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Stress is widely understood to be a negative emotion, one similar to anxiety and unhappiness. In spite of this, I think it’s safe to assume that most of us have humble-bragged, however indirectly, about how “stressed” or “busy” we are.

I fully admit to being guilty of this. I work full-time, write part-time, and still try to work towards new ventures. Stress is my middle name.

I know I’m not alone, either.

Everywhere I look, people around me are substituting coffee for entire food groups and adding task after task to their to-do lists. They’re putting in extra hours at the office and signing up for more university credits. They do this because they believe, as I did, that surviving the tortuous schedule they’ve built for themselves will make them more successful and, by extension, happier.

We have fallen victim to the societal, culturally constructed concept that our input (the effort and energy we expend) is more vital to our success than our output (the actual value we produce).

That’s why the employee who works late every night or shows up early every morning is probably more likely to get a promotion, even though a coworker who clocks out at 5:00 p.m. every day might be getting just as much work done.

Our society values input more than output.

Is that what we really want to aspire to?

Let’s shift our focus to knowing when to pull back and manage stress. Here’s how:

1. Remind yourself that happiness is not an achievement

It’s easy to fall into the mindset that you’ll have time to be happy and enjoy yourself after you accomplish x, y, and z. However, human nature suggests that after each major achievement, our brain adapts and then sets its sights on a new goal. The cliché that “happiness is a journey, not a destination” holds true here. Insert activities you enjoy, self-love, self-care and relaxation into your daily pursuit of success.

2. Sleep

The concept that you need sleep to be successful is not new or groundbreaking, but it’s easy to disregard what you already know to be true: You will be healthier, happier, and more productive if you regularly get a full night’s rest. Make sleep a priority and take the necessary steps to make it happen, even if that means setting a regular bedtime or kicking yourself off of electronics after a certain time.

3. Work smart, not hard

This may be the most important takeaway: Shift your point of focus to your output, not your input. Remembering that the quality of the end-product is what can help you streamline the process of getting there. Get rid of distractions, and get your work done more quickly and more productively.

Don’t glorify stress. Don’t confuse being busy with being successful.

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