Exit the Stress Loop

It is Sunday and I want to write, so this one might be a bit of a ramble.

It is currently January 26th, and ever since mid-November, I have been regularly working on my next software project: an easy-to-use website for text-to-speech, very similar to an existing project of mine: soundoftext.com.

One thing about this project, which I am calling Hearling, is that it is much bigger than any other website I have built before (alone). Currently, with regards to lines of code, it is almost 4 times the sizes of Sound of Text. This website has account registration and billing, which I have never done before.

As this is currently my only job, and I am continuing to heal from career burnout, I had been working between 25 and 30 hours a week since November. I have been taking it easy, and balancing work with a lot of play. Most days I did not even look at code until 1pm, and I would still stop at 5pm or 6pm. That is... until recently.

In early January, I started feeling like I was really behind. I had given myself until March 31st to launch the product and continue making improvements until the deadline. When I set this goal, I figured that I gave myself way too much time, and that I would have almost all of February and March to see if any significant income would come from this.

Well, as of today (January 26), I have not even launched the free version. It may not be out for a couple weeks. After that, I still need to add the ability to take payments. I may barely get this launched at all before the end of March. Knowing all this, and knowing that I was behind in early January, the stress started to eat at me.

I gave myself a lot of time to launch, because I knew it would take longer than expected (but I was still so confident that it wouldn't 🤦). So, I pushed away the stress, telling myself that it was okay because I had planned for it.

It became harder and harder to ignore the stress. I started skipping morning yoga so I could get more work done in the morning. I started getting less excited about leaving the coffee shop and going home for evening. It was harder to truly rest while not working.

Last week, I cracked and did a little coding at 9pm on Tuesday. I told myself that it was just a one-time thing, because something came up earlier in the day and interrupted my work time. Then, the next day rolls around. I get home and I am already planning on opening my laptop at 9pm. Of course, I do.

This continues for Thursday and Friday. Admittedly, I am getting a lot of work done. However, I am feeling less relaxed. I am feeling less on top of things. Do I need to shave? Is my room clean? Do I have enough groceries? Am I missing conversations with my friends?

Saturday, I woke up at about 9am. I am laying in bed and designing the logo for Hearling in my head. I wonder how much time I will actually work this weekend. I wonder how truly far behind I will fall on other life tasks. I think about when I plan on giving myself a bigger break. When I launch? Maybe I will give myself a week off? No way, I only have until March, just a day. That's not much... two days? I think about how much work is still left between now and then. It could be at least two weeks still...

Memories started popping into my head of when I had previously worked too hard and played not enough. I remembered getting grumpy with my partner. I remembered how my mental health declined. How I started to feel unattractive, even.

I did not feel grumpy yet. Just stressed, but handling it relatively well. If I work through the weekend, how will I feel at the end? Will I start feeling worse and worse again? It felt like a gamble.

I decided to consider what I would do if I did not work through the weekend. What could I do today that I would enjoy? I would love to go get coffee and have brunch at my favorite restaurant. I haven't played video games with my best friend in quite some time – that would be fun. Maybe I could find a latte art workshop today...

I finally got out of bed. I had decided not to work.  I was actually excited to start the day and do something fun. The relief was immediate.

Today is Sunday. Again, I have decided to get brunch. To sit in the sun with nothing to do. I am thankful for this decision I made in bed yesterday morning.

This is not a story about never working more than 30 hours a week. In fact, I don't think I regret working through the evenings last week. I got a lot done. However, I am glad I took the weekend off. It was a hard decision, but it was the right one.

Normally when this happens, I just work harder and harder until I finish the project – getting more and more tunnel-visioned. This may have been the first time I broke the cycle early. It has taken quite a few tries to get here.

I don't know what the moral of the story is. I just wanted to share my success this week. Maybe I will fall of the wagon again next week – I don't know. What I do know is that I get to enjoy today. For that, I am thankful.

Thanks for reading my story.

With ❤️,

edit: After reading this back, I realize that all I talked about was myself, but I am not the sole agent of this story and I could not do it alone. I am thankful for my friends to play games with and who remind me that it is worth it to not be stressed. I am thankful for friends in my life who, in the past, have dealt with my stress and were honest about how my mood was affecting them.