Coping with Stress
"Don’t worry about it”
Today is the UK's National Stress Awareness Day, so in celebration let's address the nature of stress and how to navigate it.
What is stress?
According to the Mental Health Foundation
“Stress is our body’s response to pressure. Many different situations or life events can cause stress. It is often triggered when we experience something new, unexpected or that threatens our sense of self, or when we feel we have little control over a situation.”
Stress is a chemical response, the ‘fight or flight’ as we know it. It is suppose to whip you into shape, adrenaline pushing you to find a solution quick. But why does it feel like when stress kicks in, rarely does it help.
Maybe that is because stress isn’t the problem, it’s your relationship to stress, how you see it, and how you deal with it.
I’m not a doctor. I am someone that deals with stress everyday. I have spent a long time trying to understand the best way to navigate it and hope to share these observations today.
(It is important to consider that stress is felt differently. That inequalities have an enormous impact on wellbeing. Please read Mental Health in an Unequal World written by Sandra Evans for more details.)
What you need to do first is IDENTIFY.
What are you stressed about?
Often situations that can put pressure on your mental and physical wellbeing can be narrowed down to two categories: internal or external
Of course within these exists a spectrum, and you should always consider that your situation may be ambiguous and that is okay.
The reason why you need to identify your stress and categorise it, is so you can understand and digest it.
There is no hope of finding a solution to an equation you cannot see.
So think about it, write it down, spell it out on your fingers.
Are there several things stressing you out?
Are they all different?
Do they all belong to a same category, can they actually be condensed to one core problem?
Spelling it out brings clarity, and yes sometimes this might seem even more stressful.
I know plenty of people including myself that are experts at avoiding their own stress. Distractions, through entertainment, substances, activities or even people might bring a temporary ease to your mental health, but the wound is still open and the nerves are still high. And that will not change unless you address it.
So what is stressing you out?
If it is internal, you could
describe that as a stress you are responsible for.
Give yourself a break.
It is so easy to feel lost and overwhelmed in our own complicated brains.
So what to do: Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself and ask for forgiveness.
Practice self care, And I’m not just talking about taking a bubble bath. But the self care where you wrap your arms around yourself and say “you’re doing great’ “You’re doing your best and that is enough” The world can be a tough place, do you really need to be tough to yourself too?
Compassion is an important practice. And it is the most important thing to do with yourself. To be compassionate, is to put understanding before judgement. It’s not just being positive that is going to help you through your stress. But to be honest with yourself to see the truth and to accept it.
Are you making a mistake? Are you wrong in your actions? Do you need to change your behaviour? Be better?
No one is born perfect, and life is a series of mistakes. And that is okay. Making mistakes does not mean you failed, it means you took the wrong turn. If you recognise a mistake, you’re recognising the nuances of right and wrong. That is a success! Congratulations you are moving forward so keep going. Be critical of yourself but don’t be evil.
Is it you?
Is it an internal affair?
Are you putting yourself down, devaluing your skills and personality?
Do you feel like you are not performing well?
This is an opportunity to reflect and to work harder. You can and will do better.
What is external stress.
I would describe this as situations you are not responsible for but are still having to live through.
Sometimes you might feel like you are obligated to feel this stress. Sometimes it is someone, or a group of people demanding that you go through the emotions of stress.
When it comes to personal relationships with other people causing stress in your life. My most helpful tip that has kept my head up this past year is “Don’t take anything personally”
From the four agreements, this statement brings humbleness and compassion to external stress. Are you taking on someone else stress just because you feel like you have to? You are not obligated to anyone and no one is obligated to you. If someone has wronged you, ultimately that has nothing to do with you. They are on their own paths, living their own life, making their own mistakes. You are not responsible for someone else’s mistakes, you do not need to take on this stress for them.
But sometimes stress is brought on by situations out of anyone’s control. There is no one responsible, it simply is a case of bad experience or bad luck, or something that is just beyond your grasp.
Being homeless, being in a toxic relationship, being unemployed. Not being able to meet your basic needs of food, warmth and shelter is the most stressful experience. And for that, all I can say is you are not alone. You are not alone in your experience and you are not helpless. Even if you feel like you have no close friends or family, you are not alone. There are thousands of amazing individuals and groups that strive to help people like you in whatever situation you are. They are there and they are waiting to help. Community Bridges has created a directory of social enterprises that offers free services to help people in difficult situations. If you are in a situation of stress and you cannot do anything about it, let them.
Identifying and dissecting stress is the first step. Making a plan of action to get yourself out of a position of pressure is the second.
While you’re here addressing your own situation, consider the one of those around you. How do people you love deal with stress? Can you learn from them, can they learn from you?
Alongside the fact that you should take the time to process stress and to ultimately rid yourself of it, you should remember that stress exists for a reason. We experience stress to get ourselves out of it. Sometimes stress or the lesser known “Turbo mode” is just what you need to power through difficult moments. So sometimes it is just best to ride it.
This article was written from intuition and personal experience. Please continue to research and understand the nature of stress and how to cope with it via these external articles.
Written and illustrated by Mona Neilson.