3 November 2019

I may have a problem recognising stress. I don’t know how widespread a problem this is among professionals, but I may be one of the sufferers.

For weeks now I’ve openly acknowledged that my brain is in a state of “heightened activity”. What I mean by that is it’s constantly whirring and buzzing in the background – processing, making connections, coming up with ideas. Which is a somewhat pleasant feeling.

But I guess at some point I should recognise that heightened brain activity can turn into stress. Maybe it’s further along on the same spectrum. Or maybe it’s a different spectrum which however is closely interrelated.

No idea which is which. Or maybe it’s neither!

In any case, I must admit that the pleasant effects of heightened brain activity have worn off. And now I’m just tired, and maybe… stressed?

I have some theories as to why I have such a hard time admitting I’m stressed (if indeed I am). First, I’m not actually sure what stress is. And therefore I don’t know if what I’m experiencing actually qualifies as stress. Second, I guess I associate stress with negativity and therefore am reluctant to admit that I’m stressed. Somehow that seems to imply that I’m not enjoying what I’m doing (not true) or that I’m doing too much (probably true).

Anyhow, at the end of Friday my brain was certainly a mumble jumble of mess. As a result, I’ve opted to postpone working on subtitles and turn this weekend into a re-charge.

Most of yesterday (Saturday) was spent reading (I finished another excellent Ishiguro book!) And this morning I chilled with my dad over morning coffee (I might have also offloaded a little about work). And in a few hours me and my parents are watching Lion King the Musical – really looking forward to that.

Weirdly enough, yesterday as I was looking for an article to set as reading assignment for my English student, I stumbled across Mark Manson’s piece on how to be productive by working less. Reading that made me reflect on what I’m doing at work – or more accurately, what I may be doing wrong.

I don’t think it’s right to have five and a half hour meetings – yet that’s exactly what happened on Friday: we went straight from 3pm to 8:30pm (hence the mumble jumble brain mess).

In retrospect and having read Mark’s article, I think there was a more optimal way of accomplishing what we did in half the time, if even that. And maybe the (maybe) stress could be caused by how I’m doing things? Or the (maybe) stress is leading me to make sub-optimal judgements that turned into 5.5 hour meetings?

Anyhow, having had this realisation, I’m starting the new week with a new resolve: no more 5.5. hour meetings. Luckily I have a very supportive manager and a mentor at work – I’ll be going to both of them for thoughts and suggestions on how I can do more in less time.

And also how I can prevent “work creep”. What has characterised these few weeks of heightened brain activity is work thoughts creeping up after hours and during weekends. I’d be doing something and suddenly I’d have an idea: Ah! I should do this for that project! Completely out of nowhere.

I take this as an indication that my brain is thinking about work in the background, which really shouldn’t happen. I want to find a way to switch off my work brain. I think it’s healthier that way. And I’ll be going to my manager and mentor for help on that.

Having said all that though, I’m enjoying work immensely. There are so many new and exciting things to do. And the people are so much fun to work with. And now, thanks to placing second at the People Hack competition which I’ve written about here, I’ve got a project of my own: my Agoda baby!

Three months in and I’m leading a project that could make a difference, seeing my idea come to life. I think that’s pretty cool. (And also likely a major contributor to this stress/no-stress state I’m in.)

“With great power, comes great responsibility,” as the wise Uncle Ben said.

Not that I’m saying I’ve got superpowers or anything. But I’m certainly feeling the weight of responsibility in driving this project to successful completion.

Maybe I should just admit: I’m stressed. Then find ways to overcome it. No point dithering and side-stepping the issue. The longer it takes me to recognise the state I’m in, the longer it will take me to address the issues and move past this.

Plenty of people around me have noticed that I’ve slipped into an untenable state: my partner, my manager, even my manager’s manager. And all have expressed their concerns and suggested I take steps to move back into healthy work-life balance zone.

Okay, I’ve made up my mind: I’ll bring this up with my manager in our check-in tomorrow and ask for help: “I think I’m getting stressed. How can I address this?”

Yes, let’s do that.

Love (and hoping you’re not in the same dilemma I am),


6 April 2014

Val’s list of priorities as of 6th April:

1. Revise.
2. Exercise.
3. Socialise.
4. Write.

It’s my last week in Bangkok before I jet off to London, where my final undergraduate exams will begin in less than a month. *shivers* Given this imminent departure, I’ve tried to schedule in seeing all my good friends this past and coming week. And since I can’t do two things at once, I’ve had to revise my priorities list from 25th March.

To be completely honest, though, in my head, the priorities seem to be: revise, revise, revise. At some point this week, I suddenly realised that I’ve officially entered the final stretch of revision.

It’s funny. The middle stretch never arrived. One day I was in my early stretch (25th March would be one of those days), then suddenly I was in the final stretch. There doesn’t seem to be a middle stage where you’re just revising merrily along. You’re either super cool and collected, thinking ‘I’m way ahead. I started so early’, or a wreck of nerves, with ‘OMG I’M NEVER GOING TO FINISH REVISING IN TIME. THERE’S LESS THAN A MONTH LEFT‘ on repeat in your puny, overworked, and overstressed brain (which pretty much describes the me of the past week).

My solution for this surge in anxiety has been to exercise like mad. I’ve gone to the gym more often this week than any other week. Having my imminent departure as an excuse to spend more time with friends also helps. The exercise and the company distract me from the stress of revision, but the latter is never far from my mind.

I wonder what it’ll be like once I arrive in London. I can already foresee my stress levels shoot right up. It’s a good thing I’ve got that Lake District trip planned. God knows I could use some away time to clear my head.

On the other hand, though, it’s four whole days where I won’t be able to revise. And there’s a lot you can revise in four days.

This is really not a productive train of thought, so I’m going to stop myself there.

Objectively, I’ve done a lot this week: substantial revision progress was made, visa was acquired, friends were met, body was subject to rigorous exercise. I just don’t feel like it.

And that’s the problem.

It’s all in your mind. It’s all in my mind.

If only the mind were easier to tame.

Maybe I should start meditating.

But now I should get started on that French exercise, so I have time to wash my car before it gets dark (and the mosquitoes come out to play).

Thanks for reading,


p.s. I meant to write a post about how flexibility and duty are inherently incompatible concepts. I’m not sure what happened. I started writing and this came out.

p.p.s. This is quite therapeutic. I should really write about more substantial things though, more concrete topics, with analysis and insight. And there goes the over-exigent mind again.



18 March 2014

According to CardioTrainer, I burned over 1,000 calories today. Which is a lot, by my standards.

So, apart from the 5.7k outdoor run this morning (see how proud I am? I’m still boasting about it), I did a one-hour Battle Beat class, which is basically a boxing style super intense class where you kick, jump, and punch a lot, and continuously. (It’s really tiring. Oh trust me it is.)

Then another hour of Danxercise which, after Battle Beat, was like a walk in the park. A very fun walk though. One hour where I get to do all the silly moves, shake my head, shake my [insert body part of choice], and just laugh and not worry about how ridiculous I look. Because everyone is doing the same. It’s a great stress relief.

Well, actually, both classes are great for relieving stress. Battle Beat has you concentrating so hard on your body movements you invariably end up not thinking about whatever it is that’s stressing you out in the first place. And Danxercise just makes you feel silly and happy, sometimes enough to make your stress and worries disappear.

Sometimes, though, it doesn’t. I actually use my Danxercise class as my stress gauge. If I feel better during (and after) the class, my stress level is in the green zone. If I feel better at various points during (but not after) the class, my stress level has gone into yellow zone. And when I do not enjoy the class at all is when alarm bells start ringing in my head: code red, code red.

That’s what happened last week actually. I was so stressed I couldn’t enjoy the dance. And realising how stressed I was in this particular instance just made me even more stressed: the vicious cycle of self-fulfilling stress! Ha.

As you can see through my cheery tone, though, this week I had the most amazing fun in my dance class. Stress level back to normal.

Now are you curious to know why I was so stressed and why I no longer am? No? OK.

Oh I’m being ridiculous aren’t I. I’m obviously still in my silly, happy mode.

Which is good. Very good.

Maybe I tell you more about why this is later.

I’m sure you feel sufficiently bombarded by unwanted information about my day by now.

Until tomorrow,


p.s. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Did I tell you a pigeon pooed on me during my run this morning? Yes. That totally happened. I just shook the excrement off my arm and kept running. Such a dedicate (and totally gross) runner.

p.p.s. Yes, I scrubbed my arm really, really clean afterwards. You can feel less disgusted now.