Its Time To Talk About Stress

talk about stress - close up of arm tattoo - nevertheless she persistedI’m no stranger when it comes to talking about mental health & since April is stress awareness month I thought it’s only fitting that we talk about stress. I’m over here battling a stress disorder which pretty much dictates my life. My experiences are obviously different to those around me but we all feel stress. It can be a constant or maybe something you feel from time to time but either way it can cause issues both mentality & physically. Since it’s stress awareness month I thought I’d write about it; share my experiences & other’s too.

Stress to me is something that I can’t always define since it’s part of my everyday. I kind of feel like I’m always in some form of stress mode but obviously sometimes that is way heightened than others. I get stressed when it comes to losing an item, putting an outfit together & of course when life gets tough. I kind of get stressed about everything; I’m in this constant bubble of pressure & that means I do explode from time to time.

One of my major ways of reaching boiling & diffusing the situation is to reorganise everything. That means every bit of mess needs to go. I just tidy like I’m on a mission, mainly in a state of crazy so everyone knows not to push it but once it’s done I’m free. That sounds totally crazy doesn’t it? But it blooming works & that’s what matters.

Stress is a weird concept. We’ve kind of created a world where stress is inevitable; you stress over your education, then your job,  then you go home & you can find a million other things to be stressed about. We all need to take some time out! The truth is I don’t think we can truly take time out. Even if you book a holiday or pencil in a lazy day you’ve still got the internet at your finger tips & your brain is still going at full speed.

It’s hard to switch off & relax.

I’m just as bad at everyone at switching off. The trick is to find what relieves your stress & embrace it. It could be a yoga class, a meditation app or just turning off your phone & reading a book instead. I like to listen to podcasts; the ones that tell a story & get into the nitty gritty of the subject. I walk to & from work listening to it & it works for me. I’m all for a bit of TLC & a self care day but they don’t always work. It’s sometimes the simplest things that do & sometimes you just need to explode, do your thing & get on with your day.

As long as you are taking care of yourself then you’re doing it right. If you think it’s got a stage beyond self help then seek help. Speak to a professional or even just a friend for now. Stress can build & we all know a lot of it is internal so don’t battle it alone. Talk about what’s stressing you out or write it down. Just get it out! You may find it leaves you feeling better.

Now you’ve read my stress story, I wanted to share other’s experience because as I said stress affects everyone in different ways.  Thank you to the lovely people who decided to share their stories & I hope it makes you feel a little less alone when it comes to dealing with your stress about stress - close up of arm tattoo - nevertheless she persistedWhen it comes to stress severely affecting your everyday life, the best thing that can come out of this situation is to acknowledge that it is a problem. I ignored it for too long when I struggled through my first two years of Sixth Form. It got so bad, that I ended up having to retake my first year, because the stress became too overwhelming. I decided to seek a professional talking therapist, as I needed to find out what my underlying issues were that was causing the stress to take over my life. I knew that I had quite a few personal issues going on at the time, additional to my exams. I found the sessions to be one of the biggest steps I’ve taken to overcome my issues. You should never feel ashamed to seek help when times get tough, whether it be talking to your closest friend, a parent, a teacher, or even a professional. Please don’t hide in the dark like I did, because facing stress head on, is the best way to move forward. – Jennifer (theconfessionsofanonlineshopaholic)

Usually I cry for about 10 minutes then I get serious! I get a notepad, make a list of the things that need doing. Then I make a list of things that are making me stressed. Then I make a list of things I like doing or want. I tackle one from each, in a row, as I can. Then whatever I’m left with, I take to my mum or partner or friends and ask for help. And chocolate. Chocolate or gin always helps! – Holly (honestlyholly23)

The most stressed I’ve ever been is when it came to finding a job towards the end of completing my masters. Each day I’d spend hours writing my dissertation, whilst also applying for jobs and attending interviews. As time went on, I increasingly worried about money, as well as doubting my myself and my abilities.
I dealt with this stress by talking about how I was feeling with my friends and family. Although not all of them fully understood how I was feeling, they helped put this temporary situation into perspective. I also took the this time to watch my favourite tv programmes and films on Netflix for a much needed distraction. As well as regular exercise! So for anyone going through an extremely stressful period in their lives, my advice is just to talk! You’ll honestly feel so much better. –Luce (lifeofluce)talk about stress - close up of arm tattoo - nevertheless she persisted
 “I’ve struggled with anxiety in the past, so stress does tend to affect me more now than it used to. I’m not stressed constantly, but some days are worse than others. Over time, I’ve come up with a couple of strategies to deal with the stress and make myself feel better.

The first thing I do is try to figure out the true source of the stress. Is it something that deserves this level of mental energy, or is it just that I’m not in the right frame of mind and everything seems like a challenge? Is it because of something I’ve done or is it because of something I have no control over? Bringing a sense of rationality into it tends to calm me down because I then know how to best deal with it. More often than not, this means giving myself time and not being hard on myself. This is easier said than done of course, but I try to talk to myself the way I would talk to a friend. For instance, if a friend is stressed out, I wouldn’t tell her to dwell on it and beat her up about it. So why am I doing it to myself? This also gives me a sense of perspective.

Stress can be so hard, and it doesn’t serve any purpose. We’re all fighting our own battles, and we need to be our own best friend to make it through them.” Sneha (lifewithsneha)

When I was younger I was painfully aware of peoples reactions – I think it stemmed from the fact that my Mom always had weight issues( she varied between 19-25 stone throughout her life) Her family and other people would feel they could comment on ”You really need to lose some weight Betty” .

I was aware of peoples expressions and whispered comments from an early age .My Mom was very extroverted and loved attention but I use to get very stressed if I saw a patronising look or heard a whispered comment about her. She did get upset on occasions and this added to my anxiety as Mom was Mom -she was a good person. ”’Don’t get like me” she use to say ( if only she knew I would have loved to have been her- sassy, sociable and sexy ) .

I became ultra sensitive to how I looked, dressed and appeared to others. During marriage I wasn’t allowed to cook ( my confidence in that area remains – I panic at the thought of meals for even the grandchildren and never apply for jobs that involve food handling)I began to  control what I ate and in public I would make sure I sat at a table where I was hidden, not seen. I was hospitalised for suspected appendicitis which eventually was an ectopic pregnancy. The Doctor took my family and husband aside ”This girl is suffering with borderline malnutrition” When I eventually left my first husband Mom promptly embarked on a mission to feed me up – I have a photo of me where I am virtually neckless! No thin photos of that time exist.

In 1982 I married Fab Hubby ( as I call him) I was so insecure because at 22 I had inherited 3 stepchildren ( youngest  was asthmatic and oldest was epileptic/behaviour problems) I had no idea what I was doing ! I would storm out of the  house after an argument only to run out of steam and phone Fab Hubby ( from a phonebox!) to bring me home – he didn’t drive , so , thank god for his extensive knowledge of Birmingham- he always found me . I had no skills in parenting ( though he did teach me to cook basic meals ) or dealing with the emergency hospital admissions ( either asthma attacks or prolonged fitting) I also started to expeience episodes of vertigo and light-headiness In 2009 Fab Hubby was diagnosed with Lung Cancer, he passed away in 2013 .It was 4 years of hospital appointments and emergency admissions.

Then the grief and uncertainty of Life – both continue (I have yet to find a job I love – I’m 58!) Will I date, marry etc ….no its not on my horizon – I am busy finding my way again so here’s some advice:

1.Breathe- For a long time I had a saying that summed me up ”Waiting To Exhale” ….because I was. I was waiting for the madness to stop but this is Life and it rolls on – so pause, breathe, look around, look at you .

2.Learn to say No- this is the big thing- there comes a time when you need to start saying Enough. No more….Yes, its scary, yes there will be rebellion from others but omg the relief!

3.Talk- I talk to my daughter, my sister, the urn on my bedroom window( bet that freaked you out!) and to my parents (no they are no longer with me either!) I always feel better not bottling up my emotions, my thoughts and feelings – I use to do that a lot in my youth , it eats away at you .

4.Listen- there’s good advice out there- if you listen ……People are good, people are kind and a lot of the time they have had similar feelings and can empathise and offer advice or coping strategy’s

5.Remind yourself you have a choice….this goes with Learn to say No – its a BIG decision. You will know when your ready to embark on these steps – its a lightbulb moment, the switch flicks on and NOTHING can stop you !!

6.Remember you are fabulous….because you are! You are unique ! There is only one of you- the world couldn’t handle your fabulousness if it were multiplied! – Kim (brummiegalincardiff)

If I am feeling highly anxious or am having an attack I use the 5-4-3-2-1 method to shift my focus and calm me down, which I find works incredibly. You think of 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell and one thing you can taste. – Lilla (lillialoves)

So that’s my stress story & a few stories from the wonderful people who were willing to contribute. It goes to show that stress is a major part of our lives & dealing with it can be very different for everyone. If you’re willing to share your stress story I’d love to here from you. Feel free to pop it in the comments or email me if you’d rather keep it private. Just remember I’m always here if you ever need someone to listen.

Shelley xx

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