Tag Archives: stress

Don’t let the ‘little things’ build up…

Everyday stresses can add up over time, and if we’re not careful we may experiences a wide range of negative effects from anxiety, depression, burnout, fatigue, a sense of being overwhelmed, trapped and frustrated, backed into a corner, to name but a few.

Having come through times of intense stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, fatigue, etc. due to a range of challenging circumstances, I know how important it is to be mindful and aware of when these little ‘niggly’ things that occur day to day begin to trigger even a hint of those feelings.

If we allow things to build up and up (which, I truly know, friends, can be difficult not to) then our bodies and nervous systems will begin to move from a state of calm, rest, efficiency and productivity, to being hypervigilant, and in fight-flight-freeze mode. Stress hormones will build up and this will affect our thinking, cloud our judgement and affect us physically. We may find it difficult to sleep, we may turn to comfort eating, or feel too stressed to eat, and so on and so forth. You get the idea. Perhaps, like me, you know it all too well.

Did you remember to breathe?

Sometimes I ‘forget to breathe’. Obviously, my body will be breathing, but what I mean is sometimes I get into a rigid state where I’m kind of holding my breath without even realising it, and therefore not getting a sufficient supply of oxygen for my wellbeing, and for regulating my nervous system.

Did you know that something as simple as breathing well is so powerful in regulating our nervous system, and promoting our wellbeing? And yet so often so many of us seem to ‘forget this’. We breathe from a ‘shallow’ place and don’t allow a full intake or exhale of our breath. Once we begin to be aware of our breathing and to intentionally practice doing it ‘better’ then our nervous systems are able to ‘calm down’. So, for your own good….”Don’t hold your breath!”.

What are those ‘little things’?

Sometimes life throws us into challenges where we feel like we may well sink if we don’t ‘swim’ to survive. At times life is so tough that our ‘default’ is to operate on fight-flight-freeze mode, simply to survive an intensely stressful, emotional, challenging and / or traumatic situation.

However, even at times when we are in those more calm and peaceful seasons where things overall are going well, our bodies and brains can be overstimulated and create a ‘stress response’ within us similar (or equivalent) to that fight-flight-freeze response.

Can you see yourself, or relate to what’s happening, in any of the following scenarios?

Scenario 1:

You all know the feeling. You’re on the way to see your friends for a great day out, but you can’t find the keys to your car, when you finally do and are on your way you then get caught in traffic and you worry that you’ll be late, you arrive just in time but can’t find a parking space, you’re feeling anxious because of angry drivers that you’ve encountered and before your great day out has even started, you kind of want to be back home where you can crawl into bed.

Finally you meet your friends and it’s great to see them. You hug and you’re reminded of why the stress of the journey was worth it. As you catch up over coffee, the noise around you and the multitude of conversations going on from other people leaves you feeling a bit disoriented. You try to listen to your friends but it’s difficult to ‘tune out’ the noise and ‘tune in’ to hear their conversations. When things finally quieten down your friends begin to share updates about their lives. They’re doing great, you’re happy for each other, but some things in the conversation seem to ‘trigger’ you and they seem insensitive to it. You listen patiently and are as encouraging and loving a friend as ever but something doesn’t feel quite right inside. A few of your friends get up to buy something to eat and you’re left alone with one friend. You’re by nature a ‘listener’ and you’ve listened attentively and shown genuine interest and contributed here and there to the group conversations. However, alone with this person they seem to ask you question after question after question. It’s been a long time since you’ve seen each other and it’s nice to catch up but you feel stressed, uneasy and needing your own space. You hope that the others will come back soon so that they dynamic will feel more ‘balanced’ once again, as far as is possible with a range of personalities, and a mix of ‘introverts, extraverts and ambiverts’. All in all by the end of the day you’ve had a lovely and a pleasant time, but some of the ‘little things’ have got to you and you don’t quite understand why you’re feeling so stressed after a nice day out.

Scenario 2:

You’ve landed your dream job. You got through the interview despite your nerves, impressed the new bosses and are finally where you’ve wanted to be for oh so long. Things are going great. You manage to push past your first day nerves, the disorientation of not knowing anyone, and having to get to know a lot of new faces, names and ways of working. After a few weeks into your dream job you’ve built some rapport with colleagues, feel comfortable and confident in what you’re doing, know the ‘lay of the land’ and where to get lunch, where different offices are and what your day to day routine is like. You’re really pleased with this great new step in your life, but somehow everyday you feel a bit of a ‘gnawing’ in the pit of your stomach, and a feeling of nervousness and stress rising up within you. The dream job you should be overjoyed about and looking forward to going to everyday doesn’t leave you feeling the way you had hoped. It’s not the job itself – it perfectly fits what you had wanted to do. It’s not the location – it’s ideal for you and the building and the facilities are great. It’s not the ‘vibe’ of the organisation, people are friendly and professional. It’s just that one little thing. That one colleague who hasn’t taken so well to you. The one who rolls their eyes, who makes subtle flippant remarks that you are sure are about you, who is overly friendly to everyone else but ignores you or responds abruptly and provides as little help or good will as possible. The one who does so many ‘little things’ that are hard to pin down as being ‘problems’ in and of themselves, but who gives you that feeling inside your chest, the one that leaves you feeling somewhat stressed. Why can’t you just ignore it, shake it off? You try but it seems to leave you feeling drained nonetheless.

Scenario 3:

You’re really thankful to have good and close friends. Or perhaps you have a loving partner or spouse. You’re so grateful for the people in your life. It’s just that sometimes you feel the need for your own space, sometimes they do or say things that make you feel stressed, sometimes you find yourself putting your needs aside to help them, to keep them happy. But those little things, they still get to you a bit, don’t they?

Scenario 4:

Life is going great. You’re doing well in your job. You’ve got good friends. You’re quite healthy. No family drama. No major life crisis. But you can’t quite seem to keep up with all that you have to or want to do. You live alone. The dishes have piled up. There are things needing done around the house. You want to get on top of things, but you’ve got to manage so many things yourself, and you spend so much time doing things yet before you know it things need to be done all over again, and you haven’t even got to that ‘to do’ list of things needing fixed, repaired and so on and so forth.

Or you’re a working mum, you love your family, your kids, they are everything to you. But sometimes they just don’t listen. They leave things lying about. They seem more interested in their phones and their friends and their computers than they do in connecting with you. You feel unappreciated, stressed, you love your life, your family, your job, but sometimes those little things…leave you feeling a bit stressed, frustrated, in need of a holiday on a beautiful desert island with a good book, all by yourself! Do you know the feeling?

Taking a step back:

We don’t need to be going through a trauma or a life crisis for things to become stressful. Sometimes the ‘little things’ in life can leave us feeling overwhelmed. And if we let them build up then at some point they might just ‘bubble over’. Have you ever ‘snapped at’ someone who really didn’t deserve it, not because of them, but because you allowed different stresses to build up over time and this was just the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’? Have you ever burst into tears, or just ended up so fatigued that you couldn’t do anything? Have you let the ‘little things’ in life get the better of you?

Or are you just beginning to notice them? Don’t let the ‘little things’ build up and overwhelm you.

Sometimes we need to try taking a step back. Sometimes that can be difficult. Sometimes it involves saying ‘no’ or ‘not right now’ to someone and facing the ‘fear’ of not meeting their expectations of us for the sake of preserving and maintaining our own well being. In order to do so we need to know and be aware of what we need, we need to work on managing ours and other people’s expectations in a healthy way, managing boundaries and taking good care of ourselves.

Sometimes we need to take a step back, remind ourselves to ‘breathe’ and do something to nurture ourselves.

What are you going to do today to make sure that the ‘little things’ don’t cause you to feel stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated or a bit lacklustre today?

Remember, it’s never a little thing to take care of your own wellbeing! x

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Help for dealing with A.N.T.s – Automatic Negative Thoughts…

ANTS can be a nuisance. Automatic Negative Thoughts, that is.

They creep across our minds from time to time, and pester us. The thing is, for those over-thinkers like myself, ANTS can pester us with greater frequency and intensity than other people who find it easier to ‘switch off’ or not be so aware of or bothered by their thoughts. It’s not that we choose to be over-thinkers (why would anyone choose what can often be and feel like an affliction?), it’s just that’s how we are wired, and our brains are always ‘whirring’ with action, whether we like it or not. Many of us are also highly intelligent, creative, analytic and kind and sensitive souls. We know all too well the two-edged sword of positive and negative attributes to having a highly sensitive mind and disposition.

We may also have in common the condition of ‘Generalised Anxiety Disorder’ which until you get a handle on and figure out how to train yourself to get on top of, really sucks! So my sympathy for any other sufferers out there. However, we are not our thoughts and we don’t need to be defined by our ‘conditions’, it’s just a part of our life experience, but so too is overcoming it, learning and growing from it, helping ourselves, and quite incredibly growing to the point of inspiring and encouraging others.

So, back to the infestation of ANTS. What do you do? I think, although I can’t be sure, that probably almost everybody experiences the nuisance of ANTS from time to time. Unwanted thoughts, memories, etc. flash through our minds and make us feel uneasy.

Something I have learned not all that long ago (and Katie Morton’s videos on YouTube have helped me to see this), is that ANTS become a nuisance for people like me, and perhaps like you, when we are unable to ‘shrug them off’.

Some people notice a negative thought, and ‘shake it off’ in the words of Taylor Swift, or just ‘Let it go’ (if you prefer the ‘Frozen’ theme song). For those of us whose minds, brains, personalities, characteristics or whatever it is, are more sensitive to what’s going on inside of our heads, we tend to think about the thought.

For example, take the negative thought that might stem from seeing someone struggling to climb down some steep steps in real life. Maybe you’ve seen something on a TV programme where someone has fallen and had an accident, or maybe somewhere within yourself it’s just something you fear, I don’t know, the mind is a complex place. A thought flashes by that the person you’re seeing in real life falls down these steps.

Now, for people who aren’t particularly affected by ANTS (and as Katie Morton helpfully points out in some of her videos), they might just think ‘Oh, that’s not a nice thought, I hope that doesn’t happen’, and get on with their life.

For those of us more hypersensitive, over-thinking, anxious types, we would feel the distress of the thought. We’d then probably feel guilty for having that thought. One ANT becomes two, and then they seem to keep multiplying. We think about the thought about the thought. We wonder if we’re a horrible person, we question ourselves as to whether we are a danger to society (which in most cases of normal but anxious people we aren’t in the slightest but we’re just over reacting to hidden fears of ‘what if’ – what if we’re the type of person we don’t want to be?), we try to ‘fix’ the thought, ‘erase’ the thought, we ruminate on the thought, we apologise internally, we perhaps are ‘triggered’ into remembering or thinking of other things we have seen, we then imagine ourselves falling down the steps, we kind of internally ‘freak out’ and all of a sudden we are surrounded by ANTS! Sometimes we may even ask for reassurance from someone we know because the thought has become so BIG and so ‘REAL’ to us!

If you recognise yourself in any of this, then take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are not your thoughts. I can’t explain the human mind, and sometimes upsetting thoughts come into our minds, but the problem arises when we start dwelling on them, fixating on the possible ‘meanings’ behind them such as what it says about you as a person (there is a place and time for such self-reflection, but not in an anxious, fear-filled, reactionary way), or ruminating on them.

These things can lead to a cycle of anxiety and / or depression. I well know.

We need to be able to ‘talk ourselves’ into a calmer place. Some ‘mind doctors’ 🙂 have given various helpful analogies of how to deal with such ANTS.

For example, take time to be still each day and allow your thoughts and mind to do what it does without judgement, stress or fear. It’s not easy, it takes time, keep at it.

Think of unwanted thoughts as clouds and simply let them drift across your mind. Don’t follow or pursue or chase them down, just let them drift away and replace them with a positive thought.

Or think of unhelpful, distressing thoughts as fallen leaves upon a stream and let them drift and be carried away by the current of the waters. Don’t grab them, look at them, pick them up or analyse them, just let them go.

Once we are able to cognitively grasp that we are not the conditions we may suffer from, that is to say we are not all of our thoughts, as some thoughts are like ‘fiery darts’ to our minds, we are able to better ‘diffuse’ the emotional intensity of the experience.

Maybe you have your own way of ‘dealing with’ ANTS. Perhaps you could combine the analogies noted above into something more light hearted and imagine a tiny ant sitting on a leaf, floating down an imaginary stream in a clouded sky and let them all just move past.

Learning not to analyse or overanalyse all of our thoughts can for some of us take a lot of time and practice, but the first place to start is to rid yourself of the fear that these ANTS are in control of you – they’re not, take back control, and steer your mind to more helpful, positive, lovely, excellent, noble, pure and just places. It can be done. Let’s get to it! And if these negative things bother you again, remind yourself ‘Oh, they’re just ants!’ 🙂 x

 

Here’s a link to one of Kati Morton’s helpful videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mz7xVjo57ik

The world can be a noisy place…try to find your quiet spot…

We live in a time when no matter how calm one’s own circumstances may be (and this in itself can be hard to come by), we are on an almost daily basis plugged into a stream of information via technology that tells us how chaotic the world in which we live is.

It’s almost unavoidable if you connect with society on any level. From small community groups with their own internal ‘politics’ to large scale international conflict there will always be ‘noise’ in the world. You might be sitting down on your own to have a quiet lunch break and yet the moment you log in to your online device you will see some news article or another with information that is difficult to know how to handle. Today we have news of Australian bush fires, missiles and conflict between the US and Iran and news of strife within the UK’s Royal family and Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s decision to take a step back.

We risk ‘compassion fatigue’ and getting stressed out not only by our own, but also by other people’s problems.

The world, my friends, is a noisy place.

Do you find this yourself today? Are you aware of the fine balance between your own well being and being informed, concerned and taking action to help other people? There’s only so much that we can do, and it’s important to make a difference for the better in the world where and when we can. Our innate human compassion compels us. When we feel helpless we can pray, donate, get educated, advocate, share information. Many people like to get involved in discussions or take action and raise awareness where they can.

But don’t forget the balance in this noisy world. Some of you may be right in the midst of some of these troubles right now, and that is heart-breaking.  But wherever you are in this noisy world, it is important to find places of peace where you can. Seek Peace and pursue it. And sometimes the first and most profound step towards that is to be still.

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A Mental Health Winter Survival Guide – Quick Tips for those tough days (5).

Grounding technique: keep a small, safe object handy for when you need to feel grounded. This could be something like a pebble or stone, something that won’t break easily, or perhaps some children’s ‘putty’ / play-dough that you can squeeze, or anything you think will help to ground you. Make sure that you can’t hurt yourself on it, that it doesn’t have sharp edges, won’t break if you hold or squeeze it, and that makes you feel calm when you hold it as a grounding object.

If you feel like you are experiencing anxiety, panic, dissociation, dizziness, confusion, intrusive thoughts or mental and emotional distress, use this object to help you ground yourself. Focus on how it feels to touch, what it looks like, observe it, the way the light touches it, its texture and so forth and focus intently on this safe object while calming your breathing. Keep it in your pocket or take it with you so that you can use this to help you when you need it. The good thing about a small object like this is that other people most likely will not even notice it in case you are worried about that.

Also, you can try the ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1’ method as a grounding technique where you focus on being aware of your five senses. Notice 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.

Stay safe and well. x

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A Mental Health Winter Survival Guide – Quick Tips for those tough days (3).

As much as possible, try to stick to a routine, or have a routine or plan written down to fall back upon. This will help you if things get mentally foggy, confusing or overwhelming for you. Ask for help if you need to create a plan or routine and take small steps to stay well.

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Winter Survival Guide (40) ~ Your Mind Matters.

To survive this winter season, and to thrive as you journey through it, I’d like to encourage you, and myself, to have regular mental health and self care ‘check ins’. Make an appointment with yourself to focus on taking care of you. It’s easy to get lost in the many things going on around us, to the detriment of our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. So along with all of the other tips in this season, let’s make our wellbeing and our mental health a priority. Once again I have loads of helpful tips and articles on these issues on my blog, and the many things I’ve learned over the years from personal experience, so I’m with you friend, I know it can be hard, but you’re important and your mind matters, so do what you can to take care of yourself, to regularly make some time just to be kind and look after your wellbeing so that you can be and feel your best this season. x

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Winter Survival Guide (39) ~ Dance It Out!

I’m a good few years (and maybe almost a decade) late to the party when it comes to the medical drama series ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, as I didn’t really know what the fuss was about and only started watching it earlier this year on Amazon Prime, but already I’m embarking upon Season 11 (of the 15 Seasons available!)…so you could say I’m enjoying the drama.

These young doctors, a few of the young women in particular, like to shake off their stress and deal with emotional situations by having a ‘dance party’ – by that, it’s simply putting on some music, and either by themselves or with one or two or three other friends just ‘dance it out’ there and then.

Hey, if you’re feeling a bit stressed and need a quick ‘go to’ Winter Survival Guide tip that you can do in the comfort of your own living room with a few of your favourite seasonal tunes (is anyone else thinking of Macaulay Culkin as Kevin in ‘Home Alone’ Rocking Around the Christmas Tree? 🙂 ) why not have a little ‘dance party’ of your own to shake off the stress and have some fun?

Dance like nobody’s watching! 🙂 x

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Winter Survival Guide (38) ~ Circumvent ‘breakdown’ by ‘breaking it down’…

This time of year, as nostalgic, fun and relaxing as it is ‘supposed’ to be, can often bring with it stress and an ever lengthening ‘to do’ list.

It is so important to be aware of where you are at with your mental health, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts in this series, and in more in depth articles throughout my blog.

There are expectations that we place upon ourselves and that family, friends and society places upon us. Expectations that might be completely unrealistic and out of our grasp and that leave us feeling worn out, stressed, worried and even at ‘breaking point’ at times.

Look back over some of my previous posts, or search my blog for posts on ‘mental health’ related topics.

For this post, I’ll try to keep it simple: Break it down to avoid breaking down. 

I don’t know about you, but by the time I’ve got things organised for one week, I’m at the end of the week and needing to start all over again. Your tasks might be work oriented, or to do with keeping up with commitments, events and nurturing your friendships and relationships.

Today, ‘life as it happens to be’ sees me looking at a countertop of dishes needing washed and put away, recycling bags needing emptied, bins to be put out and clutter to be tidied away, food shopping to be done, and other household tasks to attend to, over and above all of the other things I want to do with my days and my life.

I often encourage myself and other people to break things down into smaller, more manageable ‘chunks’ to avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed. At this time of year there may be more things popping up in our diaries and calendars, and it can be hard to get around at times and to keep up with it all, which can lead to stress and anxiety or the exacerbation of existing conditions.

Some people are natural organisers, but even if you are not, you can work at finding a system that works for you to enable you to do what needs to be done, and thereby feeling more relaxed to take the ‘time out’ that you also need.

I have a lot of blog posts on mental health, organising, strategizing, and the different tools, techniques, ‘games’ and systems I use to make the load a bit lighter for myself mentally and emotionally and to even find the fun in being productive.

I need to keep reminding myself of these things, and that includes in attending to my list of ‘to do’s’ today.

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed and ‘frazzled’ or don’t know where to start, take a deep breath and remind yourself that your health and wellbeing is far more important than living up to certain expectations that may be unrealistic, and to getting everything done a certain way. Take your time, break it down, put on some calming music and just take the next step. Don’t try to do things all at once and try to make it fun. Ask for help when you need it, and give yourself some kindness and encouragement. Search and browse through my other posts on mental health and getting and staying organised and hopefully you’ll feel less overwhelmed, find something that helps you and reminds you that you’re not alone.

And remember – break it down to avoid breaking down! 🙂

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x

 

Winter Survival Guide (20) ~ Try Saying ‘No’.

Are you a people pleaser, a perfectionist, or someone who regularly over commits? Do you often say yes to other people, even if doing so is detrimental to your own physical, mental and emotional health?

If you are any or all of the above, or you habitually say ‘yes’ to everyone and everything, even when the words you are hoping will come out of your mouth are ‘I would if I could, but no thank you…’, then this post is for you!

This time of the year can be a tricky balance between sharing peace and enjoyment with our nearest and dearest, and taking on the lion’s share of the burden of organising, planning, getting things done and keeping everyone happy.

There may be some commitments that you are obligated to fulfil, and can’t get out of. But what about the other things that you end up doing (and I wonder if this is more applicable to the ladies out there) to look after others, help people out, and make things run smoothly simply because everyone else knows you are good at it, have done it in the past, or just expects you to. And of course, you don’t want to disappoint anyone, do you? But what about yourself? Where does your wellbeing come into things if you end up saying yes and overcommitting yourself, leading to stress and anxiety, when what you really want and need to do is to say ‘no’. It’s not always easy to do, but setting boundaries and managing expectations is important in good communication and healthy relationships for ourselves and other people in the long run, as the other person or people may have no idea that you don’t want to do something, and may think you actually enjoy it or want to be the person to do it.

Ok, so maybe there are some family commitments that you know you have to take the lead on or contribute to. You’re looking after what is closest to you. But what about all of the other things that are more on the periphery of your duties and commitments?

  • Someone asks you to go to an event, but you are feeling ‘stretched’ on all sides, and know that by going you won’t be able to manage your time and commitments in other areas, and it will leave you feeling stressed if you do go. But you don’t want to disappoint the person who asked you. What do you do? Could you try saying a polite ‘no’, thanking them for their offer, and explaining that you have a lot on at the moment, but you appreciate their invitation?

You need to make sure that you are looking after your own health and wellbeing, and that saying ‘yes’ to things is held in balance with what is wise to do. Just because you are an excellent cake maker it doesn’t mean that you need to say ‘yes’ to everyone who asks you to make something for a Christmas party or family event if you are ‘juggling’ other commitments and trying to manage your time and priorities in other ways. Saying ‘no’ might actually give someone else an opportunity to say ‘yes’ to something for a change. What can you think of in your life this season that you might have to pluck up the courage to say ‘no’ to for the sake of your own health and well being? If it is the source of stress and anxiety, consider how crucial it is, and if it is not that important in the grand scheme of things, then try saying ‘no’.

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  • Perh

 

Winter Survival Guide (5) ~ Take a Break and Drink Some Festive Tea!

I’m a chai tea latte kind of a girl. Just saying 🙂

These seasons quite often not only get a lot colder, but become much busier as well. For a lot of us busier can equate to things being more stressful. However, all is not lost, as with the approaching winter season, coffee shops, cafes, tea rooms and the like all start introducing those wonderfully named and flavoured festive drinks to keep us warm, cosy and happy.

So don’t be afraid to take care of yourself and take a break. Self care is important all throughout the year, but during the winter seasons we can sometimes put ourselves last while trying to tick a lot of the boxes on our ‘to do lists’ while also trying to be charitable, helpful, get things done and keep everyone else happy.

A cosy break and a hot cuppa every now and then can do wonders. Especially with so many new varieties of flavours to try, it is the season to be cosy! Or even to sit in your own home on your own, with your family or a friend or two and sip a hot drink while eating some sweet treats and catching up or watching a film….or even, writing your amazing blog posts!

It’s also nice to remember others at this time of year, and extend a ‘cup of kindness’ yet as Auld Lang Syne. Maybe that cup of kindness could be in the offering of a hot drink to a homeless person out in the cold on a winter’s day. As we care more for ourselves, we also are able to care and give more for others.

So, what festive flavours take your fancy? Hot chocolate sprinkles, cinnamon sticks, pumpkin spice, mulled wine, toasted marshmallow, gingerbread latte, or something equally exciting that I haven’t heard of before? Drop me a comment and let me know what your cuppa of choice is. Personally I think you can’t beat a good old fashioned tea, or chai tea latte (with cinnamon), or of course a good old hot chocolate on a cold winters day!

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