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Wednesday 6 October 2004

A stress tightrope

Historically I've always worked best under stress. Up to the age of 25 - 26 stress was my main motivator.Work would lie undone until the 11th hour, at which time the impending deadline would kick me squarely in the ass and force me to take action.

I worked well under stress though. Projects that were left until the last minute were always better done than those few that I ever did early. Once work was started the ideas flowed more quickly and writing was more lucid.

At that age, there was no level of stress that was too high. Provided I had physically left myself enough time to complete a project (or could invent a reasonable excuse to extend a deadline) I was happy as Larry.

Then, around 5 years ago, it all changed. I "lost it". The depression from losing my wife kicked in and the mental control I'd developed to cope with her illness disappeared. Not quickly, not overnight but over an extended period.

I still needed stress to motivate me but, at the same time, I couldn't cope with the stress. At about the same time that the stress would start me working, it would also overload me and I'd start trying to avoid the work that was causing me stress. The end result was that I was getting very little work done at all.

There's only so long you can hide something like that and my employer at the time found me out. I was on my second written warning by the time I left. Unfortunately my mental state hadn't improved much and I lasted less than 6 months at my next job.

I am now, thankfully, much better. But my ability to cope with stress has not returned to anywhere near its previous levels. There is now a very fine line between the amount of stress I need to motivate me fully and too much stress. A tightrope down which I have to walk every day if I'm to work at my best.

I frequently wobble on this tight rope. At this moment a sudden influx of large projects all needing attention has my feeling very stressed. Luckily I haven't fallen off.

October 6, 2004 1:17 PM | Me

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