Chillax: The (Adolescent?) Art of Stress Management

“Chillax,” he says to me.

He’s 19. I’m not. It isn’t the first time he’s tossed that Solution to All Ills in my direction.

It won’t be the last.

Still, I register the underlying message in his counsel: I’m trying to do too much, too quickly, too intensely, too constantly.

Maybe I should take to martinis and cigars, shrug my shoulders, and croon “Que sera sera.”

But that’s not what he’s advising.

My son’s teenage perspective is a little bit more sensible than that. In his inimitable fashion, he’s telling me to stop, take a breath, and chill out – somehow, some way, before I drive him crazy, not to mention myself.

Of course, this is the same son who pulled one all-nighter after another in the last two years of high school, so he could get those all important grades for the all important scholarships, just as he was pulling all-nighters freshman year in college, to keep the all important scholarships.

Teens Relaxing

Then again, when he unwinds?

He truly unwinds. He disconnects. He zones out in his artwork (as I do in my writing), in socializing with friends (I love hearing the laughter in the house), in music blared throughout our cozy rooms, and occasionally, biking.

He’s just back from an overseas internship where he both worked and played (but is happy to be home), and I understand that he wants to chillax.

That means sleeping in, cooking a leisurely omelet when he wakes, and going out with his buds at night or having them here through the night, as he and his brother have for years.

Do You Stress Before More than During or After?

I plead guilty. Yesterday I was in a bit of a mood. Sure, it started with some silly incident that ticked me off, followed by constant interruptions as I tried to read the Sunday Times which is my tried-and-true stress management tool.

Knowing I had to start the week’s work last evening (which I did), I hoped for a few hours to read in the quiet. But along with interruptions, an unanticipated bursar’s bill was doing its damage as I couldn’t get it off my mind.

I confess that I stress more before getting down-and-dirty with problem-solving than I do when I’m in the trenches. Action helps. I am energized by doing. And no “doing” was possible on that tricky topic over the weekend.

Reality Bites?

My son’s remark? His observation that I was edgy and stressing on a Sunday?

On the money (so to speak).

But “chillax” as a solution to adult stress – particularly of the financial sort – doesn’t cut it. My reality is more complex than his (of course), though I appreciate the value in his one-word offering, and the reminder that my stress was spilling over.

I will mention that in my Times reading, I came across this article on retirement planning – well written and an irritating reminder of how many assumptions we make when we’re young, continue to make as we mature, and possibly – make in order to survive, and believe that the future will somehow take care of itself.

Sometimes it does. More often, not so much.

Busying Ourselves into the Ground

If I continue to circle back to social issues on a regular basis, including economic obstacles, lack of infrastructure supports for women and families, not to mention our “Busy Trap” and unending conflicts as so many of us try to master the essentials (and fail) – it is because I feel as though I’m trying to master the essentials.

While I won’t admit to failing (I’m stubborn, and a fighter), I will admit to struggling and to worrying.

I admit to recognizing that we frequently find ourselves harried on the hamster wheels of our making (and unmaking), unable to slow or stop.

I see myself caught on the hamster wheel, despite the fact that there’s nothing wrong per se except too little time and too little control and yes, too little money. Right. That financial stress. My, how it does its dirty deeds, eating at our sleep, our focus, our options, our health.

The Best Advice May be the Simplest Advice

This brings me back to my adolescent son and his advice, which amounts to rejecting whatever causes stress if and when you can. Quite possibly, it equates to walking away from it – even when some might say you cannot. 

I’d say those money worries rank among the worst. Debt is crippling and demoralizing, especially when it goes on for years and you can’t see your way clear. Financial woes, for some of us, are the result of gray divorce – exacerbated by the cost of raising children, by periods of unemployment, by health issues or family issues that no one can predict.

That article on the (sur)realities of retirement? I can’t say it helped my mood yesterday, but it made a great deal of sense, touching on all the life events I just mentioned (and more), hitting very close to (this) home.

Priorities: Health

And then I think of my kids. They know how to sit things out for 20 minutes or a half hour – through music, a bike ride, something.

It’s hard to shed (or ignore) legitimate and complicated problems, but the world will not come to an end if everything is set aside for a walk, a cup of coffee in the sunshine, ten minutes on the phone with a friend.

I try to remind myself of this – as many times as it takes.

A walk may not be the respite I would like, but as Nicole and Maggie remind us with their musing today – we all juggle, and we all must prioritize.

Point of fact: I’m running late today by nearly three hours. I dealt with the bursar issue. I took a 20-minute walk. The day’s work awaits, the day will run longer, I still chose to spend one hour writing (it’s my sanity and my clarity); the Earth continues to spin on its axis and I feel calmer.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ve had a lesson in “chillax.”

© D. A. Wolf



  1. says

    I don’t know…when one of my college aged kids tells me to “chill ax” I want to smack ’em. How about, “can I do something to help, Mom?” It must be in the tone and spirit with which you’re being advised to chill.
    And the bursar’s bill? Is that for the son’s schooling (the same who is advising Mom to chill?).

    Kids, at least and I’m only speaking for mine, don’t, of course, get it until they’re financially on their own. Just as we didn’t.

    And it is certainly the same for parenting. My oldest son became a father very recently. Already his father and I are his heroes. No wait, I believe he said we were super-heroes. And this when he was only 3 weeks into the parenting stint.

    Chilax indeed. Here’s to some therapeutic walks, sunny moments with a cup of coffee and quiet moments. Sounds like you certainly, certainly deserve them.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Ha! to the first point, Barb.
      Yes, to the second.
      Agreed, to the third (no matter how hard we try).

      And incidentally, having requested lawn mowing multiple times, it took raising the maternal voice to initiate aforementioned mowing. 45 minutes later, he got to chillax, and I felt a helluva lot better seeing him work up a sweat!

  2. says

    I think he needs a job and then he will know what chillax is when he comes home exhausted. His demands will stop. One can only hope.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Actually Madge, he’s just back from a job overseas. I’m guessing he was pretty tired at the end of each day – he had to bike to work in a small European city, put in his day, bike home. I suspect this has something to do with his chillaxing at the moment, and paying jobs for teens are few and far between. (Still – there’s no free pass around here!) 😉


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