603Stories – April 2022 – Stress in Young Adulthood


JACE: The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the hosts and guests and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of NAMI New Hampshire or the organization’s funders. All individuals and personal experiences are different. Please connect with your primary care provider or a mental health professional to seek advice regarding any condition you may experience. NAMI New Hampshire does not endorse or advise specific treatments. For 24/7 crisis Help contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text NNAMI to the crisis text line at 741-741 or call 911.

Welcome to the 603 Stories podcast, a monthly mental health podcast, made by young adults, for young adults. Where we share stories, make connections and find hope. Any ads throughout this podcast are not associated with 603 Stories or the 603 Stories podcast. There will be sensitive subjects discussed during this podcast, should you need them the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 or you can text the crisis text line by texting 741-741.

JACE: Hello everyone and welcome back to the 603 Stories Podcast, I’m Jace, I’ll be one of your hosts. This is a mental health podcast, by and for young adults.

HEATHER: I’m Heather, and as a reminder, jace and I are not mental health professionals, we are just two young folks who are passionate about mental health.

JACE: and today we are here with three wonderful guests, to talk about stress, so let’s take a moment to let them introduce themselves. 

ERIN: Hi everyone, i’m erin murphy, i’m the junior class president at windham high school, I started working with NAMI, well, I started working a lot with NAMI a year and a half ago, after my cousin Amy and I’s video “Dear Younger Me” won the Magnify Voices Expressive Arts Contest. 

KATIE: Hi everyone, my name’s Katie, I am a senior at Concord High School, I’m 18 years old and I am currently serving on Reach 1 Teach 1 Love 1’s peer board as secretary. 

OAKLEY: Hi, I’m Oakley, I’m a junior from Hollis Brookline I use she/they/it pronouns interchangeably, and I am also the youngest chairwoman on the Hannah Grace Bazemore Foundation. It’s a nonprofit organization specifically for suicide prevention and I’ve also been in… whew… I cant even count on my fingers alone, how many projects I’ve been in, involving mental health. It’s been something I’ve advocated for since, well, since as long as my memory can serve really. At least 2017 or so. 

HEATHER: So, we want to thank you three for joining us today and taking the time to discuss how stress impacts you and how you have dealt with it in positive ways.

JACE: So, right now, Heather and I are just going to take a moment to talk a little bit about stress. What that might look like and what are some things that might increase stress in a young adult’s life. The first one that I tend to think of is pressure and expectations. So, I know that when I was in high school I was dealing with a lot of pressure and expectations from different places ion my life, so, my family, I had a lot of pressure coming from them to get good grades in school. So, school was also a stress, but also sports, I was always pushing myself to be a better athlete and then adding work on top of that, there was just stress coming from different angles in my life and I always dealt with it in different ways, sometimes positive, sometimes not so positive. But, today we are here to talk about the ways that we can handle things positively.

HEATHER: I actually have a pretty similar experience, not so surprisingly, as it often goes. During high school I was one of the, like, little balls of anxiety. Lots of expectations for getting good grades, um, I have an older sibling who, you know, was the honors student, taking honors classes, went to a good college, um, and I did fine… (laughter) and ended up going to art school, so, not again, really hitting expectations for what my family might have intended. Even like, in college I had the horrible habit of spreading myself too thin. I did like, you know, work, school, helping family, projects around the house, um, anything and everything until I hit the point of burnout and just didn’t give myself the time to reboot, like I needed and refresh and take care of myself, so my stress level was like, through the roof at that point. 

JACE: and another stressful thing that is common in a lot of peoples lives, especially those living with mental illness, is stigma. People deal with stigma, day-in and day-out, and the stigma of an identity or a mental illness can really cause a lot of stress for people because you want to be seen for who you are, not just the mental illness you have or your gender or sexual identity, but it comes with a lot of stigma and carrying that around day-to-day, can work its way into your life and into your mental health.

HEATHER: Absolutely, and I would say, honestly, that it was the biggest barrier for me actually taking care of myself. You know, I was one of the folks that was like, eeeeh therapy, I’ll get to it later, because it wasn’t something that was normalized, it wasn’t something that was taught to be a priority, um, and it can be a huge barrier for accessing help, destressing and caring for yourself.

JACE: So, there are a lot of different areas that stress can come from in our lives, and there are a lot of different things that can increase that stress, as we go through our day-to-day and now we have our three wonderful guests here to share a little bit about their experiences with stress with us and talk a little bit about how they worked through it. So, Erin, without further ado, take it away!

ERIN: I loved everything both of you guys just said, Heather, it sounds like we are the same person. Burnout is so common for me, especially lately, um, and when I think about areas in my life right now that are like full of stress I do think of, I mean, schools the first thing that comes up, but, I really struggle with like, time management and I feel like I was never really like, taught, I guess how to manage my time. So, I’m, like, right now, spreading myself really, really thin. With classes and being class president and working with NAMI and doing all the things that I’m so passionate about doing and spreading the awareness that I don’t think, I mean, I could never stop doing any of the things that I’m doing, cause that’s what I’m passionate about. It’s been really hard to figure out something to take off that to-do list, like I don’t want to stop working and I don’t want to stop advocating, but it can be stressful at times, especially when you’re someone who naturally kind of falls into a caregiving role, in your friendships or in, like, your familial, or family relationships. It’s like, really hard and I’m, like, very fortunate that my family has always encouraged me to go to therapy, and I know that that is a privilege and I work really hard with my therapist to talk about that. Like, taking care of myself, prioritizing myself, in a relationship or a friendship or it can just be really hard. Like, high school is really hard in general and then you throw in all these other factors of today, like, I was just talking to a parent about how my school uses Power School which is, like, how we all access our grades at home. So, I go home from school where I’m supposed to be, well, I’m working, but where I’m supposed to be taking a break and I get notifications- oh your spanish grade, just went down to a C, lovely, now I have so much stress, that I’m just Figure out what type of filter what quiz I I failed and I think there is where the expectation cheese comes in for me from like my friends and my peers that was always expected to be like on it and just doing everything perfectly like high school is stressful nowadays and I’m sure it always has been but I think now is technology and the events of the recent years like things are just stressful.

JACE: I love how you brought up that Some of the things that are stressing you out are also things that you love so font earring advocating and it just goes to show that we can love something but also need a break from it and that is so important to recognize thank you

HEATHER: Finding that balance is  a big Challenge and I’m very happy to hear that you know you are I’m taking the steps and accessing your supports to work through those things because a lot of folks don’t so I’m happy I’m happy you have that.

KATIE: Erin, kind of going off that,  what you said all throughout my life since I was two and a half I was a dancer and dance has a very specific environment. If you’ve ever been involved in like the Performing Arts or anything, or you know someone who has experienced this, but like social pressures to be… well, ballet dancers are very prim and proper and every body part has to be in a very specific place at a very specific time at a very specific beat in the music, and like that’s how it is like in the social environment as well. Like, things are very, like, they have to be a certain way I was a competitive dancer for like 7 years, and up until I was sixteen years old I thought that, that was what I was going to be doing until I graduated high school, like, I thought, like, oh cool this is this is what I’m meant to be doing this is so much fun and, like, I loved doing it. But, the people around me, I realized, just were not it. Like, I loved the administrators of my studio, they were so healthy and, like, they did their best to make it fun and I really enjoyed what I was doing but, after one interaction it can just kind of bring it snowballing down. And I had some of my, like, darkest moments because of, like, one thing that happened at the studio so I… my sister is also a dancer and she thrives in that sort of environment, whereas I learned very quickly, that something that I loved turned into something that, I don’t know, just totally took a toll on me and my stress and became… and went from an outlet to a stressor, if that makes sense. I’ve moved to theater as an outlet, where I can still dance and, like, still do stuff like that, but it’s much healthier for me. Instead of like that more competitive environment, I mean like, not like a more recreational environment, but like I do it at my high school, so it’s very different. But I really liked how you brought that up and how the things that you love can kind of come back and bite you in the butt, if you will. 

JACE: So, what do the three of you do to balance that love for something when it is also something that can be a stressor? 

ERIN: I have just started practicing saying no. Even when someone doesn’t respect that like sticking with it cuz this is not like saying no there’s no… it’s not like me giving you an option, like, when I say no I can’t do something or no I can’t be present at this event or no it doesn’t mean oh let me move this around. It’s no. I can’t be there. And sometimes no is because of a schedule situation or no is because of where I am emotionally, like, you only have so many dollars in your emotional bank and if you’re going to go and spend it everywhere, like, I can’t be running on… I can’t be in debt all the time. So, saying no, I think, sometimes gives me, like, just the power in your own life cause really, it is your life, but I feel like sometime people have a lot of control over that. So, saying no is my biggest thing lately, that I’ve been working on and it helps a lot. Like, even just with my family.

Like, my dad he’s like my best friend, but sometimes he’ll be like, hey, do you want to play this video game tonight and I’m like, no I can’t because I have work or I have something I need to be getting done and even though hanging out with my dad is one of my favorite things, like, sometimes you just gotta say no and focus your energy where it needs to be. 

HEATHER: I have a lot of feelings about everything that you said, but, I love you talking about your emotional bank, um, and the boundary of no. No does not mean compromise, no does not mean, you know, I’ll meet you half-way or I’ll change my plans or you know maybe another day. I mean, sometimes it can mean maybe another day, but a no is a no. Not a vague gray line, so I’m just happy to hear you say that. And even it’s sometimes, I need time by myself, it’s not, oh I have work or oh I have class or school or homework, sometimes a no can just be I need to lay in bed and watch reality TV for three hours. You know it’s boundary setting and all about taking care of yourself and that looks like a lot of different things.

JACE: I would love to know how you respond when someone tries to negotiate with your boundaries if, i’m just asking this, and if you don’t have a solid answer for this, that’s fine, but I just ask this because it is still something I struggle with to this day! The second someone starts negotiating my boundaries with me, I almost always give in.

ERIN: Yeah, um, I think being class president has given me that skill-set like has helped me with all that because like, at the beginning of this year people were pulling me in so many different directions and I would just do it. Just like I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there, until it got to the point that I wasn’t giving one hundred percent where I was and I think I just started like… but now with a friend, I’ll say listen, It’s just not an option like I really just keep repeating it. For me I struggle when it’s a teacher I struggle when it’s an adult in my life that like,  I don’t have a really close relationship with like my dad because it’s a teacher or  someone I work with I will pretty much always say yes and especially if they want to reschedule or  I’m working on that as well so if any of you have any tips I’m all ears!

HEATHER: Now, would you say that you’re more, you know, flexible with those folks because of how much pressure you feel coming from them or how high you hold them?

ERIN: I think it depends who it is like some people especially those who I’ve come close with in, like, the Mental Health Community. I just love it, I love working with them but, I love talking with them. Especially everyone over at NAMI, and they’re just so nice, but I’m like they’re just so supportive, like, it’s going to fill my bucket. They aren’t like teachers, that’s all pressure, that’s 100% pressure, like  it’s so hard to say no to a teacher when they need you to run these errands that really makes no sense that you’re doing it, but I just I think teachers is an expectation and just pressure but the people that help me fulfill my passion and, like, give me these incredible opportunities, I just have so much respect and I always want to figure it out with them, you know?

KATIE: So, let me preface with this, I am not class president! So, like, I… Like I do a lot of things like around my school so like I have relationships with especially the teachers in my music department I’ll like I’ll run a lot of errands I got to go copy some sheet music but it’s more about cell free like awareness I guess so during the pandemic and like during Marsh of 2020 at least cuz we’re kind of still in the pandemic but like I took that time to really do a lot of like introspective thinking and really come to terms with like okay, can I handle because I realized just how much of myself I was expanding and just how much just how in debt I was I will use the bank analogy I guess, cause that’s fantastic but I was like okay what bonds with people do I truly value what bonds do I need to break in order to be true to myself and like who do I want to be?  what kind of person do I want to be so like learning to say no and like learning to do what serves me and put me first is kind of what gets me around like people trying to even adults like when my like I feel I’m someone who feels guilty a lot of the time because my people pleaser when I have to take days off because I have an event of some sort whether it’s a show or a concert or something else I have to text my boss and they’re like okay I’m so that’s so sad but okay I kissed you know so I it like I get I totally get what you were saying Jace about like not really knowing how to feel when other people say no to your no , if that makes sense, but like, for me it was Is that like like introspective thinking that kind of allowed for me to figure out like what does what how much can I spend.

JACE: And it is a guilty feeling, like, you feel bad for letting other people down, but at the same time, you are people too and when you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re letting yourself down.

KATIE: Right!

JACE: And you deserve more!

KATIE: And that also causes stress… yes, yes, yes!

HEATHER: You stole the words right out of my mouth. If your bucket isn’t full, you can’t fill others, um, and even, I mean, especially with work, if you aren’t taking time off to do the things that bring value to your life, um, like, yeah, maybe it stinks that their short staffed, or whatever that looks like, but really you would just growing to resent them. You know, or like not wanting to go to work because, you know, that balance is so important, and the work-life, school-life balance, comes with a lot of pressure and expectations, but really you gotta prioritize you. 

KATIE: Yeah, I’m really lucky to have great bosses who are like, okay, if you find your own coverage then cool, you know? Cause, like, I’m a waitress, so I gotta be texting all my waitress friends and being like, ooooh can you fill my shift? But like it’s true, cause especially in like a restaurant you gotta, like, make sure someones there, but, my bosses are really great, especially with high school aged kids, they’re fantastic, especially for that, so, that takes some stress off my back. 

ERIN: Right, my bosses are incredible, like, I work at a Social-Emotional learning like after-school program and they are always, like, encouraging me to just follow the, like… to take every opportunity that I can, even though especially in an after-school program one less person is so overwhelming with, like, 38 energetic kids and they are always just really supportive of that and for me, like, even today I had to take work off to record and they were very supportive of it and I just think that having those people who also respect your boundaries and know, like, sometimes people just gotta do what they got to do. It takes the stress off, like, I have so many teachers at school now who, I think, are learning to accept when I say no and I know my guidance counselor is probably listening to this laughing because, um, I’ve gotten better at saying no I’m still not great at it but I’ve gotten better so it’s just it just takes a while but it’s not your life if you’re letting someone else dictate it or, or run it, or run your schedule or anything so you gotta just, you gotta… all of us just have to start saying no.

OAKLEY: I have so much to say, I’ve been like, I struggle with ADHD and a big part of my ADHD is like I always want to speak and contribute. I’ve literally been forcing myself to be on mute because every single thing everyone has said, I have had something to say, I’m just full of words and full of emotions right now and now that I’m trying to articulate them, they’re all kinda gonna flop around… like fish out of water, but that’s okay! We’re gonna find our way…

HEATHER: Yes, give us the fish!

OAKLEY: So, the first thing that comes to mind is that I work at a restaurant as well so I understand entirely. I am a dishwasher though, so I don’t have the biggest stress when it comes to kind of finding people for covering my shift. It’s actually a little bit more difficult arguably considering that it’s a home-owned diner, so we only have like two dishwashers we rotate between, we have, like, six waitresses, it, it makes for quite the funny dynamic, by funny I mean very stressful… I’m blessed to have a very very healthy and fun work environment so I personally really enjoy showing up to work I actually have a really fun time I sometimes would rather cancel my plans to go to work instead, I have fun. I’m friends with my co-workers it’s nice but it can be a really really big hassle when it comes to trying to manage my time in regards to work in regards to the facts I’m a student in regards to the fact that I struggle with mental health daily, there are a lot of things that I still have to work on. I mean, I’m Only 17 I have a lot to learn and I’m already dealing with more responsibilities than a lot of my peers and those that are even older than me it’s a lot to manage I feel like I’ve kind of been thrown into the more laborious aspects of the world since I was like 10 or 11 and I really haven’t been able to slow down since then.

JACE: The fact that you’re able to recognize that, though, is so important and I just want to support you in every aspect, but then I’m like, wait, no, I need to take care of myself too! 

OAKLEY: haha, yeah, funny enough, on that subject and especially saying no…So, I come from a very Be weird perspective so to say when it comes to say know the places that I find myself saying at the most are in my most intimate like friendships and what not and in the most intimate aspects of my work outside of the diner so in addition to the diner I also work with various you know mental health organizations things like that like I mentioned earlier and it’s really hard saying no I’m the kind of person that I love advocating for mental health. It’s become like, quite literally, a fixation of mine over the years. It’s something I feel so strong and passionate about but, I’m taking care of everybody’s mental health or trying to but, I… I never fail to slow down and realize that I’ve never taken care of my own. I try to tell myself that by taking care of everyone else’s I’ll feel better but at the end of the day when I come back home I’m like, wow I did a great job, I feel amazing, I did so much, I helped everyone and I sit down and I’m like oh my god I’m so tired… Welp, we’re gonna do it again tomorrow! Like I don’t, I don’t talk, I don’t let myself. It actually came to the point where last night I was out with a few friends and I realized that was the first time I’ve seen them this whole year. I’ve only hung out with friends I think 4 times this year total and it’s not because I just haven’t been in the mood to see people. I literally have four to 7 meetings a week. It’s been like this for two years now. I’ve always always doing stuff.

KATIE: I totally totally get it like trying to take care of yourself while trying to take care of everyone else, like, I have friends who call me Mom like I am like I mean like so many of my friends phones as mother Katie like and it’s a joke and like I don’t mind, it’s a totally joking thing and like obviously there’s clearly boundaries I’ve set that I’ve had other people step yada yada yada it’s very healthy but like, I am, that for me like, I’m very proud of myself and I’m proud of my little children they’re all… I’m a senior and their mostly juniors and that’s why I think that feeling of like wanting to help other people is why I’ve chosen my career path. So, I’m going to major in Psychology at Saint A’s next year, Saint Anselm College, and I’ve been able to, I’m going to do an education minor because I want to help kids in school as a school psychologist. Because like I know what helping kids can do like through fieldwork stuff through my CTE courses and through the various experiences that I’ve gotten to have like I know how many full that can be. So, like, I totally just wanted to jump in and be like you and me we are gonna parent the world! Like we…

ERIN: I think we are actually all just triplets and we’re just everyone’s aunts because the second you started saying, like, your friends have you as mom in their phone and, like, I’m the ‘therapist Erin,’ in everyone’s phone and it’s like, it’s healthy, because everyone now, they understand because as I started advocating, the biggest thing that I love to see is when my friends are like, “are you in the right mind space to listen to my problems right now?” Like, asking permission before you just trauma dump on someone is something that I’ve tried to advocate for so, so much. But, for me I just wanted to shout out all the therapist friends out there, who have been the therapist-friend since like, fourth grade, because I’m totally with you on that! But I just, I just needed to say that, I think we’re all aunts here and so… yeah. 

KATIE: Dealing with your stress and other people’s stress and like, while navigating childhood and like, building boundaries and how to figure that out is, is, so hard. So, kudos to Erin, for building those boundaries, I’ve kinda done the same thing and yeah, I second that. 

OAKLEY: Oh, maybe that would explain why my bones hurt so much all the time…

JACE: Yup, can’t carry the weight of the world on your own!

HEATHER: I’m gonna say, I’m overjoyed to hear that your friends ask for consent, Erin, because I know y’all all saw me do, our listeners may not have, me put… putting my face in my hands when I heard Katie refer to herself as the mom friend. I do that because I was the mom friend. I was the group therapist. Especially because I was not mentally-well when I was younger, I had experienced a lot and then put in the situation where I grew up pretty quickly, but it sounds like you all are in better spots than I was when I was your age which makes my heart flutter, but all of you… just set boundaries. 

JACE: so i guess i’m the only one here that was not the mom friend 

OAKLEY: oh no actually maybe 

HEATHER: what was your role?

JACE: i feel like i was therapist friend at some points um but i often got labeled as the dad friend you know not quite as put together as the mom friend but still very supportive 

OAKLEY: it’s so funny that you say this because i know one of my friends that i’m forcing to watch this after is quite literally the dad friend to my mom friend ollie when you see this i say hi 

JACE: i had a mom friend to my dad friend 

OAKLEY: i feel like every mom friends needed uh needs a dad friend and every dad friend needs a mom friend they’re like kind of like stable each other out a little bit like they don’t at all but they kind of do

JACE: it’s more fun when you have a partner in crime 

OAKLEY: exactly, exactly.

HEATHER: now i’m thinking when will i meet my dad friend?

ERIN: What you were saying, oh sorry, I’m so sorry,

OAKLEY: No, you’re fine, please, go ahead…

ERIN:um what you were saying about like growing up quickly and how that like impacted your the position or the role you play in your friendships that just hit home um i think a lot of people who find themselves advocating for mental health i think grow up a little quickly for whatever maybe it’s situations at home or situations you had in school um or just the environment you have surrounded yourself with um one thing that i like this whole conversation is so validating because it’s just a bunch of people like who have all who are all feeling the same things and it’s just not talked about enough but i think a lot of people who grow up fast tend to be the people who like put on that smiling face all the time and i think it’s just important to check in on those people too you know like oakley 

JACE: tick tock has a trending hashtag right now that says check on your happy friends

ERIN: no!

OAKLEY: it’s about time 

ERIN: but that just it just heather when you said that it made me it made me think of that just like checking in on your happy friends and um almost paying attention to the role that your friends are playing and making sure that they’re not a caregiver all the time and that sometimes everyone just needs one person to look at them be like are you good are you good do you need something 

HEATHER: checking in asking for consent…

ERIN: these are all things like 

HEATHER: modeling all that behavior 

ERIN: exactly anyway hopefully back to you 

OAKLEY: it’s very funny that you guys bring that up because i wanted to kind of mention that i’m sort of like the other side of the coin in regards to that um so i have had the unfortunate experience of needing to cut off friends even in the past few months because they did not respect those boundaries of mine and i tried to have several conversations with them prior being like hey i really care about you but this isn’t working for me right now and i really want to find that middle ground where you can respect my boundaries and i can respect yours and we don’t keep butting heads over this because i feel like i’m not being listened to properly and i don’t think either of us are getting in full with what we need and i think we if we don’t work this out now it’s only going to get worse and i don’t want this to get worse for or either of us unfortunately after those talks sometimes things really didn’t change in fact with a few people it got worse um so you know sometimes it comes to the point of needing to set aside your differences and just go your own way uh one thing that i have learned over the years is that um i’m stuck with myself for the rest of my life i shouldn’t be able to get forced into this role that makes me start to dislike myself i am in my eyes i am a actually no not just in my eyes just in general i am a priority i choose myself first and foremost and if you’re not going to respect that then you don’t have that respect for our friendship so why are we working hard to uphold it you know that’s the kind of philosophy i’ve had to adapt and it hurts because i’ve had to let go of a lot of people that have really meant the world and more to me i still care for some of those people to this very day but until i see some change at some point i’m i’m just not going back and that’s honestly one of the biggest examples of saying no that i’ve really been able to stick to um it’s kind of a joke i have with a few closer friends of mine that um they know that i since i work in the mental health field i often end up picking up friends that are kind of struggling with their mental health and as much as i love to help them i have learned over the years that i am not a rehabilitation center none of us are not a single person is responsible for someone else’s mental health you can try to help them but at the end of the day you are your own person you are responsible for yourself and yourself only and i’ve had to cut off people that did not accept that truth and i can still care for them from like the world about them but that doesn’t mean i have to have them in my life and i have to be in theirs i can support them from the sidelines while we go our own way i can wish you the best but never want you in my life you know but um you know jumping back a little bit farther saying no has always been a really really big problem for me considering i do work in the mental health field it can be a really slippery slope sometimes with the people you’re working with um to get as honest as possible and as vulnerable as i am comfortable with just last october i was giving a speech on behalf of the foundation that i work for for suicide prevention um my father and i were both giving a speech and unfortunately um literally the day later one of the many people in that room that we were talking to had taken their own life i’ve never gotten over that and i think as much as i consciously am aware of the fact it’s not my fault emotionally i’m i’m never well not never because i can’t predict the future but i don’t think i’m ever going to be able to get over that in full i don’t expect myself to either um if anything my goal is to hopefully not hold myself accountable anymore when i know in truth it was not my fault i helped with the investigation and everything and i mean shoot i didn’t even know her for 10 minutes it’s it’s kind of hard to put the weight of all that on yourself when you weren’t even in their life for almost you know the entire point of their life and it’s really hard because ever since that happened and even before um i always get scared to say no especially in the mental health field because i always have that voice in the back of my head that says if you say no to them how do you know that you’re not going to get another phone call saying that they’re gone um i’ve had a lot of loss in my life in general i lost my sister for the same reason in 2017. i’ve lost several friends for the same reason over the years and saying no in general especially in that field is mortifying to me it’s something i still struggle with to this day but i kind of have to step back and step out of myself and realize i literally just said not even two minutes ago that i’m responsible for myself and myself only so why am i not upholding that i i need to practice what i preached or else i sound like a hypocrite and why would you give any time of day to someone that’s a hypocrite you know if i don’t take my own advice then how do i know i’m so sorry that’s my cat sprinting in the back if you hear him um then how will i know if what i’m saying is even real if it’s even true and i know it is because when i finally set that aside and start working on myself i actually start to feel a lot better i’m choosing me now and it’s one of the best things i’ve ever done in my life and as hard as it is getting over and working through a lot of the things i’ve been through being able to put myself in that high priority and realize that none of this none of the losses i’ve experienced were my fault whatsoever if anything i could have been the reason they stayed a little bit longer and just knowing that and knowing that it’s the truth through what i’ve experienced what i’ve seen what i’ve heard it’s it’s enough to keep me going and to keep me motivated to keep working on myself and realize that i am a priority i need to be a priority i don’t just want to or should be i need to be a priority just like how you every single person listening everyone that’s here you are a priority and you not it’s not just that you should be a priority to yourself you need to be a priority to yourself and that’s something that i really wish i knew sooner and i’m really glad i’m really starting to discover that and feel it in full now.

JACE: thank you so much oakley for sharing that.

HEATHER: ultimately we only have control over ourselves we can control our choices our actions are you know to a level our feelings um and a choice that someone else makes regardless of how serious or permanent it is um is their choice and if you’re in a situation where you don’t feel prepared to help just pass it on you know you can say you know reach out to this person reach out to this helpline um you know reach out to nami whatever it is it is okay if you are not in the space to help because again you’re number one you can’t help others if you’re not helping yourself 

ERIN: i think the really interesting like universal experience i don’t say universal a lot of people in middle school and high school now i think the first person that i can actually say i talked through a crisis um i was probably 11. i was 11 years old and i already felt the responsibility of saving a friend’s life now i will do whatever i can to help support someone but i think now i understand um that i am not a trained mental health professional um i just play one on tv and i am 16. i got my license six months ago like i’m not i’m not capable of saving everybody um i obviously like i said we’ll do whatever i can but i think it’s important to pass people along just like heather said like you can’t feel that responsibility at in high school or in middle school like i was literally 11 years old and i felt the responsibility of doing that um the other thing oakley i wanted to um say when you’re talking about like the unfortunate um how did you word it you said like i unfortunately had to cut friends off but i think maybe i don’t know if you know this yet but i think that that is good for you if people aren’t listening when you are setting your boundaries um an apology without change is just manipulation really yeah it’s if you tell somebody that i don’t like when you’re doing this and they say i’m sorry and then they keep doing it that’s just manipulation and it’s not worth your time it’s not worth your energy and i think that you making those choices cutting those people off it’s all going to help you in the long run losing friends stinks i lost a best friend a few months ago or oh my gosh it was like two years ago now a few months ago um and it was one of the hardest things ever and i’ve seen things that are hard um but that was just it was a different type of loss and um in the moment it stunk until you start realizing like i’m loki a much better person and i like myself a lot more now that i don’t have to beg somebody for their validation or whatever whatever it is 

JACE: losing a friend is a type of loss that we don’t talk about very often i mean when we break up with someone right everyone’s always giving you so much advice on how to move on and how to like get back out there kind of thing but when you lose a friendship

no one’s there saying oh this is how you get over it because how do you get over it you know it’s one of those things that you built this intimate connection with a person and like a breakup you have to find out how to go forward again and kind of fill in those pieces of your life that they were taking up but do it in a way that’s healthier now because obviously that person’s not in your life for a reason now so how do you fill those pieces while still taking care of yourself and still making sure that you’re doing what’s best not only for the relationships that you’re in but primarily for your own mental health and well-being

OAKLEY: honestly a big part of that at least for me was it kind of i don’t want to say getting over myself it was getting over my getting over my sense of self hatred that i harbored for way way too long honestly looking back i i don’t fully understand why i really didn’t like myself for so long considering i’ve grown to genuinely appreciate myself as a person i’m still working on some stuff obviously but overall i i really care about myself and i really like myself as a person but one thing that really helped was starting to really befriend myself and realize that you know friends come and go i’ve always had you know at least one friend with me and even when it feels like i don’t i’ve always had myself and i’ve always had at least certain people in my family for example my dad um as well as like with what aaron said my dad is also pretty much my best friend um he’s always been there for me and he actually taught me a really important thing when it comes to uh cutting ties with people no matter how much you care about them and it’s that anyone that puts themselves in a position to lose me was never worth my time and energy to begin with that’s such a vital thing that i need to start reminding myself even like to this very day i think i need to start reminding myself of that more because cutting off friends is always a hard feeling it feels like you’re missing a part of you but i’ve also especially as of late have been kind of learning to be content with that sense of emptiness sometimes when you lose someone or something that void that it leaves behind will never quite be filled the same way that it was and that’s not a bad thing if anything that’s what allows that growth in that change and if i didn’t have that you know that ability to well that opening i guess would be a better word to really grow and change i wouldn’t be who i am to this day and honestly that would have sucked like that would have sucked so much more um i really like who i am and who i’m becoming i am not a bite-sized woman whatsoever and if someone thinks i’m too much then if they told me that when i was younger i would have cried if they say that to me now i’ll just laugh and tell them to go find less and it’s so nice having that mentality and i think knowing that i am really starting to appreciate myself and have my own back has actually been a really big stress producer for me you know funny enough how it relates to the topic but knowing that i have myself means so much to me and honestly it helps me get through the day a lot it really does

KATIE: yeah i was gonna kind of go off of what you were saying but i okay so i struggle with anxiety i have generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder um but i with social anxiety you kind of go through every day i say it’s like when you’re walking down a hallway and it feels as though everyone’s eyes are on you when like you know they’re not but like you you it feels that way um if i were if i try to explain it to people that’s what i kind of say so learning or try trying so hard to kind of find my own way through the gazes of other people it has been so difficult especially through my high school career i’m i’m nearing the end of my high school career which kind of means that i’m being very retrospective like at this point and like i’m kind of going over the various stressors that i’ve experienced such as classes such as national honor society such as other things such a like you know but one of the biggest things i think has been my social standing and what i think my own social standing is um compared to what actually matters which is whether or not i like myself and i think that’s been like such a huge stress inducer for me my entire high school career is other people’s expectations of me like if i’m wearing what’s right if i if my hair looks good if if i’m in the right social group like i this sounds so bad but i just don’t care anymore you know like i i turned 18 recently like i i’ve been hitting so many milestones and i’m like woohoo go me what’s next you know like i’m ready to just move on with my life and go experience more stress if that makes sense like i’m ready to show the world that i like who i’m becoming and i’m really hoping that like by talking to other people about stress and about my experience in high school like it can help other people go through high school.

HEATHER: i have to say this episode is just as much about stress as it is about growth um you know i really appreciate y’all sharing your accomplishments and your goals and the skills that you’ve learned to combat stress um it wasn’t it wasn’t quite what i expected out of a conversation about stress and i just really appreciate it.

JACE: but i must say this is probably one of my favorite episodes that we’ve recorded to date i just love what all of you have had to say and just how you put it too you made the language so accessible and i will never forget that now i have an emotional bank and i cannot go into debt

HEATHER: who knew that we just needed three high schoolers to give us advice


OAKLEY: one last thing that would always be good is just a general stress tip i say this half jokingly i should probably clarify i know i’m bad with tone i see you guys out there who also don’t get toned i feel you if you’re ever feeling stressed just yell bubbles in the angriest voice you can kid you not never fails to make me laugh funniest thing i can do just ugh just yelling bubbles angrily as you can one of my favorite things i also totally blanked on the fact that you know viewers can’t really read a zoom chat so i did pop two things in there that i if you are okay with it if time will allow it i very much wanted to share these two things with the viewers slash listeners so the first one is a quote and i’m forgetting completely what it’s from i’m so sorry if someone knows please by all means reach out to me and tell me because dear god it’s one of my favorite quotes the second thing is something that i’ve just learned in general i actually pulled it out from one of my little journal entries on my phone so the first quote is never forget who and what you are the rest of the world will not wear it like armor and it can never be used against you i want to say that’s from something like game of thrones now that i say it out loud i don’t know but the other thing is that uh personally speaking i’ve learned over the years that there are thousands of people that love the idea of me and i’m sure there are thousands of people that love the idea of everyone here and everyone listening but honestly not everyone has the maturity to handle the reality of me and that’s okay that’s perfectly fine some people are just not going to be my people so why should i stress out over that you know why stress over people that aren’t my people when i could be enjoying my time with my people.

HEATHER: so on that bit of advice do y’all have any words of encouragement to share with our listeners?

KATIE: yeah um i’ll end i’ll end with this high school has so i and life really you see rom-coms you see what everything is supposed to look like that is not real like at all you are your own person you’re going to experience things in your own individual way and that’s okay like your experience is valid your stress is valid whatever it may be you may be stressed about the fact that your cereal was warm this morning or something so stupid and random like that i don’t know why that even came to my head who knows…

JACE: warm cereal would stress me out it would 

OAKLEY: i’ve really been stressed out over that yeah.

KATIE: something so random it could be completely intangible but it’s it’s valid and you have every right to be stressed out about that thing that’s something that i’ve had to learn is my little anxieties they are valid and i am deserving to have my little anxieties and then my little tip that i’m gonna end on is to take a moment and uh reflect upon the bonds that you treasure and strengthen and foster those bonds and if they’re not putting work into it um at least as much as you are then how much stress should it should you really have about that relationship because they could be a coping mechanism for you.

ERIN: i think there’s so much we talked about um i think my favorite thing is that you are your own person you are your own best friend you were the person that’s going to be with you every single day for the rest of time or your time um you are your life can’t be dictated by what everybody else wants you to do and saying no is okay um if it’s something that’s not going to fulfill you or if it’s something that you just don’t have the money for the emotional money for um but really it is something that

recovery is a long process but it starts with the little things that you can do um like learning how to say no or speaking up and talking to a parent or a guardian or whoever you live with about what’s going on in your brain looking up stress videos and how to get rid of stress like however you can just learn what works for you not everything works for everybody when i’m stressed um i shower and i shut my phone off i’ll listen to rain sounds i will go in the car and sing nicki minaj like there’s so many things that you can do but it’s just not gonna work for everyone so if you start um trying different coping mechanisms in the first three you try aren’t working there’s about seven billion more um so try some of those you don’t need to try every single one but try a lot of them um yeah not everything works for everyone but uh it it’s going to be okay don’t make a permanent decision on temporary feelings you know what i’m saying 

OAKLEY: could not be more on that one. another thing that i wanted to add is if we’re given those little tidbits of advice not just should you yell bubbles as angry as you can but um two things that i think i overlooked when i was starting my recovery process but really helped me and still do is a going out of my way to actually like not just be nice to myself but talk nicely to myself i changed my humor around entirely i used to make self-deprecating jokes all the time and now that i don’t i’m like wow no wonder i was so stressed about that stuff like psychologically speaking it literally rewires your thought process it is true it’s been proven that making those self-deprecating jokes quite literally ruins how you perceive yourself and ever since i started making more positive jokes about myself um and just those silly little things i’ve actually started to love myself so much more and i i’ve learned to take things a little less seriously in life life and it’s helped a lot with getting less stressed and the other thing is it’s okay to do things on a whim it’s okay to change things even if it’s last minute because you’re doing at the end of the day what you think is best for you i had three meetings yesterday i didn’t show up to any of them um instead i took some good old me time i actually went out of my way to take care of myself and indulge in things that i didn’t realize i haven’t touched in months like actual hobbies of mine i’ve neglected them all for my work and it’s so bad but doing that on a whim was honestly the highlight of my week and i have a feeling it’s gonna stay the highlight of my week other than this conversation i’m having with everyone this evening and you know don’t be afraid to do those things on a whim either because it’s scary doing things on a whim it’s scary like not listening to that but what if but what if voice in my head but once i do it i’m like oh hey wait a second this is actually nice that like way better than the original outcome that i was anticipating like oh my god this is probably one of the best things i could have done so don’t be afraid to do those things on a whim and if it ends up being kind of sucky then that’s okay because you always have the chance to pick yourself up you can always redo things you can always restart things people will always say that once you do something it’s there forever it’s not they’re literally just trying to scare you into conformity into fitting into what they want you to do think of life almost like a video game you’re your own avatar you can customize yourself and you can customize the world around you that’s exactly why everyone’s here tonight isn’t like isn’t it we’re all trying to customize the world around us and based off of how this evening’s gone i would say we’re doing a pretty good job.

JACE: thank you so much oakley so i guess my little tidbit to wrap this up is i mean i’ve always been a very stressed out person but the thing that has helped me the most um has been the five by five rule if i ever find myself getting stressed out about something i ask myself is this gonna matter in five years and if not i’m not gonna give myself more than five minutes to stress out about it and now sometimes i end up stressing out about it for more than five minutes but the reminder to myself that this isn’t going to be something that is stressing me out in five years just gives me this wonderful reassurance that i’m gonna be okay and i’m gonna get through it no matter how stressful or how difficult i think it seems in the moment i know that i have had the strength to make it through every obstacle so far and i can do that going forward as well 

HEATHER: well i guess that leaves me um i’d have to say taking the time to find what you need to cool down and take a break whether it’s doing a grounding technique doing some mindfulness um or again going back to three hours of reality tv which is a go-to for myself um or you know hanging out with your critter cat dog uh in bed for a bit whatever that can look like um can be massively beneficial whether it’s for five minutes or five hours or whatever amount of time you need um and my other piece of advice is just say no say no all the time everywhere every day whenever you need it uh practice it learn it get used to it and say it with confidence

JACE: thank you so much heather and these tips may not work for everyone but until we start putting ourselves out there and trying new things i always say nothing changes if nothing changes so keep working towards the change that you want to see um and we’ll be here for you fighting in your corner so with that thank you everyone for listening to the 603 stories podcast take care and join us next time

OUTRO: thanks for listening to the 603 stories podcast a monthly podcast made by young adults for young adults you can check out 603 stories on facebook or instagram or at our website 603stories.org just a reminder the national suicide prevention lifeline can be reached at 800-273-8255 remember you can make connections get help and find hope through 603 stories