of my class lecture hall in tears when we were planning presentations. We have two presentations and an essay due next week. Everyone else has started theirs and I haven't had time to even think about mine because of work. I feel so pressured that I'm starting to lose control of my emotions.

Am I cut out to make changes like this in the state I'm in? I am frightened because I have been planning and wanting to be exactly where I am at this moment in my life for years, and now I find that I can't cope with it all. If I were to leave my job, I would need to give a months notice, which means I can't get out of there that quickly. What is wrong with me, and why am I so unhappy? Why has my life gone so wrong?


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

Dear Helen,

The good news is that there is nothing wrong with you. You are responding in much the same way as any other normal person would in your situation. Your problem is not that you have become faulty and lost all your excellent qualities. Rather, your life circumstances have changed, and now you have more stress than you are able to cope with. You can do two things (or perhaps try both):

(1) Improve your level of coping.

(2) Reduce the amount of stress life is throwing at you.

For the first one, I suggest the following:

. Take up meditation or yoga, or go to a competent hypno-therapist. A hypnotic trance is the most restful state you can be in. If you are religious, go to church and pray, and really get yourself lost in the prayer. If there is relative wilderness near you, go where you can be in contact with nature. You can also listen to noble classical music. All of these options share something in common: they recharge your spiritual batteries. I know they take time, and already you feel rushed off your feet, but you will feel so much more capable of coping with stress. This will allow you to be more efficient as a result.

. Ensure that you eat a balanced, nutritious diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, preferably eaten under relaxed circumstances. Stress and hurry can lead to over or under-eating, junk foods, missed meals and eating without paying attention to the food. All this reduces your ability to cope.

. Do vigorous, aerobic exercise at least 3 times a week, for a minimum of 20 minutes a session. The exercise should get you puffing and sweating, with your heart racing. You are 30 years old. If you were 100% fit, you could aim for a pulse rate of 190 after stopping for 30 seconds. If you are unfit, you could start much lower, say 120, and build up. As with meditation/prayer, you'll get back the time you invest, with interest. After exercise, you'll feel alive, strong and competent. You'll do everything better and more efficiently.

. Do something creative regularly. You could knit or crochet while reading books for your study. Better still, you could approach your academic work in the spirit of curiosity and creativity. I don't know what your course is, but some person did the research and wrote those books and journal articles you have to read. Their work was creative. As you study, ask questions, compare, analyze and think about the subject matter as if it were the most fascinating thing in the world. After all, it is for some people! You must have thought it interesting when you decided to take the course, so instead of drowning in it, swim along and enjoy the experience. Studying is a joy if approached in the spirit of wonder.of wanting to find out about something inherently fascinating. Meditation, exercise, a good diet and creativity together will increase your resilience and your ability to cope with anything.

Now we come to reducing the amount of stress pounding at you:

. The first load you might be able to lessen is the issue of having a baby. You know, having a child is a mixed blessing. Do a Google search on "childfree" and visit the web sites that come up. There are many thousands of people who tried unsuccessfully to have a baby. Some have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on IVF (In-vitro Fertilization) without success. They have come to terms with it and are now content. In fact, they feel as though they have the better part of the bargain after all. Others might be able to have children, but choose not to. Reasons can be environmental (people are the only noxious species on this planet), economic (a child is the most expensive addition to your life), lifestyle (suppose you got pregnant tomorrow.what will that do for your job and academic studies?) and avoidance of future problems (for many people, their children are a major load - adversaries rather than friends).

. The second source of stress for you is the social atmosphere at work. In your previous job, you had friends and fitted in well. Now, you feel isolated and unappreciated. For some reason, you seem to have started off on the wrong foot, or some influential people took a dislike to you at first and this has spread. If you want, you could start a quiet little campaign to win people over. Choose colleagues who have not been hostile, and share social occasions with them. Invite a colleague and their husband or wife to dinner.

You could also apply the Jewish custom of a "mitzvah". This is to do one good deed a day, but no one must know you have done it. It can be something small. Say there's a woman who has been giving you a hard time. She drops something on the ground and walks on. Pick it up, and put it in her mail box or on her desk, where she will find it. She'll never know that you did the good deed, but such acts work magic! Try it and see.

In addition to this, you can also do little acts of kindness that are visible. No need to make it as though you are "buying" people's friendship. Just act as though relatively distant acquaintances and closer colleagues are your friends. It may have no effect on some, but others will go away realizing that you are a nice person and a good co-worker to have around. After some time, it will reduce the level of stress on you, but the immediate effect is that you will be so involved in your new campaign that you will begin to see the world differently. Remember that stress really comes from within, not from the outside. You have the power to change your own way of dealing with the world, even if what happens out there is not in your control.

You didn't leave an email address, so I can't communicate with you directly. However, do email me if you read this, and let me know if my ideas have been helpful.

Have a good life!


This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit:


Not sure whether you should seek therapy? Ask yourself: "Am I living a life that brings me joy"?
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