Stress. That word we're always trying to avoid but something that most of us tend to live with daily, often quietly and alone. It's so ingrained into us that ‘stress is bad' that we try to mostly brush it under the carpet rather than deal with it, never less think that it might be beneficial to us in some situations.
Is it just a phase?
Do you often find yourself thinking ‘it's just a stressful phase, I'll get through it and then I'll be fine again'? But really, is it just a phase? I'm the first to hold my hands up and admit I've spent the better part of this year in a ‘phase' like this. I've been in the middle of trying to organise one of the biggest moves of my life, with huge lifestyle impacts, and everything else that goes with it (Getting to live by the sea, exciting, yay! Having to deal with estate agents, solicitors, removals, and relocating a business, stressful, boo!). I also recently got a diagnosis for a health issue which has caused a lot of pain and inconvenience over the years (Finally knowing is relief, yay! Facing a possible hysterectomy in your 30's, wow, stressful, boo!). Both of these things have affected my ability to function properly, which hello, more stress, and as a result I have felt more and more isolated with my big ball of stress and anxiety.
And then I got to thinking, is it healthy to dwell on how stressful these things are, and are these things actually more stressful than other things, or rather just a more convenient reason to dwell on that stress? I mean, don't we always find things to stress about? Whether it's stressing about your children, or rather stressing over when or if or whether you're able to have them. Whether it's having too much work, or not having enough work. Whether it's about achieving something, or stressing about not losing what you've achieved. You see where I'm going with this? What ever our situation, we will find a way to stress over it.
The avoidance game
Suddenly I see so clearly how badly I've dealt with this particular patch of stress, and why it's grown into such a big monster. I've been doing my darnest to try to avoid it. To distract myself with ice cream and bad tv, instead of using the extra energy stress provides for forging forward with other things I'm stressing over slacking on. Isolating myself so I wouldn't bore people with my worries instead of asking for advice. Feeling like I don't have anything to give, even though sharing some of my experiences could make someone else going through similar stuff feel less alone.
I think we all go through life experiencing stress, and mostly feeling that our experience is somehow different, when in fact it's probably pretty similar to what most are going through right at the same time, even if their reasons for stress might vary.
Here is some of my own advice I will try to take on board from now on:
1. Don't isolate yourself
Share in the human experience. The worst thing you can do when feeling stressed is to think that you’re the only one experiencing it. Reaching out to others helps you realise you’re not alone, and that it’s normal to have to deal with some stress.
2. Use stress for good
Use the extra energy and adrenaline stress creates for getting things done or pushing through your fears. Let it help you smash that deadline, or deliver that big scary presentation.
3. Don't feel guilty about being stressed
It's normal, it's a part of life. Stress itself is not harmful, rather our response to it.
4. Help others
Often when we’re stressed we feel like we don’t have anything extra to give to others. But I’ve found that one of the best stress-busters is actually offering help to others, not only does it pull you out of your own thoughts, but it makes you feel good about your capabilities.
5. Have a trusted list of stress-busting activities at hand
I listed some of my favourite stress-busters in this Heart List. Having such a list at hand when you really need a break from stressful thoughts is invaluable. Although from now on I won't use the list just to ‘manage' stress, I'll also try to adjust my overall attitude towards stress, and not let things get too desperate again!
6. Realise that you are doing something meaningful
We rarely stress about things that mean nothing to us. So if you are feeling stress, it’s a sign that you’re doing something that means a lot to you, whether it is being good at your job, wanting the best for your kids, or trying to change some aspects of your life for the better.
Do you have any tips for dealing with stress in a healthier way?