I heard a story once that explains the weight of stress better than anything I’d ever heard before.
Apparently the original source of the story is unknown, however the version I have copied below is from Cornell University.
A lecturer, when explaining stress management to a class, raised a glass of water and asked, “how heavy is this glass of water?” Answers called out ranged from 20g to 500g. The lecturer replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it.”
“If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance. “In each case, it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”
He continued, “And that’s the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won’t be able to carry on.” “As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the demands of life.”
At the time I heard this story I had been carrying around so much unwanted stress. I was nearing the end of my degree and taking 6 courses at once, all while working to support my partner and myself (he was unable to work due to visa issues). My burden of stress was becoming nearly unbearable. I was irritated with nearly everyone I came into contact with, my body ached all the time, and there was a constant feeling that sat somewhere between the top of my stomach and the bottom of my throat, like when you take a big gulp of beer too fast and swallow a bubble of air.
When I read this story I realized that I needed to put the glass down. As difficult as it was, holding it was doing me far more bad than good. Even if I was just putting it down for an hour while I took a break and played a video game, I needed to actually free myself during those breaks, otherwise they weren’t really breaks at all.
Even when we have an overwhelming workload, we need to take time to put the glass down, to forget about our worries and just relax, if only just for an hour or a moment or whatever we can spare. If we don’t that glass will break us.
I hope this story helps you as much as it helped me.